Sunday (5/31/09) was the 19th annual National Cancer Survivor’s Day celebration. Normally, this event is located in downtown Naperville, IL along its Riverwalk. This year, the ever-growing celebration moved to Lisle, IL to the wonderful Morton Arboretum. Here hundreds of people (survivors and family) attended to reconnect with returning surivors, mourn those who didn’t return, welcome those new to the group and rejoice at another year of survival.
Going with my family, including a survivor still battling the disease, is a deeply personal moment every year to mark another improbable year fighting this vicious disease. The battle has been ongoing for well over 7 years now and overshadows everything. But when you’re in a place of life (the Arboretum) surrounded by others in treatment, out of treatment, in remission, the goal is encouragement and positivity. In particular to re-emphasize the goal of living every day as if it were the last. Not just for those fighting cancer, but for all of us.
Various local and state politicians spoke, someone from local Chicago Channel 7 news was the host guiding the day along and there was a guest speaker as usual. Lunch was provided and pictures taken. In addition, the big fun moment is the annual raffle of dozens of great prizes donated by local businesses. The grand prize was a huge travel package and although our family walked away without a physical prize, like everyone else there we all won.
We won another day with our loved family member fighting cancer. We were renewed in this battle and refreshed in our hearts and minds that we must all cherish life and not put off living life and instead embrace it and do the things we want to do, go to the places we want to see and cultivate joy and fun. A repeated message throughout the day was the healing power of laughter. Indeed, this year’s speaker (himself a survivor as was his wife-they both got cancer at the same time 13 years ago and barely survived) talked about all the research showing laughter’s power to heal. His stories of their battles were deeply moving, but interwoven with humor.
It was a joyous day and as we took a walk through some of the Arboretum’s paths and drove through the on of the various car loops, we were all struck by the healing power of nature. Surrounded by the 1000’s of trees and other wildlife collected from around the world, you feel the palpable lifeforce around you. Birds were singing, squirrels and chipmunks running around, deer wandering and eating and the weather was phenomenal. Everything necessary to embolden you to continue forward in the journey of life.
When our family member found out they had cancer, I told them at one point early on that I was sorry. They replied “What else can you do but keep moving forward.” And here we are many years later, still fighting the battle, but still moving forward.