by Pamela Francis
My name is Pam Francis and iRelay. I participate in Relay For Life - Southlake. Relay is not only the American Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser, it is also an incredibly moving experience as thousands of people join together at Carroll High School and send team members out to the track to spend the night walking in solidarity with all of those whose lives have been affected by cancer. This nationwide event is celebrating its third year here in Southlake and this year’s theme of “iRelay” highlights the individual reasons we all have to participate. Let me tell you mine.
In September 2008 I was having lunch at Einstein’s Bagels here in Southlake. My cell phone rang, and I saw it was my youngest sister calling from Chicago. I picked up, expecting to hear her usual cheerful voice, but she sounded down, her voice choked up. “Are you sick”? I asked. Yes, she replied, she had been to the doctor and the unexplained bruises she had on her legs were not, as we had chatted about the week before, the result of some forgotten collision with her rambunctious four-year-old, but the signs of a rare form of acute leukemia.
That diagnosis launched our whole family and an extended circle of friends into a world we had never known before. I watched my beautiful, happy sister suffer through rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. We cried together when we found out that neither I nor our other sister was a bone marrow match for her, and shouted for joy when we learned that a kind, kind stranger on the bone marrow registry in California was a match. I felt her profound sadness when seclusion restrictions following her chemotherapy kept her precious little daughter and young son from being able to touch her during hospital visits. Although only separated by a glass wall during those times with her children, I could tell that she was contemplating a day when more than that wall might separate them.
The side effects from her treatment were horrific. Yet my sister’s good cheer and optimistic attitude persisted. She never stopped fighting. Even when the doctors told her that a cure was unlikely, and she could spend the time she had at home with family or doing one more last-ditch attempt at a cure, she chose to spend a week savoring her family and friends and then returned to the hospital determined to fight to the end for the life she loved.
When my sister died at age 39, she had been married for 7 years and her son was five years old and her daughter was two. We had her funeral in the same reception hall where we danced for her wedding. It in inexpressible how much I miss her and how much pain I felt hearing the eulogy she wrote for herself.
So iRelay to honor my sister’s fighting spirit, to show my support for those who are fighting still, and so that no one, ever, has to lose someone they love dearly to this awful disease. This is why iRelay. I hope you’ll join me.
Pamela Francis lives in Southlake with her husband and three children. After receiving her undergraduate and law degrees in the Northeast, she had the good sense to move to Texas in 1993. Since retiring from the practice of law in 2003, Pam has devoted her time to family, friends, charitable work and the elusive goal of keeping a fully stocked refrigerator while there are teenagers in the house.