I have written before about my mother's battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed about 18 months ago and following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, we were thrilled when she got the news that recent tests did not detect any cancer in her body.

Our joy was short lived, however, because within days of her revelation we got word that her only brother, my Uncle Richard, had only days to live. He had been waging his own battle with cancer.

These siblings, who had too often been separated by distance and circumstance since they were children, were well into their 70s and still finding out new things about each other. Over the last months they have been able to connect and commiserate with each other over their parallel battles.

But their outcomes couldn't have been more different.

Our energy and attention quickly refocused on getting Mom to California to say goodbye.

When I put her on a plane in Des Moines, we didn't know if she would make it in time. It felt as if my heart were on that plane with her.

Mom arrived in Fresno last Tuesday. Uncle Richard passed away the next day.

For the last year and a half, I don't think a day has gone by that I have not uttered the word "cancer."

I hate that word. I hate the disease. I hate what it does to the people I love.

Besides my mother and my uncle, two of my cousins also have faced the disease, and I lost my maternal grandmother to breast cancer years ago.

This time last year, I vowed to accompany my mom on the next Survivors Lap at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Black Hawk County. That event is set to begin Friday at Hawkeye Community College. Mom will still be making her way back from California.

I can't say enough about the people who organize and participate in Relay for Life. The money they raise is doing phenomenal things and this year they are offering the opportunity for people to help in an even more tangible way.

The American Cancer Society will be enrolling people in the CPS-3 long-term national cancer prevention study from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday during the Relay for Life event.

Eligible participants should be between 30 and 65 years old, have no personal history of cancer and be willing to make a long-term commitment to the study, which involves completing periodic follow-up questionnaires.

Sign-up will include measuring the participant's waist, drawing blood and answering lifestyle questions. Organizers are hoping to get at least 150 participants signed up at Friday's event.

I know I will be one of them.

General assignment reporter and columnist at The Courier

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