For those of you who have never had cancer affect your family or loved ones, consider yourself extremely lucky. When I was in 8th grade, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day she told me, I remember feeling so out of place. Was I sad? Was I scared? Was I nervous? No. It seems so naïve looking back, but at the time I never considered it a real possibility My mom was in danger. Three months later, watching my mom go through chemotherapy was the first time the severity of her situation settled in my mind. That was 8 years ago. Today, I am lucky enough to say I just got off the phone with my mom, who has been cancer free for 7 years.
Ever since the 8th grade I’ve always tried to participate in as many cancer charity events as possible. This past Sunday, September 25th, I attended the Lehigh Valley Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk
, hosted by The Lustgarten Foundation. As a member of the greek community here at Lehigh, philanthropy is something we hold of utmost importance. However, this wasn’t just any philanthropy event. One of my fellow fraternity brother, Jack, has a father that is currently battling pancreatic cancer. As someone who has had a parent go through cancer, I knew how much it would mean to him to come out and support the cause, and to show my support for him.
I woke up in my off campus house at 9:00 Sunday morning groaning. I had overslept, as check in for the Research walk was at 8:30. I rubbed my eyes, and yelled at all my housemates to wake up. My friends Zack, Brendan, and myself all jumped in Zack’s car, and peeled out of East 5th street, heading on our way towards Allentown. 15 minutes into the drive, we have no idea where we are, driving through Allentown neighborhoods. As we all are trying to find where this walk could possible be, we see a sign for the Lehigh Parkway. Pulling into the park reminded me of my old high school cross country days, as it resembled so many cross country parks I had ran through years ago. We got there at 9:45, an hour and 15 minutes after check-in started, and 15 minutes before the walk. Walking towards the check in booth, I couldn’t believe how many people were there. Directly under the starting line stood a man wearing a dog mascot outfit, followed by a line of 2,000 people all wearing purple t-shirts. My two friends and I walked up to the check in booth, paid our $50 dollar registration fee, and received our t-shirts. They had run out of the standard purple ones, so the lady behind the booth gave us the same kind of yellow volunteer t-shirt she was wearing. About 2,000 people there, and I was probably only one of 15 people not working the event to have a yellow t-shirt. It’s safe to say I was not mad about them running out of purple ones, as yellow is more my color anyway.
As Brendan, Zack, and I walked down the line of people, we finally found Jack near the end of the line. With him was about 30 other members of my fraternity, all there to support Jack and his father’s fight, and donating towards the fight to end Pancreatic Cancer. I could see how much it meant to Jack that we were all there with him, and I also knew exactly how he felt. The walk reminded me of the Relay for Life event that is held in my hometown every year. The year my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, all my closest friends went with me, and joined the team representing my mom’s fight. Knowing just how special the support of friends is, I was more than happy that I could be there for Jack, like my hometown friends had once been there for me.
The walk itself was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. First off, with a cool breeze and not a cloud in the sky, you couldn’t ask for better weather. Second, the trail we walked on was a dirt path through the forest, circling a stream, with a barn bridge in the middle of it. Most philanthropy and community service events I participate in here at college are all mostly contained to Lehigh’s campus, or at best the south side of Bethlehem. This was the philanthropy event I had gone to outside of the Lehigh bubble. I got to meet tons of people from the Lehigh Valley community during the 3 mile walk around the park. If there were 2,000 people there, then there must have been about 200 dogs as well, so being a huge dog person, I tried to interact with every dog and owner as possible. I talked with one lady who owned a German Shepard for about 20 minutes about what both Bethlehem and Allentown were like when she went to Moravian College 30 years ago. The walk was over before I knew it, as I had fun with not only all my friends and brothers, but with citizens of the
Lehigh Valley community.
For those who have never participated in a cancer walk, I would highly suggest going. Not only is it a great time, but it’s for a fantastic cause. If I were to give any suggestions on how to improve the walk next year, I would encourage the use of social media and advertising on campuses to raise awareness for the walk. The only reason I knew about it was because my friend Jack informed our fraternity about it. Almost all the people were there were adults living in the lehigh valley; I didn’t see any other Lehigh students with the exception of my fraternity members, and one other sorority form Lehigh. If there were more advertising on campuses at Lehigh and Moravian, I bet there would be even more people there raising money for pancreatic cancer. If you are reading this and will be at Lehigh next semester, I highly encourage you to go and donate. 100% of the money raise goes towards finding the cure towards one of the worst types of cancer, and your donations and time could help save a life.