Opinion guest column

Let’s take a moment

Reflecting on the meaning of Relay for Life

It seems all we do at MIT is talk about the future. How are med school apps going? Are you going to take your job offer? Are you ready for that test tomorrow? In a way, it’s justified; we’ve spent our whole lives working as hard as we can in hopes of mastering our futures — in hopes of controlling our destinies.

In another way, it’s funny we worry so much about our futures. Most of us will be perfectly fine after MIT. Statically speaking, we will have the best paying, most secure, and most prestigious jobs after college. We all have great opportunities ahead of us.

Last year, I attended the MIT Relay for Life. I knew several people with cancer, but they were all older: my best friend’s mom, my dad’s best friend, my high school teacher. While their situations were tragic, I had trouble relating to them. We just didn’t have much in common. I paid the minimum amount to attend Relay and didn’t even attempt to solicit donations. At night, I was more caught up in the social aspects of the event than in its true meaning.

Ten months later, I was having the “typical jobs conversation” with my good friend and classmate Chris L. Welch ’13 . Thanks to our competitive natures, every MIT junior feels he or she needs a prestigious internship, so we were concerned with resumes, cover letters, and interviews. We thought our futures would be determined by companies like Exxon or Apple.

Twelve weeks later, Chris was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His future will be determined by several painful procedures and months of chemo.

As members of the MIT community, Chris’s situation is visible and real for all of us. I, for one, will have a very different perspective on this year’s Relay for Life. I’m inspired to echo the compassion I watched Chris demonstrate every day. For one night, I will be genuinely concerned with other people’s futures.

Unfortunately, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is relatively common in young adults. Six thousand individuals under 34 are diagnosed with the disease in the United States every year. We may not be able to change Chris’s destiny directly, but we can help ensure others do not have futures characterized by Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the uncertainty that comes with it. Many of his friends are working together now to transform Relay for Life into something more meaningful for all of us. We will make a difference; join us!

In the next month leading up to Relay for Life, let’s take the time to reflect not only on our futures, but also on how we can improve the futures of others. Let’s do as much as we can for those 6000 young people who will be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s this year, for the countless that already have it, and for Chris.

Daniel J. Ronde is a member of
the class of 2013