I will never forget the phone call I received on Jan. 31, 2011. I remember the words and how they stung. I remember feeling like it was a dream. Or more like a nightmare, really.
I don't remember, however, which family member it was that called, but I do remember hearing the ache and anguish in their voice when they told me she was gone.
I knew the call was coming. I didn't know exactly when. I thought I would be prepared.
But on that Tuesday, eight years ago, I was told that my sister Donna - my hero since I was a little girl - lost her battle with cancer.
Diagnosed nine years earlier with breast cancer, Donna started her hard-fought battle. She was a fighter. Tough as nails. When she hit her five-year mark of being cancer-free, we celebrated by completing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, 60-mile walk. She was determined to beat the cancer. She had fought so hard and won. Or so she and the rest of her family and friends thought.
But in her seventh year, the cancer came back. And it came back with such vengeance. In true Donna style, however, she didn't give up. She fought even harder. But the cancer was stronger and after two years of fighting it with every ounce of her being, it - the devilish disease - won. The cancer took over her body and took her away from us.
Although I knew her time was coming to an end, I truly wasn't prepared for that call.
I remember that time like it was yesterday.
You see, my big sis, which is what I always called her, was more than just a sister. Because of our age difference - 20 years - she was like a second mom. And no offense to my actual mom, Donna was like a way cooler mom. My love of shopping comes from her.
After Donna passed away, I vowed that I would do what I could to help in the fight against cancer. I would do the fundraisers, the walks, the relays. But I didn't. Not because I didn't want to. But because it hurt and was an awful reminder that my sister was gone.
I remember covering a balloon release at a Relay for Life event for the newspaper a year or two after my sister was gone and I completely lost it. Bawled hard. It hurt so bad.
I have covered that same event numerous times and although it still hurts every single time, I will admit it has gotten easier.
Last July, I was once again covering our local Relay for Life event and ran into Sheri Fermoyle who works at a local radio station, KIK-FM. We chatted a bit and she suggested that next year (2019) we should have a media team. We decided that the captains could be me, Sheri and Patty Wicken from another local radio station, KXRA. Immediately, I said, "YES!" I knew it was time.
So a couple months ago, Sheri contacted Patty and me, and a media team - Media on a Mission - was formed for this year's Douglas County Relay for Life.
I am ready. I am ready to honor and celebrate my big sis Donna, and the battle she fought so ferociously. I am ready to fundraise. I am ready to walk. I am ready to relay.
We hope that you will join Media on a Mission for the relay on Friday, July 12. We hope that you will donate. We hope that you will take this journey with us and walk, relay and fundraise for whoever in your life has been touched by cancer.
We all have a connection to cancer somehow, some way. And we can all fight together. I am fighting in memory of my big sis. Who will you fight for?