By Matt Knutson
His family described Mitch Turner as a tough man, with a strong mental attitude. Mitch lost a six-year battle with colon cancer in August of 2010.
“My dad was such a strong, independent person,” Steve Turner said. “It was hard for him to let anyone do something for him.”
But Steve and his siblings, Jeff, Jonathon, Connie and Lisa, and their mother, Octavia, were able to do something for him, something to remember and celebrate his life and make a difference for others struggling with colon cancer. The inaugural Mitch Turner Drive Away Cancer Golf Classic was held April 9, 2011, Mitch’s birthday, at Beaver Hills Golf Club in Martinsville, VA.
The result? Resounding success! In spite of a cold rain, the day included 14 teams, 56 golfers, and raised $3,700 for the Colon Cancer Coalition.
“I was really surprised to see that colon cancer was the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths,” Steve said. “It’s so preventable; people just need to get out and get your screening done.”
During his six-year battle with colon cancer, Mitch encountered some physical challenges, but golf was one thing he was able to enjoy throughout. Steve and his brother Jonathan began planning the golf classic before Mitch passed away, with the hope that he would be able golf in it.
“That was one of the few things he could still get out and do,” Steve said. “He was saying constantly, ‘I’m going to fight this as long as I can.’”
The idea of raising money and giving back fit right in with the way Mitch lived, and lives on even after his death. Mitch Turner donated his body to science with a hope that it could benefit people in the future.
In a letter he wrote to his family before his death, Mitch said, “I can imagine this scenario where a medical student or researcher is working with it [his body], and a light goes on in his or her head, and they discover a better or new way to do something that will benefit other people in the future.”
His letter specifically mentioned his hope for a better form or solution to chemotherapy, which caused him to have both hips replaced. “I realize the chances of this happening are minimal, but at least there’s a chance,” Mitch’s letter concluded.
Even in the early days following his diagnosis Mitch Turner was committed to encouraging others to get screened and take control of their health. He had a “Letter to the Editor” published in his local paper that told his story. He was looking to inspire others to get screened as a way to avoid the surgery and treatment he was undergoing. You can see his letter below.
The money from the inaugural Mitch Turner Golf Classic will be used to help the Colon Cancer Coalition further the CDC’s top two priorities for colon cancer: screening and education, priorities with which Mitch Turner would certainly agree.