Serving as both a fundraiser and a public show of support, the 7th annual Brain Cancer Walk and fundraiser will take place this Saturday September 20th at 9 AM starting outside of the Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center.
Joining the event again in 2014 is Andrew Taylor, a community organizer in the Miller Park neighborhood, former Chair of the East District Council, and researcher of human cell damage at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center whose wife recently passed away due to brain cancer. He will be walking alongside patients, families, friends, and volunteers for the sake of those afflicted with and affected by this deadly disease.
“It’s a rare cancer … but it’s one of the most lethal type of cancers,” said Taylor in an interview with Capitol Hill Seattle.
Meg Holmes, who also worked in the medical research field studying the structure of protein molecules, was originally diagnosed with glioblastomas — the most aggressive type of brain tumor — back in December of 2009. She underwent initial surgery at Swedish on Cherry Hill in addition to a one year clinical trial, a period during which she lived symptom free and participated in the Brain Cancer Walk with Taylor in 2009 and 2010.
However, shortly after a March 2011 MRI showing tumor progression, Meg lost control of the left side of her body and entered hospice care in August. She passed away peacefully on her own terms surrounded by family and friends on October 1st 2011, voluntarily consuming legal lethal medication via Washington’s 2008 Death with Dignity Act.
Taylor, who continues to turn out for the yearly walk, praised Swedish for the “excellent care” that Meg received despite her diagnosis being something of a “death sentence”, noting how a Swedish social worker was devoted specifically to brain cancer patients in addition to the organized support group of patients and families.
“We finished up at just the right place for all the wrong reasons,” said Taylor in reference to Swedish. “Every staff member [there] cared [for] and loved the patients,” he added.
The walk will be raising funds for both research and patient treatment and care at the Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Tumor Treatment at Swedish Medical Center on Cherry Hill via donations from both self-organized ‘teams’ and individuals.
Originally founded in 2008 by a group of volunteers and families of patients, the walk has raised more than $2.5 million.
Apart from his work in the medical field, Andrew has played a substantial part in shaping his community. Upon moving to the Miller Park neighborhood in 1983, Andrew grew into the role of a community organizer in the area. The small section of residential blocks sandwiched between the Central District and Capitol Hill was in “distress” as Taylor put it back in the 80’s, prone to drug related violence and crime.
“That general area, 20th and Madison, was crack cocaine central,” said Taylor, citing a shooting directly outside of their home due to a drug deal gone wrong.
Taylor was heavily involved in the Miller Park Neighborhood Association which, formed after the prevalence of the side effects of the drug trade increased. He describes the association’s efforts as being along the lines of proactive “community policing”, such as meeting with drug dealers for neighborhood discussions, setting up citizen patrols and changing the dialing systems on pay phones – located on popular drug trade real estate: a children’s playground — from keypads to rotary to prevent dealers from communicating via pagers.
In March of 2008, the dealers eventually relocated farther south to 23rd and Union, which Taylor attributes to no specific efforts other than the community’s “persistence.” He also said that gentrification has played a role in the changes to the Miller Park area, though the initial community policing efforts involved neighbors from a diverse range of socio-economic demographics.
Taylor went on to chair the East District Council after being “recruited into it” by Capitol Hill community members, and helped coordinate city funds for neighborhood projects. He recently resigned the position over this past summer though he is still a member of the council. He also remains loosely involved with new Miller Park organizers.
Taylor, now 65, remains connected with the brain cancer advocacy community via people he met through Meg’s support groups and will continue to go to the Walk and donating to treatment and research funds. He is hopeful that Swedish’s care and treatment of brain cancer patients can maintain its quality.
Taylor noted that current treatments for glioblastomas brain cancer usually give patients only two years to live post diagnosis, indicating a need for continued research on the disease whose rarity makes it somewhat difficult to acquire funding.
“Basic research leads to applied research which leads to treatments,” said Taylor.
You can learn more or make a donation at braincancerwalk.org.