Monday, August 25, 2014

10 Years of Raising Awareness

Why do I wear a LIVESTRONG bracelet?

For the last 10 years, I have worn a yellow silicone gel bracelet on my right wrist. While the reason I first put it on and the reasons I continue to wear it have changed, what has not changed is the fact that it has never been taken off; not once. The earliest documented proof that I can find in photos of having it on my wrist was at the Fox Cities 5km in Menasha, WI on September 26, 2004.  I had long hair and Siri was just a pup!

The bracelet was part of the "Wear Yellow Live Strong" educational program intended to raise money for cancer research, raise cancer awareness, and encourage people to live life to the fullest. Selling for $1 each, the initial plan was to raise $25.1 million for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The goal was reached within 6 months, and there have now been 80 million LIVESTRONG bracelets sold to date. The band became a popular fashion item in the United States by the end of the summer of 2004. Lance and his popularity were peaking as he was in the middle of his 7 victories at the Tour de France and whether you like him or not after his admissions of using performance enhancing drugs, he took that fame and turned it into some beneficial with the foundation. Everyone was wearing yellow and I will admit that the first time I put it on was just to be cool.

After the popularity of the bracelet had faded, I was tempted to take it off. They were still being worn by some athletes and people who had gone through personal loss as a result of cancer; neither of which I thought applied to me (as I had not taken my first step as a runner.) Or had it? Back in 2001 I was living in Neenah, Wisconsin, but a hundred miles away in my hometown of Kingsford, Michigan, my Uncle Donald Charette was diagnosed with cancer. Though I always called him my uncle, he was actually my cousin, as he was my dad’s older brother’s son. He had kids older that were older than me and was nearly my dad’s age so I always called him Uncle Donald. While we didn't have a day to day relationship, every fall when the leaves would change colors, the entire Charette clan would be at our hunting camps and spend most weekends together. I have many fond memories of him throughout the many cold Novembers in Upper Michigan.

The summer of 2001 my Uncle Donald had been in the middle of remodeling his camp and while the weather seemed hotter than normal, he had been losing weight. He didn't think much of it, but it turned out to be a side effect of the cancer that had taken over his body, which would quickly take his life. His funeral was more somber than others I had been to as everyone liked my Uncle Donald and was sadden how his life was taken so abruptly. It was at that time, that I dedicated my LIVESTRONG bracelet to his memory. Anytime I would look at my right wrist it would be what I needed to remember his contagious smile and think about his memory. While this probably should have been the reason why I put it on in the first place, at least it now had personal meaning to me.

(Left to Right) Jimmy Machus, Dennis Charette, Donald Charette and Dave LaVarnway.  

10 years.  That is 3,650 days or 87,658 hours or 5,259,600 minutes or 315,360,000 seconds. Through every step of the 30,000 miles I have run, at the finish line of the 325 races and now over the course of the 5,000 miles I have cycled.  Through every business meeting, every presentation, every state and country that I have visited.  Every day of the entire life of Sirius Beagle and now Fiina Beagle.  Even when I was asked to take it off during my recent knee surgery, I asked them to put the IV in my left arm after explaining my reasoning.  Through all of that I have kept it on with it never leaving my wrist.

So in a way, you could say that I have been living the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness for something that has taken the life of a close family member; one of the Charette men.  There are very few of us left; 5 to be exact.  I am the youngest of the line and if we all live out our lives to the fullest, I will be the last Charette of the line as none of us have any boys to pass on the name.

(Left to Right) Eric, Rodney, Dennis, John and Craig

Notes from the American Cancer Society indicate that nearly 600,000 men, women and children die from cancer every year in the United States.   That is over 1,600 deaths per day due to cancer.  ALS statistics are not as precise but one account shows that it is responsible for the deaths of 16 Americans per day.  That means that cancer kills 100 times more people, per day, than ALS.  Anytime life is taken with illness or disease prematurely it is sad, but I would rather raise awareness for something that has a greater impact on our country and for something that has impacted me personally.

I am glad to help out with raising awareness for ALS because of the nomination but I do it in honor of those who we have lost due to cancer.

Why do I wear a LIVESTRONG bracelet on my right wrist? As a reminder to remember.