Rays of Hope walk

Last Sunday I participated in the Rays of Hope walk in Springfield as a volunteer photographer.  Rays of Hope is an incredible organization whose fundraising efforts help support breast cancer research right in our community.  This year, 19,000 walkers joined together to raise $950,000!  It was my first time walking and what a day.  It was absolutely incredible to see so many people out for such a good cause.  About a month ago, right before the Save the Goddess night, Barb Turcotte from Baystate asked me to write a short essay about why I got involved in Rays of Hope.  This is what I wrote, and this is the picture I gave her of my beautiful stepmom 2 years ago as she kicked chemo's butt...

"Cancer used to be a word that affected other people.  It was always a scary word, but one that affected other people’s families, other people’s worlds.  I never knew anyone that had it or experienced the havoc it can wreak on the lives it touches.  I remember our health teacher in high school referring to it as a tornado, something that could touch your life and leave a devastating trail of destruction.  But so far, it had skipped my house, and so the word cancer wasn’t in my vocabulary.

When I was eleven, my dad married my stepmom, Cheryl, and her mother Judy became my step-grandmother.  Grandma Judy was strong, kind, and hilarious.  She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, and was always very vocal about women being screened.  She was the Director of Nursing at the Health Center of Springfield College, so women’s health and safety was always a top priority.  In 1998, when I was 15, she had a recurrence.  Two years later, she passed away.

In 2002, cancer struck even closer to home, when Cheryl herself was diagnosed.  Cancer was now a household word, and we quickly became familiar with other words: oncology, chemo, radiation.  Cheryl had her first mastectomy that July.  In 2006, as a preventive measure, she had a mastectomy on the other side, as during a biopsy they found there had been some change in the tissue.  After the second mastectomy, I think we all breathed a little easier, and thought we were free and clear.  Cancer was out of our dictionary again.  Then in October of 2008, my dad called me to say that Cheryl had a recurrence of cancer on her first side, and the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.  Cheryl started chemo immediately, and rang in 2009 with radiation.  She currently takes Tamoxifen, which she will have to take for 5 years.

I got involved with Rays of Hope because I believe in survival, medicine, and the power of solidarity.  When cancer hits your family, and you feel like you’re about to lose someone important to you, you can’t imagine that there’s anyone else in the world that can understand what you’re going through.  Then I started talking Michelle Graci and Barb Turcotte from Baystate, and started photographing events for Rays of Hope.  I realized that there are thousands of men and women affected by this disease, and Rays of Hope is a great way to bring these survivors and families and friends together, all while benefitting local breast cancer research and programs.  We may never be able to erase the word cancer from the dictionary, but thanks to Rays of Hope, we can now use better words when talking about it: strength, hope, endurance and survival."

People come up with some great team names and shirts for the walk!  Here are a few...

Future photographer? :)

Let the walk begin!

Along the walk there were different performers to help keep the walkers going... everyone was so talented!

Love this group...

More fun shirts...

I'll end with this group, who raised over $2,500 for the cause.  Awesome day everyone, thanks for having me Baystate!