B'ville: Fighting back . . . why I relay

Ryan Brissenden, 16, recently spoke at the kick-off event held for Baldwinsville's Relay For Life. According to Amy Norpell, the senior director of communications and marketing for the American Cancer Society, there wasn't a dry eye in the room when Brissenden had finished. "We have many students who participate in Relay For Life across the region in memory or in honor of a loved one touched by cancer, but Ryan has risen above them all with his passion for this event," Norpell said.

Below is the speech Brissenden read at the event:

In 1997, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At that time, I barely knew what cancer was, let alone the obstacles that it would eventually lead to. It is often said that life is like a roller coaster, only I think that some of us are not ready for that first drop. By the time I fully understood the situation, the cancer had spread to her chest, bones and finally her brain. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which caused the kid inside of her to disappear. Suddenly, visiting grandma meant going to watch her sit in a chair. The rollercoaster was stuck, midair, waiting for someone to come to its rescue.

May 2002 marked the beginning of her nine months confined to bed.

My grandparents were in a new house and the journey out to visit was now 45 minutes instead of five. I can vividly remember driving out once or twice a week to Hastings to visit a person who I felt I no longer knew. The only bit of recognition was when she would stare blankly into my eyes and squeeze my hand. I could only imagine what she was thinking in her slowly fading mind. For nine months it was the same room, same bed, same TV show (Everybody Loves Raymond). Nine months of suffering, of pain. Nine months of absolutely nothing. She is without a doubt the strongest woman I know.

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