North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Arlington relay participants help fight cancer


Caregivers: As co-chair of the Relay for Life Kim Deisher-Allen talks about caregivers before the relay an Arlington cheer team holds up their letters for support at the Arlington Relay for Life on June 22.

Locals came out to the 24-hour long relay to help raise money to prevent cancer at Arlington’s Relay for Life, which began on June 22.

As the Relay approached, Arlington teams had raised more than $150,000, coming close to $1 million raised in the last four years. The Relay for Life program is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

The Marysville-Tulalip Relay for Life takes place next weekend, June 29-30, at Asbery Field in Marysville.

Many of the Arlington participants were there because cancer has personally invaded their lives.

Erin Lewis vowed she would participate in this year’s Relay after her son was involved in it last year, but she didn’t know she would be walking this year as a cancer survivor.

Lewis is a mother who worked regularly into the early hours of the morning, but her entire world was uprooted when, after some routine tests, doctors discovered breast cancer.

“In less than an hour my whole world turned upside down. Now what? I quietly left, called my husband, and what do you say? ‘Hey honey, I have breast cancer,’” she said.

The experience has taught her some things, though.

“I know a year ago I would’ve listened to the speakers [at Relay for Life], been moved at the time and scurried back to my crazy life, overwhelmed by my job. It took cancer for me to finally step up and take note,” she said.

Other Relay participants were there because of a loved one who has died of cancer or is still fighting the disease.

The father of Kim Deisher-Allen, an Eagle Creek Elementary teacher and co-chair of this year’s relay, was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer, in January 2009. The doctors gave him an estimate of three months to live but he fought for another 26 months.

“He was tired and easily irritated, and because it was in the memory portion of his brain he faltered with everyday names and routines… even though being a caregiver got so hard that I felt like I could not do it for one more minute, I would do it all over again,” she said.

Cancer survivors and other Relay for Life participants walk around the Arlington High School track on the first lap of relay, the survivor lap, on June 22.

She hopes to support other caregivers by being part of this year’s Relay.

“I Relay because when I cared for my dad I was all alone,” she said. “I didn’t know about programs like Road to Recovery or hotlines that I could’ve called in the middle of the night when I needed help. I Relay because I want people to have that information.”

Announcer for the event and radio host Maury Eskenazi said the long, tiring Relay is a metaphor for cancer treatment: “Relay for Life starts one evening and ends the next morning. The light and darkness of the day and night parallel the physical effects, emotional effects and mental states of cancer patients while undergoing treatment. The sun rising represents the end of treatment when cancer patients get their last treatment. Just as you are exhausted so are they after treatment, but a new day is ahead.”


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