“You too?”


“You too?”

That may have been the most frequently uttered greeting among survivors at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life held last weekend at the Beasley Oval behind Wakefield High School. Survivors were easy to identify at the Relay by their purple t-shirts. All other Relay participants got white t-shirts when they checked in.
Wakefield Relay for Life
As soon as I arrived and donned my t-shirt, I was greeted by Richard, a man I’ve known for years. He was wearing a purple t-shirt.

“You too?” he said.

I explained that I had been thinking about attending the Relay for Life, especially for the last three years, but this was my first. In news photos taken by Mike Angelo at the 2009 Relay, I had seen people I knew walking the “Survivors’ Lap” and had made up my mind to attend the Relay for Life in 2010.

Richard told me what to expect during the Survivors’ Lap. “This is my 11th year,” he said, “and I still get goose bumps.”

At 6 p.m., I walked over to watch the opening ceremony. High on the hill behind the stage, large white letters spelled “HOPE.” Keynote speaker Lee Henderson said that Wakefield was her fourth Relay of the day. She talked about the day 11 years ago when her young daughter Jenny was diagnosed with cancer, and hearing her child ask the doctor, “Will I die?” The answer was, “No, probably not,” thanks to a newly developed drug that had increased survival rates by 98 percent for Jenny’s form of cancer.
Wakefield Relay for Life
“Thank you,” Henderson told the crowd in attendance. “Because of what you do, I have her,” she said, pointing to the young woman standing beside her in the purple t-shirt.

At 6:15 the Relay officially began with the Survivors’ Lap. As cancer survivors walk, crowds line the entire length of the track and clap continuously. After the Survivors’ Lap, I bumped into Richard again. “Did you get goose bumps?” he asked. I told him I did, and we headed into the field house for the Survivors’ Dinner. Once again, people were standing on each side of the Field House entrance, clapping.

Seated inside, we were joined by Richard’s wife, also a cancer survivor. Kids came around offering to bring iced tea, lemonade and water to survivors. They also walked around with trays of pastry.

I spotted Bill, whose photo I had seen in the news coverage of the previous year’s Relay.

“You too?” he said. I told him that seeing his picture in the paper last year was one of the reasons I decided to come this year.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said.
Wakefield Relay for Life
A woman introduced her daughter as a survivor. “You don’t have to introduce me as a survivor,” the daughter reminded her mother with a smile. “He can tell from my purple shirt.”

People you run into in everyday life – the bank teller, the waitress, the school administrator and the real estate agent – people who you would not imagine were cancer survivors are easy to spot at the Relay for Life in their purple t-shirts.

Back out on the track, purple-clad survivors continued to approach each other. A local police officer who I have known since he was a high school kid in the 1980s walked by in his purple shirt and extended his hand.

“You too?” he asked.

[This column originally appeared in the June 24, 2010 Wakefield Daily Item.]

One Response to ““You too?””

  1. I got goose bumps reading this.

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