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MI Rotary Run is a rally for colon cancer awareness

By 33rd community event Sunday

Robin Campbell's fifth-graders at Lakeridge Elementary School know about cancer. They have friends and relatives who have been sick. They know their classmate, Jeff Lindquist, had an aunt, Susan Lindquist Mjelde, die from colon cancer. They know that exercise, education and health go together.

Lindquist has rallied much of his class to join with him to honor his aunt, plus raise money and awareness about colon cancer, by running in the annual Rotary Run on Sunday, March 20. Lindquist's teacher will also participate.

Many of the students said they are getting ready for the event -- each in their own unique ways. Some say they get in shape by playing with their friends, another uses his mother's treadmill. Sara Drucker said doing gymnastics keeps her fit. Rina Shimizu said that she goes with her parents and sister on weekends to jog around Pioneer Park.

The run is definitely a family event.

Sophie Gage said her grandparents, Dale and Ronnie Gage, will be coming from Spokane to run in the event. She said they run a lot and do a lot of races.

"I know they do because they have a lot of T-shirts," she said.

True, said her father, Michael Gage of his parents. They have been running marathons and half-marathons together for probably 20 years.

"The Rotary Run is one of their favorites," he continued. "They have been coming here to do the half-marathon for at least five years."

Another Lakeridge student, Ross Showalter, and his dad Steve, have been running together at the Islander Middle School track to get in shape for the event. They log in a couple of laps at the newly-surfaced track a few times a week.

Organizers hope the run will bring a family and community-based awareness about a disease that can largely be prevented.

Islander Dr. Jack Brandabur, a gastroenterologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center says that too many cases that he sees of colon cancer, could have be avoided.

"Half of the cases I see could have been prevented or found earlier,"

Brandabur said. Colon cancer can take many years to develop. Cancerous lesions in the colon grow slowly and often without symptoms. More than 56,000 Americans die of the disease annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, most individuals shun the screening test, called a colonoscopy, despite its clear benefits. It seems invasive and the preparation is not pleasant. And the cost and insurance benefits for the procedure remain an issue for some. The medical community is working toward developing new screening tests that are less invasive and less intimidating for people.

But ironically even if more people wanted to be screened for the cancer, there are not enough facilities and trained technicians to conduct the tests. "If everyone who should have the test did, there would be a ten year backlog," Brandabur said. "We need more awareness and more money for research."

Event boosters such as Brandabur have high hopes for fewer deaths from the cancer and for the Rotary Run event.

"We want this to become the Bloomsday Run - West," he said referring to the wildly successful run that attracts 50,000 runners and walkers in Spokane each May.

"We want the this event to be one of the best -- and one that shows the best of Mercer Island.

And as they have for the past several years, the Island Gage family will stand in front of their house next Sunday morning, right on the race route on West Mercer Way. They will wave a big sign and cheer on Sophia's grandparents, their friends and neighbors as they run for health.

Rotary Run Day is this Sunday, March 20. Day of race registration begins at 6:30 a.m. For more information call 236-5323, ext. 1920.

Cutline: Stephen Showalter and his son, Ross, 11, stretch before their work out at the Islander Middle School track. Showalter is training for this Sunday's Rotary Run, and has participated in the event for more than 20 years. (Julie Pena/Mercer Island Reporter)

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