Port Burwell's Shirley Crockett added a fourth line to her Tillsonburg Relay for Life sign Friday night.
"Faith, hope, love – and courage," she said, holding up a cardboard placard she carried while riding in the Survivor Lap.
"And I could add a whole bunch more. There's strength, there's reliability, there's friendship... I could go on. I could have a big bristol board sign and there still wouldn't be enough room.
"Nobody'd see me," she laughed. "They'd see a sign and a wheelchair."
Crockett, 70, was first diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer in 2011 and after much testing, it was determined to be terminal. She was able to experience her first Tillsonburg Relay for Life in 2013, and made sure to come back this past weekend for Tillsonburg's 13th annual Relay.
"It's been another beautiful experience – I've waited for this moment since last year, honest to God. I just got myself so keyed up.
"It was 2 o'clock and my nurse said, 'Are you getting ready already – what time are you going?' I said, 'Yeah, 4 o'clock.' She said relax, calm down."
Crockett wanted to get to Relay for Life before she got sick, because if she did get sick, she knew her husband, Ron Jaumol, would not bring her.
"If I get sick when I'm here, it's different," she smiled. "Thank God it wasn't yesterday. If this Relay had been yesterday, I wouldn't have been able to come. Yesterday I made homemade spaghetti sauce, I made apple cake, I cleaned the fridge out – I had energy coming out of the ears. Until noon hour. Then the rest of the day I was just laid out. I had pajamas on, I was cold – it was the infection going through me. I was loaded with blankets and I was just shaking uncontrollably.
"But I was glad it sort of straightened around and I was able to come out tonight, because I was debating whether I'd go or not. I just said I'm not staying home. I said you can let me go for a couple hours, then I can go home or go to the hospital, I'll go anywhere you want. But I am going to this Relay for Life. I'm not going to miss it, that's all there is to it. When I get my mind made up, it's something that's very hard to change."
"It's an everyday thing," said Jaumol, her husband and caregiver, who lost his brother George to cancer in 2009. "It's like I said last year, it's a 24-7 deal."
"Basically, it's about the same," said Crockett, assessing her condition since the last Relay. "It never leaves and it's just a constant thing. I control it, and I control my outlook on it – this sign says everything.
"What I'm battling right now is infections. I was told by the doctors up in London that you don't die from the disease, but you die from the infections.
"It's not too bad. We try to keep the pain under control with medication. It's just like they say, 'it's another day in the life.' When I wake up in the morning, it's like my mother said years ago, the first thing you do is wash your face, you comb your hair, you put your lipstick on and you're good for the whole day. That's stayed with me all those years and I still do it right to this day."
Thursday was a bad day, she admits, but there are good days, too.
"It's just that the bad days are coming a little bit more often and a bit more severe. The way it starts is what I'm feeling right now. It starts off as severe cold chills, and nothing will warm it up.
"Whatever," she shrugged. "I'm a fighter."
Crockett is already planning to return in 2015, and may bring her new bristol board sign.
"Faith, hope, love, courage... support, strength from friends, just everything. Next year maybe you'll just see a big piece of bristol board and this wheel chair, but you won't be able to see me."