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2014 Faces of Blue

The Colon Cancer Coalition would like to thank everyone that participated in this year’s Faces of Blue story series. Whether that be submitting a story or reading one, you truly made this year’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month a special one. Each story shared lent a different perspective on fighting and coping with colon cancer. Please enjoy the following recap of all the stories, and remember to check your colon!

Shanie Hepler | March 1
Shanie shared her incredible story full of strength and courage. “Today I have inoperable tumors in my lungs. Although I wont survive my diagnosis, I live to be a voice for others to spread awareness and save lives through my story.”

Claudia Kittock | March 2
We were inspired by Claudia‘s uplifting energy. “My body had been battered by 2 years of chemotherapy, 28 radiation treatments, 65 extra pounds, and 9 surgeries. At the end of that battle, I began another battle that I was even less prepared to wage.  Having no evidence of cancer was and is fabulous, but what do I do with the ravages of the treatments?”

Karla Olesen | March 3
This strong single mother lent us her positive attitude to never give up. “My General Practitioner said to me, ‘If you can run 3 miles with a hemoglobin of 7.6, just wait until you are done with your treatment. Karla you will move a mountain!’ My reply: ‘YES I will!’”

Brenda Estrada | March 4
Brenda reminded us that we are our own best health advocates. “I still remember my husband sitting by the window and I was on the examining table. The doctor then said, “I am sorry you have colon cancer.” That moment changed my life forever. I looked over and saw David and by this time he was holding me. It has to be the scariest feeling I had ever felt.”

Glenna Peterson | March 5
Glenna is a Caregiver taught us to find strength in doing the activities we love. “…dancing is how Jon and I cope while fighting this disease. We teach cancer patients and caregivers how to dance at a local gym one night a week. It reminds us how to enjoy life and how to not let cancer consume us. It’s a way of healing emotionally and spiritually.”

Kim Mehler | March 6
Kim told us of the shock she, and many others, felt upon diagnosis. “During my hospital stay, we found out that the cancer had spread to 3 of the fifteen lymph nodes that were tested. I did not have stage I colon cancer; I had stage IIIA. I felt the room spin. Are you kidding me? I’m 38, healthy, and extremely happy. How did this happen to me?”

Misty Watson | March 7
Misty shared her tale of how cancer can strike any one at any time. “At age 29, I was diagnosed with Stage II colon cancer. I’m the youngest of four siblings and neither parent nor any grandparents have ever been diagnosed with any form of cancer.”

Regina Lassabe | March 8
As a survivor herself, Regina reminded us of the importance of continued screening for survivors of colon cancer. “Well here I am a year later staying on top of this and have my colonoscopy as of February 3, 2014 and they find more polyps and now diverticulitis. I wait yet again for those results for a positive or negative cancer diagnosis.”

Janel Gunderson | March 9
Janel gave her advice to always stay hopeful and to teach others to see the good in bad situations. “When I woke up, the mood was very somber. I was told to get dressed and meet in the consult room. It was there that the doctor told me that I had cancer, and his guess was that it had been there for about 5 years.”

Susan Pfau| March 10
Susan shared her story surrounding her son’s amazing attitude and strength as he continues to fight his battle. “We were shocked when we found out Chace had colon cancer. There is no cancer in our family! Chace was diagnosed one week before running the Twin Cities Marathon and his twenty-fifth birthday.”

Denise Cesta| March 11
We saw that cancer is just as much of an emotional journey as a physical one in Denise‘s story. “The hardest part of the whole journey for me was the ileostomy.  It was hard for me emotionally, and it led me into a depression post surgery. I couldn’t stop crying the day they wanted to release me from the hospital – I couldn’t imagine taking care of this “thing” on my own.”

Tamara Gibbs| March 12
Tamara has been cancer free for a few years now, but has not forgotten to be grateful for each day she has. “The love I was shown and the care that I was given by family, friends, and my medical team changed my life for the better. Although I would not wish this diagnosis on anyone, I learned more about life having gone through it. The biggest enemy is fear but you can face it and take an active role in your own treatment.”

Glen Pizzalato| March 13
Glen showed us how important and helpful having friends, family, and a supportive community is. “My wife is always there to pick me up, help me with my every need, although it has caused an added burden on her. Our friends and neighbors are always so helpful. If there is something my wife just cannot do, they step in and help. Without them and the help from family, our journey would certainly be much more difficult.

Brooke Dubois| March 14
We were reminded just how important it is to spend time with family by Brooke. “My mother always kept a positive outlook on life. I never felt like she had given up, even during those last two weeks she was in the hospital. During the weeks that followed her passing, I felt that I needed to be strong like she was so that was the part of her I carried with me and still do until this day.”

Carlyle Dorroh| March 15
Carlyle made a call to action for never giving up and finding a cure. “…don’t sit back and let cancer happen to you. Be informed. Ask questions. Fight for more research. Demand a search for the cure – for all of us fighting and so that others don’t have to do this. Parents are dying, leaving young children behind. Young adults are losing the ability to have children. It is time for this to stop.”

