OPINION: Why El Dorado West Relays To Fight Cancer

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by Sarah Slaughter
Team El Dorado Captain

Team El Dorado (a BTB Advertiser) will participate in their second Highline Relay tomorrow (Sat. June 13th) at Highline Field beginning with the Survivors Lap at 3pm. I am often asked why we choose to throw so much time and energy into this all-night event held each year on behalf of the American Cancer Society.

The simple answer is because cancer affects all of us at some point in our lives.

Prior to joining El Dorado West Retirement Community as their Executive Director, I spent much of my career in nursing. I remember my first dealings with the tragedy of cancer back in the early 90’s as a healthcare professional .

As a student in nursing school, I spent a few weeks of my clinical training on a med/surg unit in a Tacoma hospital. One of the RN’s who mentored me during this time was a 40-something, 6’6″-tall strapping man. He and I quickly developed a friendship and he became one of the more important teachers during my clinical experience.

I graduated from nursing school and immediately went to work for a Tacoma nursing home. Six months into my new nursing position, on the evening shift, I learned that we were receiving a new patient to my unit. As I prepared to go and meet him I noted the name was the same as that of my clinical mentor from a year ago. I proceeded to go into the small shared room and realized that it was the same man who had been such an important part of my education a few short months ago.

He was very incapacitated and the 135 lbs he now weighed stretched tightly over his 6’6″ frame. His eyes were closed and I quickly stepped out of the room to catch my breath. I had read that this patient had been diagnosed with brain cancer that had metastasized to many of his other organs. I believed this could not have possibly been the same man.

Unfortunately though it was. He was diagnosed shortly after we worked together and it was a fast moving cancer that had already been deemed incurable. He was coming into my care under hospice and was not expected to live long.

I had the honor of caring for him and hopefully repaying him somewhat for all of the wisdom he shared with me during his healthier time. He died quickly and peacefully and I have never forgotten.

This is why I Relay. For the other members of Team El Dorado their reasons are just as personal.

When I heard about the Highline Relay I knew instantly that this would be an event that all of our residents, staff, families and employees could share in.

I brought the idea back to the community at El Dorado West and they loved the thought of participating.

This year our team is made up of residents, staff and families all intent on living up to our team motto “Up All Night!!” We have members ranging in age of 11 to 90. Everyone takes part in their own way by fundraising, joining the team and walking the track on Relay night or by making sure Team El Dorado is cheered on here at the community that day.

Although the team officially has 15 members this year the real Team El Dorado is made up of all those in our community whose lives have been touched by a cancer diagnosis. We Relay for ourselves,or our sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, patients, spouses, partners and others who have faced the words “you have cancer”. We Relay for those who have fought and won as well as those who have fought and lost. We relay for the chance to push vital research forward so no one else has to hear those words.

Please join us in our fight. Visit www.relayforlife.org/highlinewa to make your contirbution to the cure.

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