WATSONVILLE — When Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano was recently diagnosed with cancer, and his “world was turned upside down,” an unlikely partnership evolved from his predicament: Turning a negative into a positive, Solano joined forces with another cancer patient, 2-year-old Elizabeth “Effy” Watson, to form “Team Effy.”
“Together, we are going to face this head-on,” Solano said. “Effy was diagnosed a few days before me so that makes me the rookie and her the leader.”
Brought together by local realtor, DeeDee Vargas, on Thursday Solano, Effy and her parents, Jennifer and James Watson, met at Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services where Solano and his new team member were making a promotional video for Jacob’s Heart.
“My family and I are just one of many that have had their lives turned upside down with a diagnosis of cancer, in my case myeloma,” Solano said during the video session. “The day I was given the news of my illness, I had a chance encounter at Jacob’s Heart and received comfort and resources that helped me understand the long road ahead. At the same time, I learned of the many children locally who are facing similar circumstances … Effy being one of them. I’m so glad that we have Jacob’s Heart who is here to help these children and their families who are struggling to navigate this overwhelming but winnable journey.”
Lori Butterworth, who founded Jacob’s Heart in 1998, said she has just returned to Jacob’s Heart as executive director when the organization needed her leadership. Butterworth and Solano had been working together with the Watsonville Youth City Council and the Criminal Justice Council.
“It was hard when I had to tell Manny that I needed to resign my positions with the Youth City Council and the Criminal Justice Council in order to return very quickly to Jacob’s Heart.” she said. “But after a few days back at Jacob’s Heart, when Manny came in and shared his own diagnosis, we knew I was in the right place at the right time. Manny has always been a great supporter of the community and our youth and now there is the incredible partnership with Team Effy. These are incredible people that we have the honor to walk through life with. To reach out and support others, like Effy, when you’re fighting cancer yourself is truly heroic.”
Jennifer Watson said her daughter Effy was initially brought to the hospital with a strange lump on her side, which turned out to be nothing and went away. However, blood samples taken then exposed a problem and Effy’s family had to make a trip to Stanford Medical Center where they were hit with the news that Effy had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.