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Island men promote Rotary Run

By Mary L. Grady

It was sunset on Orcas Island last summer where a group of Island dads on a Indian Guides trip with their daughters, talked about how to save more people from colon cancer. They hit upon Rotary Run, the annual community event, which includes raising money, spreading the word about the disease and prevention and providing a spark to improve the health of everyone in town.

The 33rd annual Rotary Run, with its theme, ``Early prevention is the cure,'' will be held March 20. The race, sponsored by Farmers Insurance, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center and the Susan Lindquist Mjelde Colon Cancer Coalition is expected to attract 3,000 participants this year. It is for everyone, organizers stress, from kids running and grandparents walking to professional half-marathoners looking to qualify for other prestigious events.

But beyond the good cause, and a way to promote health, it is all about community, organizers say.

Teams have been forming from all over the Island and Seattle. Virginia Mason teams have signed up, along with a team from the Mercer Island School District administrative offices. Robin Campbell and her fifth-grade classroom at Lakeridge Elementary School are training for the event. Each team hopes to raise money and make it to the finish line. The teams include half-marathoners and walkers young, old and in between.

The run's importance to many Islanders is brought into focus by those who have lost a loved one to the disease and local physicians who treat patients facing the diseases.

Susan Linquist Mjelde, a sister of Islander organizer Tom Lindquist and his family, died from colon cancer in 2002. The family has a foundation in her honor to continue her fight against the disease.

Island resident, gastroenterologist and runner, John Brandabur, said that 1,000 people die each year from colon cancer.

``Deaths that for the most part, don't have to happen,'' he said. ``Washington state gets an `F' as far as colon cancer screening.''

Eighty percent or more deaths from colon cancer can be prevented, experts say. Lives can be saved by a diagnostic test called colonoscopy. The test, in which the colon is examined with an internal scope, can spot growths in the colon before they turn cancerous.

It is a test that isn't particularly pleasant and is easy to put off. But if caught early, growths in the colon, called polyps, can be removed and lives can be saved.

Brandabur, the father of four daughters, spoke to the Mercer Island Rotary about having colon cancer be the focus of the fundraising of the race. But more importantly, how to throw the weight of the event and the Rotary organization, behind the effort to fight this deadly cancer. They readily agreed, he said.

The March 20 Rotary Run includes a half-marathon run, a half-marathon walk, the 8K classic walk and the 8K classic run.

Early registration ends March 5. Participants can register on-line at www.onetherun.com/mihalf or pick up forms at Island businesses including the Mercer Island Reporter and Club Emerald and Washington Mutual.

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