“Cancer is a horrible word, but I have to stick to it for the rest of my life.” These were the words of Rosa Yen, Assistant Director of Student Development, when she approached the podium at the University Center lecture Hall last Thursday in order to tell her audience why we relay for life at St. John’s University.
The Relay for Life was initiated more than 20 years ago. Today it is a widespread cause in which more than three million Americans have participated nationwide. It is designed to raise money for research and programs for the American Cancer Society. During the event, teams of people take turns walking or running laps. Each team tries to keep at least one team member on the track at all times.
The American Cancer Society is an organization that serves all types of people. It does not discriminate. Neither does cancer.
In order to raise awareness and participation in Relay For Life, Yen decided to share her story with the University community.
“Last Feb. 22, I had gone to the doctor for my normal check up and the doctor had said I was perfectly fine,” Yen said, “but right before leaving I told him about some symptoms I had been experiencing lately and from there I ended up being diagnosed with colon cancer. And I was so surprised, I didn’t even know what had happened!”
Yen’s co-workers in the Office of Student Life came in and gave her support during this difficult period in her life.
“My colleagues are the most wonderful people in the world,” she said.
At the Relay for Life meeting Thursday, Yen expressed how she first discovered her disease and how she has fought against it and is here to talk about it.
After her diagnosis, Yen decided to become more informed about colon cancer.
“I was so na√ÉØve and ignorant,” she said. So she went online to the American Cancer Society Web site, where she found information as to what exactly her disease was and how she had gotten it. Yen also found comfort in the support network of millions of other cancer patients in her same situation, shocked and learning how to cope with cancer while fighting against it.
“Colon cancer has four stages and mine was in the third stage, one step away from spreading when the doctor requested that I have surgery,” Yen said.
She said she prayed to God to help her make a decision and decided to put her body in the hands of a doctor like she put her soul in the hands of God.
Yen had surgery on March 8, 2005.
“Thank God, it went well,” she said. “Afterwards I went through 12 cycles of chemotherapy and it has been four months since I finished my last.”
During the treatment of chemotherapy, Yen had a very low white blood cell count, as many other cancer patients do, and this made her extremely susceptible to disease.
“The emotional part attacks all the time, I would just wake up in the middle of the night and realize that I didn’t know what would be of me tomorrow,” Yen said. “During my recovery I had developed an allergy to one of the medications that I was most dependent on, but all I did was keep praying, keep praying.”
The American Cancer Society sponsors Relay for Life events across the country. Yen says that people who participate can be “the most wonderful people in the world” simply by walking for a day for a cause that is worth walking 100 days. The St. John’s Relay for Life will take place on April 21-22.