Shannon Pate| March 16
Shannon showed us that odds of surviving are just numbers. “We went to two of the best surgeons in town and were told there was no hope.  My cancer had spread up near my spleen and they thought I would probably not make it thru the surgery.  My cancer was already blocking my colon so they thought I might have 6 months to a year.  I was devastated.”

Semhal Tekeste| March 17
Educating the community about colon cancer is a passion for Semhal, and she encourages other to spread awareness, as well. “…it means so much to me that so many members of my family and our friends have participated in the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K for two years in a row. Our team has managed to touch others and inspire them to come together to find a positive light out of an otherwise dark cloud.”

Kelly Kuster| March 18
Kelly encouraged everyone to share stories and spread hope. “My husband Bob was the catalyst for all of my medical decisions. He was the caretaker for our beautiful son, who was 18 months when this all began, and having him as my spouse is God’s blessing to me. My son has a wonderful role model to follow, because his father was his mother’s caretaker.”

Linda Vieyra| March 19
Linda reminded us to be appreciative of everything that we have. “Our goal is to think positively and stay positive. Like my husband says, ‘this set back is a set-up for a great come back’, whether it be eternal life in the hands of the good Lord or enjoying more years with your loved ones here on earth. Keep fighting, keep the hope and most of all keep your faith.”

Alexis Robaina| March 20
Alexis showed us that caregivers can be of any age. “Six months went by and grandpa seemed stronger then ever. We would go to the park, pool, trips and even the zoo. He loved all animals, enjoyed hikes and nature and would always talk and tell us about history. He was such a smart man. I lived day-by-day enjoying every moment with my grandpa.”

Jo Landolfo| March 21
We took a journey through Jo‘s words as her daughter fought colon cancer. “The world turned upside down and everything and everyone was in disbelief and turmoil. Family, friends and co-workers all came together to do whatever they could to help during this crisis. Despite all of the help, an enormous feeling of helplessness consumed me. It was an emotional roller coaster that I thought would never end.”

Kim Newcomer| March 22
Kim showed us just how important it is to pay attention to family history. “The doctor who was on call did a rectal examination and told me I had hemorrhoids. When I mentioned my father had been diagnosed with colon cancer and that my general practitioner was recommending I have my first colonoscopy, his response was that it was only hemorrhoids.”

Lisa Issa| March 23
Lisa reminded us that cancer may be a part of many peoples’ lives, but it does not define who they are. “felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on top of me. I didn’t even cry…mostly because I figured it had to be early stages, after all, I was only 26 years old. As the week progressed and I went for further testing, my final diagnosis was stage IV colorectal cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes and liver.”

Rachel Yingling| March 24
Rachel showed us that you can still live life to the fullest when you have cancer. “A cancer diagnosis is devastating news, and while my life has changed irreversibly, it’s shocking how little of an outward/apparent impact it’s had. Something important I learned after my initial treatment is that I don’t have to let cancer rule my life – I can still work, still travel, still see friends.”

Kjirsten Yahr| March 25
We saw in Kjirsten‘s story that caregivers and patients often support each other equally. “She was in major pain, on medication and I was eight days post-ankle surgery. We were basically two people who had no sense being on the highway, let alone at a football game. Mom wouldn’t have had it any other way, though, and I was only too happy to take her to her first, and only, WVU game.”

Rachel Weiner| March 26
Rachel reminded us the ones we lost never really leave. “My mom was quite simply, a beautiful soul. She was an elementary school teacher who thoroughly enjoyed her job. Even now, I receive letters from her students, telling me how much she meant to them; how much she changed their lives. Mom took incredible care of my sister and I, encouraging our interests, and supporting us with her last pennies when times were tough.”

Jessica Kelsey| March 27
Jessica taught us that there are often many different medical paths to take; it is up to you to decide the best one. “I turned to a physician that I had worked with for years for guidance. He set up a meeting for me with one of the pathologists at the hospital who had reviewed the slides of my polyp. This physician was wonderful; he went through every slide with me and showed me exactly what he was seeing.”

Gordon Dewhurst| March 28
Gordon was a perfect example of how early screening saves lives. “It was 2005 when I had just turned 60 I went for my very first colonoscopy. My better half urged me to go and get screened.  I believed I was in perfect health so it took some convincing before I finally gave in and made an appointment.  Little did I know after the procedure, I was told that I had a mass on the inside of my colon which needed to be removed in the hospital.”

Sandy Sisson| March 29
While Sandy’s husband fought stage III colon cancer, they made the best of their situation by educating and encouraging others to get screened. “He hoped for a cure, letting the doctors obtain samples of tissues and such from his body for research. He said if he could be an example and even make one person go and get a colonoscopy to save their life, then what he went through was not in vain.”

Joseph D’Imperio| March 30
Joseph told us that friends, family, and knowing he wasn’t alone in his fight are what kept him strong. “After much thought, out of everything in this world that I am, good and bad, I am an uncle now and I’m a brother that had an example to set. There was no way that I was going to let this get to me; I was going to fight, not just for me but my family.”

Shelby Brown| March 31
Shelby reminded us that all we need is love. “But no matter what, you have to always keep your head up and keep fighting. One love, one cure. We have to always keep fighting this disease.”

 

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