Thurston County’s Relay For Life Luncheon: More Than Just Soup

The Relay for LIfe "Survivors and Caregivers Lap" is an important way to kick-off the June 4 event.


Submitted by Jake Luplow

Everyone reaches a point in their life when they are truly humbled: a point during which time stops and they are stripped naked of their minuscule problems and left encapsulated by truth, hope, and greatness. For me that moment happened on February 9, 2013. It was the day Thurston County Relay for Life held their annual Survivor Luncheon. At this event, those who had survived a bout with cancer came to join each other for lunch to share strength and hope and commence the start of the Relay Season.

At the luncheon, I had the privilege of speaking with a young man named Nick Miranda. He was born blind in his left eye and with less than 45% vision in his right eye. At the age of 14 months, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. At the age of 16 months, he was given his first round of chemotherapy. At the age of two, he began radiation treatment. At the age of five, he himself found out he had cancer. And between the ages of 18 months and 14 years-old, he underwent 14 different surgeries.

His very first memory, he says, was when he was five. He got up and turned on the TV, and the next thing he knew he was laying on the floor with an air mask over his face, drifting in and out of consciousness. The firemen were there. He looked to his left and saw his mother crying and he didn’t know what had happened.

Cancer survivor Nick Miranda plans to become a motivational speaker and inspire others.

The medics took him to a local hospital. When they arrived, his dad ripped him from the gurney and came running in with little Nick cradled in his arms. “Are you going to do something for my son,” his dad said. The staff personnel told his dad to calm down and they offered him a cup of coffee. “Get the heck off your butt and call Children’s Hospital,” his dad said.

It was at that moment when they saw the desperation in his father’s eyes that they decided to make the call. Nick was then air-lifted to Children’s Hospital–there he had an extensive medical history.

Shortly thereafter, around the age of six, the doctors gave him another round of chemotherapy. “You are forced to grow up fast when something like this happens to you,” he says. “My parents couldn’t have been more supportive. They sat next to my hospital bed every time I was there and told me that we would make it through together.”

Nick explained that his sickness was scary to an extent, but he knew he had to stay strong and keep living to the best of his ability. His strength and perseverance impacted many. One such person was his surgeon, Dr. Burger, who expressed, “I have never done as much work on a patient; you are like the son I never had.”

They gave him his third and last round of chemotherapy at the age of 11. Nick says, “Chemo is like a vacuum: it sucks all of the good and the bad out of you.”

Nick was told at age 14 that the cancer was in remission, and his victory was not short lived. He went back to his life as a normal kid, graduated high school in 2006, and has had the opportunity to share hope with others. A few years ago, he was relaying at the Relay for Life held at Saint Martin’s University. There he spoke with a guy named Chuck, who himself was battling with cancer. “Chuck told me he hardly sleeps because he is afraid that he won’t wake up. I looked at him and said, ‘You can’t live in fear. I am living proof that you can come back into the light. You have to keep living life; you can’t let it control you.’”

And I am certain there will be more times to come where he is able to inspire and help the ones who hardly sleep because they are afraid they won’t wake up.

Nick’s dream is to become a motivational speaker. “I decided that I could use this situation as an advantage to help others. Everyone could use a friend. And for that brief second that I am up on stage, I could be that friend, giving them warmth and hope,” he says. “After all, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

There were many survivors at the luncheon, all with similar stories–but vastly different. Nick is one amazing and unique individual, but he shares one common connection with other survivors: They all have strength and hope, rendering them a beacon of light to those who are and are not struggling with cancer, alike.

Relay for Life is not about supporting those who are sick and dying; rather it’s about supporting those who are sick so that they may be pulled back into the light and given the opportunity to inspire someone else through their experiences. Not everyone can donate thousands of dollars, but everyone can show love.

I’d like to leave you with this: a letter a young girl wrote to a teacher; this girl is the daughter of Bobbi Hudson, a Relay for Life supporter.

The whole school is disappointed you have cancer. You are surviving it though and I am glad you are still able to come to school and teach. I hope you can come join me and my family at Relay for Life next summer.



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