A few weeks ago, my family started going through our rather sizeable collection of photos. In addition to all the photo albums tucked away in the den and living room, we have three storage containers where we store the ones that we couldn't fit in these albums.
While most of the photos reminded me how much my children have grown (making me feel real old), a few made me pause and reflect. I sat in my chair and stared at the people looking back at me...
My father in law...
A dear high school friend...
My daughter's teacher...
Two of my family's pets...
I realized at that moment that all of them were now gone. All of them had died after battling the same dreaded disease.
On Saturday, my family and I joined others across the community to honor the memory of these and other loved ones during an event that seeks to find a cure for cancer.
People from Mountain Home, Glenns Ferry and other communities across Elmore County came together during this year's Relay for Life. Held over a 12-hour period, it not only helped raise money for cancer research and treatment, but it served as a poignant reminder that cancer never "sleeps."
It was cancer that forced me to deal with death at a young age. I was still a young teenager when my grandfather was admitted to the hospital in Akron, Ohio.
At the time, my parents didn't tell me what was wrong, so I had assumed it was nothing serious. Just a few months prior, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital following an accident, and I figured my grandfather was dealing with a similar problem.
But there was something else going on behind the scenes that should've told me this was a lot more serious. The most obvious was when I overheard my grandfather tell my parents that he wasn't going to make it.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I figured he was just being melodramatic.
Then there was the other warning sign that my parents were taking my brother and I to the hospital an awful lot. The two of us would sit in the lobby (or ride the elevators constantly) during these visits since my brother and I were never allowed in his hospital room.
I later found out that my grandfather was fighting a losing battle against cirrhosis of the liver.
To this day, I still remember when my grandfather died. My brother and I were at home when parents returned from the hospital. My mother was cradling my father in her arms to comfort him.
It was the first time in my life that I had ever seen my father cry.
Holding back tears myself, I ran out of the house into the backyard, where I cried uncontrollably for what seemed like hours.
Since then, I've seen cancer claim others in my family. I've also had a few close friends and former co-workers who were also diagnosed with the disease. It reminds me that cancer plays no favorites nor does it care who it strikes.
Next month, my family will mark the passing of my wife's father, who was stricken with multiple forms of blood cancer. He fought his first battle against the disease with my wife's sister at his side. At the time, it seemed that he had beat the odds and was on the mend.
After he recovered and was released from the hospital, I took my family to eastern Oregon to see him. He was back on his feet and feeling fine. All of us breathed a sigh of relief thinking he had beaten the odds and was now a survivor.
That all changed three months later we got another phone call. The cancer had resurfaced and was even worse than when he fought it the first time around. Unable to travel to see him again as his condition rapidly deteriorated, my family and I sat by the phone waiting for the news that we knew was coming.
I remember my wife and I jumping in our seats when the phone rang later that evening. I sat next to my wife and held her hand as she broke down into tears.
At that moment, there was nothing I could say or do that would make things better. All I could do was hold her in my arms like my mother had done for my father.
It's reasons like this that my wife and I took time out of our day and walked a total of five miles around Carl Miller Park. Each lap we completed was in memory of everyone we've lost along the way.
I made it a point to keep others in my thoughts as we walked, including my friend, Kelly; my former Air Force boss, Robyn; and my mentor, John, all of whom fought the disease, beat overwhelming odds against them and at last check were all doing good.
My wife and I took it an extra step when we chose to walk a lap in honor of two family pets that we lost to cancer, the most recent of which happened last May. It reminded us that this disease can also claim the lives of our "furry companions" as well.
These are the reasons why Relay for Life -- a very noble cause -- remains near and dear to my heart. I can only hope some day that we will finally find a cure for this disease.
I hope that in years to come that people will no longer have to endure the pain to fight cancer and that their families no longer have to deal with the different type of pain they also carry.
-- Brian S. Orban