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June 3rd, 2012 in the evening, Relay For Life walkers blur past lit luminaria bags honoring those who have battled cancer. (photos by Rodney Curtis)

The new pedometer app on my phone said I walked well over 50 miles at Relay For Life. Even though I’m committed to the cause, that had to be just plain wrong. I think it took into account my evening break, when I drove to Clarkston and back for my cousin’s graduation party. I never knew there were aerobic benefits to driving a Prius.

My daughter Taylor is our new hero. She organized her Relay team, Rodney’s Runners, for the second year in a row and made a bunch of money for the American Cancer Society. An emotional speech she gave before the silent luminaria walk last night made all our eyes gush. Just being there, physically being there, was a great way to kick cancer in the rear (view mirror). explains how the struggle with my cancer affected her.Last year, a freak swelling of my heart-lining landed me in the hospital right when Relay was going on, throwing the girls back into thoughts of my mortality. This year, nothing was going to stop me from hanging out with Taylor’s team, walking laps, kicking around a soccer ball and cracking stupid jokes with them.

It’s tough explaining the mess of feelings I have about all this. I met Survivors yesterday who talked about food tasting better and animals looking cuter (seriously), but all I care about is my family. Returning them to a sense of normal, everyday stuff matters more than anything else. Yes, this dumb disease has battered and deep fried us. I have to accept that. But I hate the focus being on me and want my girls to think about regular teen girl stuff (Justin Bieber notwithstanding).

Although, there is a direct contrast to me wanting the focus to shift anywhere besides me. My family needs to go through this at their own pace. I’d be a total jerk if I forced them to do otherwise.

And hey, if you’ve ever had candles placed in a bag or two with your name on it, honoring your struggle, maybe you know the confusing emotions I feel. If you have, please tell me how I should feel. It’s at points like these in my life when I lift up my lens and use the camera as a shield or an artist’s palette. Words escape me.

It’s my job now to keep the yapping dogs quiet until tomorrow. After the 24-hour event, my exhausted ladies are just beginning to sleep, even though it’s after noon on Sunday. My daughter Skye even had a 24-hour band marathon the night before. Charity can be brutal.

Would you like to use Rodney’s Relay photo?

Rodney Curtis’s long career includes many years as a professional photographer, photo editor and teacher of photojournalism. Since surviving cancer, Rodney has volunteered extensively with nonprofits helping individuals and families. Today, he is welcoming re-use of the top photo with this story.
Click here to download a high-resolution copy of that photograph.
Feel free to use it in your newsletter, blog, website promoting awareness of Relay events this year.
All we ask is that you credit any use of the photograph this way:
Photo by Rodney Curtis for

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