Why Peter Relays…

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By: Peter Kesaris

Life is precious. In fact, life is a miracle.

Author Ali Binazir attempted to quantify the actual odds that each of us exists, as ourselves, at this moment. Taking into account the survival of your ancestors, the probability that your parents met, the odds that you survived birth and several other factors, Binazir estimated the odds that each of us exists is around 1 in 10^265000. By comparison, 10^27 is the number of atoms in an average body. 10^50 is the number of atoms making up the earth. 10^80 is the number of estimated atoms in the universe.

Think about it like this: The probability that you exist is about the same as the probability of 2 million people getting together each to play a game of dice with a trillion-sided dice. They each individually roll the dice and then they all come up with the exact same number – for example, 550,121,121,232. So the odds that you even exist basically equal impossible. Life is a miracle. As humans, we must continuously remind ourselves of these simple statistics. Cancer does just that.

When my best friend’s mother passed away from cancer, he was of course devastated. We all were devastated. Like many others who face traumatic events, my friend could have gone into denial, he could have stayed cooped up in his home all day or he could have simply withdrawn from life.  But he didn’t.  Instead, he Relayed. I had never heard of Relay for Life until that summer when he invited me out to my first event, in my home state of Maryland.  I’m not going to lie – I was a little unsure, maybe even a little skeptical. I asked those typical newcomer questions, like “I’m not a very fast runner, can I just walk?” and “What’s a luminaire?”  (FYI- there is no running involved).

Many of the traditions at Relay for Life involve walking on a candle lit track; Survivors do a lap, relatives do a lap, organizers do a lap, everyone does a lap. I agree with my good friend Mat as he describes walking on the track simply “therapeutic.” That night of my first Relay, I walked around the track while reading the names on glowing luminaries. Although I didn’t recognize any particular name, I still felt some type of connection. Each paper bag with candle represented someone; a life that in many cases had ended, a life that was stolen by cancer.

Relay for Life gives us a way to channel our devastation into something positive. It reminds us there are others going through the same struggles. It allows us to fight back, to celebrate and to remember. Most of all, it provides us with a feeling of community.

Many believe wealth, power and love are the keys to happiness. They are wrong. Again and again studies find that the number one indicator of happiness is a feeling of community and connectedness.  Relay provides this feeling.

So often in life we get upset about the little things. We forget to remind ourselves that behind all the bug bites, traffic jams, doctor appointments and loads of laundry—there are laughing babies, there are sunrises and sunsets, there are triple grande iced skim lattes, and high school proms, and weddings.

Cancer is rough. Really rough. And frightening.  And sad.  And just plain horrible. But behind all the roughness there’s hope. There’s hope for more birthdays. There’s hope for better care. There’s hope for a cure. Even when times are low, it’s important to remember the simple truth that we are already statistically impossible. Each minute we live is a gift. We must remind ourselves of this again and again, and once a year I remind myself on a track, in the middle of the night, surrounded by loved ones.

Some call it the biggest co-ed sleep over on campus, others call it the best one-night-stand you’ll ever have.

But when I am asked why I Relay, I simply respond with the one thing I actually am Relaying for.

I Relay for Life.

*Register for Elon’s Relay for Life on April 25-26th.


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