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TRAGEDY TO HOPE

Turlock woman’s legacy of Relay for Life in Turlock lives on in daughter

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TRAGEDY TO HOPE

Dolores Rodriguez is one of hundreds of participants who fight for the cure of cancer at Relay for Life in Turlock. More than 1,000 people participated in the 2012 Turlock Relay for Life, an event...

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POSTED September 19, 2012 1:00 a.m.

I very clearly remember the first time cancer made a noticeable appearance in my life.  I was 5 or 6 years old and my brother and I were climbing all over my mother on the couch.  This was something that we would do quite frequently, but this time it was different.  The moment my brother or I would put even the smallest amount of pressure on her chest she would wince in pain and push us away.  Doctors’ appointments came and not too long after my brother and I were boarding a flight to Virginia to spend the summer with her sister’s family.  Once again, this is something that we would do frequently, but it was different this time.  This time we were making the visit so that my dad would still be able to work and not have to worry about finding someone to watch us, since my mother would spend the majority of the summer at Stanford for surgery and treatment. I remember the plane leaving the loading zone and still being able to see her standing alone waving to us as we departed.  While my brother and I spent the summer playing with our cousins our mother was having her womanhood taken away from her.  I remember coming home and seeing her for the first time.  As I ran my fingers across the stitches an overwhelming fear came over me.  I knew the incredible capacity for love that she had.  Love not only for her family and friends, but for strangers as well and I feared that she would love so much that her heart would burst right out of her body through those stitches

 

It was summer of 2000. A young Carly Beard woke up to the glaring sun streaming through her bedroom window.  As she walked downstairs, she noticed dozens of family members gathered around her living room.  Not taken back by the number of people inhabiting her home, Carly stepped outside onto the patio to give fresh water to her cat.  It was that moment when her entire world would be turned upside down as she received some devastating news from her father that forever changed the direction of her life.

On Aug. 1, 2000, Carly’s mother, Rebecca, lost her battle with breast cancer at age 36, leaving her two children and husband behind.

“I felt empty,” said Carly.  “I was nine when my mom was taken away from me.  I felt like an essential part of my life was robbed.”

Just a few years after Rebecca’s passing, Carly’s family was hit with another tragic loss.  This time, Rebecca’s sister, Rachel LaBoue, lost her battle with the same disease.

“In this game we call life I was dealt a double whammy.  My family was being torn apart and I didn’t know what to do,” said Carly.  “I was young when my mom was taken away from me. I never grew up knowing girly things.  I was never taught to cook or wear makeup.  The feminine aspect of my life was gone with my mom and aunt.  Not only was I depressed for a long time, but I was also bitter.”

Despite suffering the tragic losses of her mother and aunt, Carly kept their spirits alive every year when Relay for Life came around. Not only did she receive the love and support of hundreds of people at the American Cancer Society fundraiser walk-a-thons, she rejoiced at the fact that her mom started the movement in Turlock, just four years before she passed away.

“It was in 1996 when my mom decided to start Relay for Life in Turlock,” said Carly.  “She went from business to business to ask people to participate. The first year, Relay for Life had about 14 teams.  It’s a wonderful feeling seeing how much we’ve grown since then.”

More than 1,000 people participated in the 2012 Turlock Relay for Life, held in April at Dutcher Middle School. Seventy different teams, including participants from local schools, businesses and churches, gathered for one weekend to support the cause.

“A lot of people that helped my mom start Relay for Life over 10 years ago are still participating,” she said.  “It’s really nice to have that kind of support.  Many of the people who participate know who I am and even though my mom is gone, together we keep her spirit alive.”

Not only do they keep Rebecca’s spirit alive, every year the Relay for Life in Turlock presents an award named in honor of Rebecca Beard.

“I’ve had the honor of presenting the Rebecca Beard Award for the past four years,” said Carly. “Before the Luminaria Ceremony, we present it to a special member who has gone above and beyond in participating in Relay for Life.  I was also granted the same award this year through my collective efforts and involvement in this event.  My mom may not be present in this world, but she is always with me, especially during Relay for Life.”

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