“I’m sorry to have to tell you this. Calls like this are the worst part of my job and knowing that you have four young children makes this that much more difficult. Your biopsy results have come in and I regret that they confirm - you have cancer.”
At 37-years-old, an avid runner and busy mom, a colorectal cancer diagnosis was the furthest thing from mind when I received the devastating news that day. To call it an unexpected life interruption would be a massive understatement.
I thought colon cancer was what happened to other people. This was the kind of thing that you worry about later in life. Not to me - and not now. It doesn’t run in my family and genetic testing would later prove that I have no predisposition for cancer. My own doctors didn’t even suspect it because I appeared too young and seemingly healthy.
I certainly could have picked a less degrading form of cancer, but as a result of my infamous diagnosis I am now also a self professed toilet humor master -- much to the entertainment of my kids.
Cases of colon cancer are on the rise in young adults and the median age of patients diagnosed is getting lower. According to the American Cancer Society, half of all new diagnoses are in people under the age of 66. Actor Chadwick Boseman died last year of colon cancer at age 43 after battling the disease. He was just 39-years-old when he was diagnosed.
Colorectal cancer is sometimes referred to as the "silent killer" as it often doesn’t cause symptoms until after it has grown or spread. Unlike other forms of cancer, colon cancer is also not easily detected through your annual blood work.
That’s why it’s best to be tested for colorectal cancer before experiencing any symptoms. When found early through screening it can be easier to treat. Screening can even prevent some colon cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
One suspected reason for the rise in young adults is that this age group is less likely to seek help for symptoms commonly associated with colorectal cancer. When my own symptoms appeared, they seemed unalarming. I was admittedly embarrassed and it was easier for me to make up excuses like my being too busy with work and family to go in and see my doctor.
I ignored the red flags my body was indicating to me that something was wrong -- for five months. I can’t help but often wonder what might have been different in my case had I gone in sooner.
People are dying because people aren’t talking about the need to screen. My goal is to change that as an advocate speaking out this March for Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
That phone conversation I had with my doctor was back in November of 2019. Since then, I have undergone surgery to remove a 2-inch tumor and six inches of my sigmoid colon, eight grueling months of chemotherapy, and finally a harrowing grand finale as the first cancer patient with COVID-19 admitted to the ICU at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine, California during the first surge last summer.
2020 was a doozy of a year for us all, but for me, arguably more than others. This year is my second chance at life now that I have recently regained my health and am now in remission with no evidence of disease. I consider this to be my come back year and am on a mission to save others from having to experience what I went through.
To accomplish this goal, I have launched Butt Kickerz Virtual Run this March for Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Here are ten reasons why you should consider joining the movement and run (or walk) with me:
1. Tomorrow Can’t Wait
This year in the United States, 53,200 people are expected to die of the disease and 147,950 cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the nation’s second leading cause of cancer death, but one of the most preventable.
2. Screening Saves
Early detection saves lives. When caught early colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. When you join Butt Kickerz Virtual Run, you support screening awareness efforts that demystify the process and inform others about the importance of early detection. The theme of the Virtual Run is Check Yo Self. Our efforts focus on preventing cancer through encouraging on-time screening and education.
3. No One Walks Alone
A cancer diagnosis is one of the most frightening days in a person's life. I believe no person should ever walk alone on this journey. Fundraising efforts support cancer patients through thoughtful gifts, efforts to raise awareness, and donations to research.
4. Reduce Your Cancer Risk
The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity a week to lower overall cancer risk. You don’t need to do intense exercise to lower your risk of cancer. Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day lowers your risk.
Butt Kickerz Virtual Run (or walk) can be done anywhere you ch