Island Forum | Let’s walk, then walk some more for lifesaving cancer research

May is National Cancer Research month. But many need no reminder.

A person very close to me, Joe Royer, was one of the first patients at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. After being told he only had weeks to live, he volunteered for experimental treatment at “The Hutch,” which did not even have its own building in 1971. It was harrowing. Yet, he was extraordinarily lucky. They saved him. The doctors learned a great deal from his treatment. Yet all these years and billions of dollars later, cancer marches on in its various forms, including the nearly incurable brain cancer.

Last year, 22,000 Americans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, were diagnosed with brain cancer. At any given time, there are 1,500 patients in the Pacific Northwest. Most patients are given a survival rate of just one to two years, yet according to experts, only two treatments for brain cancer have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the last 25 years.

Swedish Hospital is gearing up for its second annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk this Saturday morning, May 30, at Mercer Island High School. The Seattle Brain Cancer Walk raises funds to support groundbreaking research and dedicated patient care right here in our community.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Swedish’s Neuroscience Institute.

The walk is one of just many fundraisers that take place throughout the year — here, in Seattle and on the greater Eastside. So far this month, there have been three such events on Mercer Island alone — along with similar events that support other deserving causes. One can’t help but wonder if walking around a track is still helpful in solving the cancer puzzle? But anytime people come together with one goal in mind, great things can be accomplished.

We are living near the very epicenter in the fight against cancer of all types. The work of Swedish and the Cancer Care Alliance (which includes The Hutch, Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington) has made quantum leaps in understanding and treating this disease. There is progress.

Mercer Island has particularly strong ties to this effort. Last year’s largest team was formed by community member Jim Seeks and the congregation of his Mercer Island church to honor their friend, Randy, whose life was cut short by the disease. Dr. John Henson, the new head of neurology at Swedish, is a Mercer Island resident. Like communities everywhere, cancer remains a threat.

Last year, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk brought out 500 participants and raised more than $100,000 to support research for new treatments.

Work to prevent and treat cancer is still as important as it was 40 years ago when the nation first declared the “war on cancer.” And any physician or researcher will say that the success of their work comes from standing on the shoulders of both patients and doctors who came before them. So let’s continue to give them a leg up.

And thanks, Uncle Joe.

For more information and to register, visit www.braincancerwalk.org. Mary L. Grady is the Editor of the Mercer Island Reporter.

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