Hello. My name is Lisa Hayes. My story is short and sweet, but has a decent ending. That should be obvious since I am here to tell it. I am a 19 year cancer survivor. More importantly, I am a fighter. The slogan that the Relay For Life uses is, “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back”. I prefer to tell my story by rearranging those simple words.
Remember: My Grandmother was Bernice Hayes. She helped to raise my brother and myself when my father was suddenly a single parent. She was the most amazing person I have ever met. She was bold, determined and outspoken. I like to think I am like her in that way. Gram did not have the best of luck when it came to her health though. She lost her fight to cancer when I was too young to have any close knowledge of what it meant. To me, all it meant was that I had lost the most important woman in my life. She is the inspiration to keep me going when times get rough.
Celebrate: I celebrate the fact that, although I had the same unfortunate luck with my health, I had learned how important it was to see the right doctors at the right time. I began having a problem, ovarian cysts, in my teenage years. Because of seeing the doctors often due to polycystic ovaries, I was careful to show up for all of my checkups and yearly tests. I received a phone call from the office only a day after one of my appointments. They needed to see me in the office as soon as possible. I truly only thought they were having a problem with the insurance company or something. When I got there, they told me that my tests had come back showing a problem. They wanted me to call my boss to tell her I would need the rest of the week off of work. Less than 24 hours after hearing the word cancer, I was in the outpatient department of the hospital. On my post-op visit, I asked the doctor why he rushed me so much. His explanation was two-fold. He was confident of what needed to be done and after the biopsies came back, his opinion was confirmed. The cancer was very early, stage one cervical and by having done what he did, he prevented the disease from becoming a hard and difficult fight for me. His second part of the explanation was also so true. He didn’t want to give me time to let the cancer beat me in my own mind. If I had sat and sulked about it, it would have had me petrified. I got lucky that having regular appointments was what made it possible to catch the cancer so early and easy to overcome. I got lucky that I never had to go through the chemotherapy or radiation that so many of the cancer survivors have gone through.
Fight Back: The very rude intrusion of cancer to my family when I was just 17. The return of cancer to my own world at 21. These are the things that made me choose to get involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. After my first season with the Relay For Life of Phillipsburg, NJ I became a team captain. An old saying in the RFL world is “There is no finish line until we find the cure!”. I have never had a large team but the ones who do join me are in it for the win! Being the captain of a small RFL team was not enough for me. Two years later I joined the planning committee. I have been the online chairman for Phillipsburg ever since, and I enjoy it thoroughly. I volunteered as a coach for youth sports for 15 years so it was an easy transition from getting one team pumped up to inspiring another team. Every year, I take the same Fight Back pledge. “I vow to introduce 10 new people to the ACS, its programs and activities.” The cheerfulness, the tranquility, the family atmosphere, it is a package deal. I have become addicted to the Relay For Life and the whole way it envelopes the people involved. I participate in as many as I can get to within driving distance. Each and every one I have been to has a different feel to it. Some are like tailgate parties celebrating the survivors. Some are more solemn to remember the loved ones we have lost. We all need to have a time in our lives for both celebrating and remembering, but now, it is time to fight back! It is time to tell cancer where to go and how to get there. It is time to never be cancer victims but cancer fighters.
Please visit my web page to get more involved or to make a donation. Every dollar raised is one less tear we will shed for loved ones lost.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story,
Lisa Hayes, cancer fighter
Relay For Life of Phillipsburg online chairman