Everyone is touched by cancer: Relay for Life

By David Gaylord
Senior and Metropolitan Campus SGA President

Growing up in small town Canada, your friends are close and your family is closer.

Chris and David Relay for Life
David Gaylord lost his best friend and cousin Chris Palmateer to cancer on his eleventh birthday. (Photo courtesy of Gaylord)

October 19, 2003 is a day so clear in my memory, I don’t think I will ever forget it —my eleventh birthday. I didn’t get an amazing present to make it memorable, but rather, horrifyingly, I lost a best friend to cancer. Not only was he a best friend, but also a classmate, a teammate and a cousin. Christopher Palmateer lost his battle. At the time I didn’t believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I was a kid, only in the sixth grade and I didn’t take the news so well.

I don’t remember the day Chris was diagnosed. I only remember the day I found out he was going to die from cancer and then the day he did. I guess when he was diagnosed, I assumed he would survive; he was a fighter. The day I found out he didn’t have a chance was a difficult one; it enraged me. Quitting wasn’t in mine or Chris’ vocabulary.

Relay promo

Relay for Life
April 16, 2015

Members of the Fairleigh Dickinson University community are encouaged to sign up for Relay for Life. Relay is an organized community fundraising walk that raises money with the goal of achieving a cancer-free world. Sign up to walk or donate. FDU's goal is to exceed last year’s totals in funds raised and teams signed up. It’s never been so easy to make a difference. Come out and have an amazing time with amazing people.

We’ve all been touched by cancer. This is your chance to make a difference and help us get one step closer to ending cancer.

He was a great guy. In the short 11 years of his life he was an inspiration to many. My small town honors Chris’ legacy by replicating his courage and fight each day.

Chris and I became great friends playing hockey together. In Canada, friendship and hockey are always linked. Chris was one of my linemates and an exceptional hockey player. Around town he was known for having the wrist shot of guys twice his age. The season before he was diagnosed I started noticing how he wasn’t playing like himself. In a way, it seemed like he was letting the team down. Now I look back and understand how strong he was for fighting through and competing regardless of his symptoms. He is a true inspiration.

The next season our team went on to win the All-Ontario Championship, which would be similar to winning a state championship. At this stage, Chris was seriously ill, but determined to watch his team win the provincial championship. To this day, Christopher Palmateer’s hockey jersey is enclosed in a glass case at our local arena. Every time I return there, I see the number 22 and remember all the good times we spent together.

Looking back, I wonder if Chris was fighting on long enough to spend one more birthday with me. October 19 is still a very difficult day, but at least I know I have someone watching over me. Chris is my biggest inspiration and in his memory, I always push to be better. Over my four years at Fairleigh Dickinson University, I have accomplished much. I am the Student Government Association president, an honors student, and an NEC Scholar Athlete of the Year award winner. Without taking inspiration from Chris, I doubt I would be where I am today.

I share this story now to encourage every one to walk with me in the fight against cancer. It’s because of Chris and so many others that I walk. Why will you? Relay for Life. April 16.