Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch admitted she struggled this week with what she was going to say to the participants of this weekend's Relay for Life. After all, her brother, Dave, died from cancer in late April.
"I lost my beloved brother a few months ago," she told the crowd Friday night at Whitney Field.
Smith's brother, from Arizona, had devastating news to tell his relatives during a family gathering in November.
"I've come to say good-bye and my doctor said I only have a month to live," Lesch said, quoting her brother. "He not only saw Christmas; he saw Easter, too."
Relay for Life, now in its sixth year in Norwalk, is a celebration for cancer survivors and a way to honor those who have died from the disease.
Lesch quoted the Dan Schutte hymn, "Only This I Want," as a message for the Relay participants.
The second verse says: "I will run the race; I will fight the good fight, so to win the prize of the kingdom of the Lord."
"We're here to have fun and celebrate life," Lesch said.
Dr. Brian Murphy, who practices at North Coast Cancer Care and Fisher-Titus Medical Center, was the celebration of life speaker before the 24-hour event began. Like the mayor, he incorporated the imagery of running a race in his message.
In 1985, a doctor from Tacoma, Wash., ran for 24 hours straight and raised $27,000 for his local American Cancer Society (ACS) chapter.
"They said it was an amazing spirit as they saw it," Murphy said, noting the event became the primary ACS regional event before becoming a national one.
The doctor shared an anonymously written poem called "What Cancer Cannot Take From You:"
"It cannot take your Faith,
Shatter your Hope,
Or lessen your Love.
It cannot destroy true Friendship,
Invade the Soul,
Or take away Eternal Life.
It cannot conquer your Spirit."
"My wife gave me this framed poem. I have it hanging in my office," Murphy said later.
He ended his message to the audience by saying the Relay reminded him of a family that will "cry a little (and) laugh a little.
"... There's an indescribable spirit in this crowd," Murphy added.