Monday, June 27, 2011

Relay for Life Tribute to Nancy

Honoring My Sister…Nancy Smith Tufts
Relay for Life 2011

My sister, Nancy Tufts, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on May 23. 2005. Since that time, she underwent two major surgeries, numerous rounds of chemotherapy, and many hospitalizations. In spite of all of that, she was the most upbeat person I ever knew. She had a personality that was larger than life: she could tell a story like no one else and brought laughter to everyone who was lucky enough to meet her.

In 2006, Nancy asked me to go to Falmouth High School with her to see what “Relay for Life” was all about. She walked her first Survivor lap and felt empowered meeting so many other survivors and caregivers. The next year, she formed her own team, Tufts Teal Warriors, and became an enthusiastic volunteer for Relay. When the event moved to Windham High School, Nancy fought the side-effects of her chemo to work tirelessly with the planning committee to make the first Relay for Life of the Sebago Lakes Region a reality.

Last year, Nancy told her survivor story at Closing Ceremony. Those of you who were still awake at 6:00 a.m. may remember the skinny little survivor in the purple t-shirt and teal Crocs…what you may not have known was how sick she was. But Nancy wanted to tell her story… to offer hope, and…to encourage other women with the kinds of vague symptoms she had in 2004 to trust their guts and get checked. She wished she had not waited so long.

A few months after last year’s Relay…on November 14th, 2010…Nancy passed away.

Although Relay will never be the same without her leading our team, we know that she would not have wanted us to be sad tonight. She’d tell us to “get a grip”, “snap out of it”, and “start walking”!

Nancy’s favorite movie was “The Wizard of Oz”. She even had her own ruby slippers …well...glittery ruby flip-flops! After she passed away, we found pages of her favorite quotes on her laptop and, not surprisingly, many of them were from “The Wizard of Oz”...

You know the story. The characters traveled to Oz to meet the wizard hoping that he could solve their problems and give them what they needed…a way home, a heart, a brain, and courage. What the characters ultimately discovered is that the wizard was unable to give them anything more than what they had come to him with.

They had the ability, the strength, the heart, and the courage all along. It was inside each of them and they just had to discover it.

When Nancy was diagnosed with cancer, she started looking for answers. With the support of family, friends, and organizations like the American Cancer Society, she found the answers she needed…and the strength to persevere. She endured experiences that a few months before would have seemed unimaginable.

Like Dorothy and her friends, Nancy found that she already had the brains, the heart and the courage she needed to fight her cancer…it was there all along, right within her. We each have that strength deep within us. We are braver than we realize. I know that Nancy Tufts was.

So, in memory of Nancy and all cancer survivors, let’s walk that Yellow Brick Road together tonight, with faith that somewhere…over the rainbow…we will find a CURE. Let’s honor Nancy by laughing and hugging and sharing happy memories. Let’s click our heels together three times and repeat, as Nancy would if she were here… there’s no place like HOPE…there’s no place like HOPE, there’s no place like HOPE.