For a long time, I continued my subscription to Newsweek magazine just because of one column written by a man with the gift of taking common and not-so-common happenings and turning them into great life lessons. I have never forgotten one particular issue in which the columnist wrote about “the butterfly effect.” At its core, the butterfly effect has to do with chaos theory and “is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place can result in large differences to a later state.” Simply put, the butterfly effect suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings could cause a tiny breeze that might ultimately change the course of a tornado or a hurricane on another continent.
Think about that…
Just one little butterfly flapping its wings…a small change in one corner of the world impacting weather patterns in another.
As we move full throttle into Relay season in Nebraska, I am reminded of how Relay started…one little butterfly flapping his wings.
In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, wanted to show support for his patients and raise money for his local American Cancer Society office. He walked and ran around a track in Tacoma, WA for more than 83 miles over a 24-hour period. He had over 300 folks come out and show their support. Friends paid $25 to walk/run with Dr. Klatt that night, and as a result, he raised over $27,000. The following year, 19 teams took part and they raised $33,000.
Relay For Life was born…because Dr. Klatt flapped his wings.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2001. After my mastectomy, I underwent eight rounds of two different kinds of chemotherapy. This was followed by seven weeks of radiation, which was followed by five years of Tamoxifen, which was followed by five more years of Femara. Because of the precision of my treatment (and perhaps the flap of a butterfly’s wings somewhere in Moscow), I celebrated 11 years cancer free in March.
My first Relay was the result of a “wing-flap” by my chemo nurses. About half way through my eight round protocol, one of them invited me out to this “neat little thing” they called Relay For Life that was happening the following day. I joined them on the track that warm night in June and my life has never been the same. The butterfly effect is rooted in the notion that small events can have large, widespread impacts. That one little wing-flap…the invitation to come out that night…has changed the course of my life forever.
Think about this…
…seemingly small things with large impacts…
Never doubt the difference WE are making in the fight against cancer. Since inception, Relay For Life has grown from one man walking a track in Tacoma, Washington to over 5,200 communities in the United States and over 20 countries across the globe. Relay has raised over $4.5 BILLION to fight cancer through research, education, advocacy and services. As a result, cancer death rates have decreased by 23% in men and 15% in women since the early 1990′s. In the last two decades, this means that more than a MILLION cancer deaths have been avoided and today, there are over 12 MILLION survivors…one of whom might be standing next to you in the grocery store check-out line or sitting next to you at your kid’s piano recital.
…not bad for one little butterfly, on a track in Tacoma, Washington 27 years ago…
…and not bad for all of us flapping our wings hoping to change the course of cancer in every corner of the world.
Personal note: Earlier this year, Dr. Klatt was diagnosed with stomach cancer. As he wages a very personal battle with cancer, please keep our butterfly in your thoughts and prayers.
by Michelle Shkolnick – 2012 Hero of Hope
This is the third post of Michelle Shkolnick’s series as a contributor for the ACSNebraska.org site. Shkolnick, who is an American Cancer Society Relay For Life Hero of Hope in 2012 will share her captivating writing ability with ACSNebraska readers every other week in May and June. She will talk about her cancer journey, the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life, survivorship and the people she’s met along the way. Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and began Relaying in Omaha that summer. This year, she travels across Nebraska talking to fellow Relayers and inspiring people to help the American Cancer Society make a difference by saving lives. Please check back with ACSNebraska.org or subscribe to the site because you won’t want to miss a word of Michelle’s stories. Her next story is scheduled to be posted on Tuesday, June 19.