To the Point for 6/22/06

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HIS NAME IS JAY YODER, and if you were at the luminary service at Friday night’s Switzerland County “Relay for Life”, you may have heard his name read among the many others during the “In Memory” portion of the luminary service.

Jay Yoder and my father became best friends in junior high school; and remained that way until liver cancer shortened his life in 1991. As cancer goes it wasn’t a long battle, because from the diagnosis there was little that could be done; but with his passing, a deep hole was left in not only my father’s life, but also in the lives of all of those who loved him and knew him.

Although I was never officially “related” to him, Jay Yoder was as close as an uncle to me; and as he and his wife had children about the same age as my older brother and me, our families would congregate together every Saturday night at the home of one or the other. Our parents would play cards and the kids would play in the yard until it got too dark to see.

It’s been nearly 15 years since he left us, but rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about him or hear his laugh inside of my head; or recite one of his funny sayings to myself or others.

Cancer is a horrible disease that needs to be eliminated, because I’m sure that many of you have similar stories about other loved ones that you’ve lost.

It’s no secret that this county’s “Relay for Life” event has slid a bit in past years. From a high total topping $80,000 to now being around $22,000; the amount of money donated and the number of people participating continues to decline.

A dedicated group of volunteers continues to work to see that not only is money raised, but awareness also goes up among the general population — but more needs to be done.

A friend of mine once asked me, “When’s the last time you went a week and didn’t find out someone new had cancer?” It’s a true statement, because each and every week we all come across news that a neighbor or someone will soon begin radiation or chemotherapy.

People are getting sick and people are dying, and all the while we try and decide whether or not we can fit the “Relay” into our schedules. We may complain because it’s not at the venue we’d like; or we may not like those in charge. We may be tired of doing anything at any time, and we just want to close our doors and windows and leave the problems of the rest of the world outside on our doorsteps.

But we can’t do that, because there is no barrier that cancer can’t move past.

Tell “Team Rita” that we’re too busy to help out or buy a luminary or support the auction. The Coates family came together for this relay to support cancer survivor Rita Coates. Everyone in the family was there. They walked and they talked and they laughed together. They sat out buckets and the next day helped pick them up.

They were there because a loved one was suffering, and not only did they want to help her rid herself of the disease; but they also hope that their efforts will mean that no one else ever has to suffer, either.

Last week Vevay Newspapers told our readers about Patty Chase and her determination to help raise money for cancer research. We told you that for Patty Chase, fighting cancer was “personal”, because not only has she survived it; but has also lost her father, two sisters, a brother, and her husband to cancer.

Like many of you, I have become somewhat calloused to the “Relay for Life” efforts here in our community. The events of this past weekend have changed that a bit in me.

You see, maybe we all need to take cancer personally. Maybe it hasn’t ravaged a member of your immediate family yet — but the sad truth is that it almost assuredly will.

Until we all, together, stand up and decide that we as a society are going to do something about this disease, then we will all continue to stand by and hear about someone we know being given horrible news.

And we will shake our heads and say “that’s terrible” and “we’ll be praying for you” and other things like that; and then we’ll continue to move through our lives with a mindset that if it’s not happening to me, then it’s not happening.

I can’t help but wonder if the dollar that could have been given to research is the dollar that puts some scientist over the top.

I also can’t help but wonder if that dollar is still in someone’s pocket today instead of on its way to a research lab.

Recent announcements have shown major leaps in the fight against specific types of diseases, and if this world is going to be truly rid of cancer, then each of us has to be willing to go the extra mile.

Even if that mile is around a high school track in the middle of the night.