Nearly seven years ago, at the age of 50, I received my first colonoscopy. It was a day that permanently altered the course of my life.
In 2014, I was leading a relatively normal life: my children were in college and high school, I was working for the same organization after 20 years, and I was leading a very active lifestyle. On April 2, 2014, I reported to a local endoscopy center in Allentown, Pennsylvania to receive what I thought was a routine colonoscopy. The next thing I remember is waking up with two doctors standing over me with very concerned looks on their faces – and a short time later I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.
After surgery, I was put on six months of undergoing chemo and was off work. I used that time to learn everything I could about colon cancer, the statistics relating to the number of people who are not screened, and the concerning increase in the cases of people under the age of 50. I was active, had no symptoms, no family history, and no risk factors. How could there be absolutely no sign I had advanced stage colon cancer?
At that point, I decided to do something to increase awareness and do what I could to help save lives by telling my story and emphasizing the importance of screening.
I reached out to the Colon Cancer Coalition to see if they were interested in starting a bicycle ride for Colon Cancer Awareness, and after a few conversations, the Tour de Tush was born. Starting a new event from scratch was a huge undertaking. I really didn’t know what I was getting into: no sponsorship, no venue, and no volunteers. Was I crazy?
The Colon Cancer Coalition was there for me every step of the way and I can’t stress enough how much they helped me through the Tour de Tush planning and some very difficult personal times. Shortly after the first Tour de Tush in 2015, a divorce further altered the direction of my life. Anne Carlson (the Colon Cancer Coalition director at the time), Stacy Zwerdling (the program manager) and the Colon Cancer Coalition staff were there for me. Anne would call, just to talk, offer advice, and to be a shoulder to lean on. That helped me keep my head high and motivated me to put everything I had into making the event successful. To the staff of the Colon Cancer Coalition: you are awesome!
Today, the event is going strong. We planned a virtual Tour De Tush for June 2020 – our 6th annual event. With Olympus Corporation of the Americas as our presenting sponsor/partner, we have been able to raise significant funds for colon cancer programs in the Allentown area. In addition to the monetary success of the event, our participant base has nearly quadrupled to over 400, and I am proud knowing how many lives we have touched through the years.
What I have learned through all of this and advice for everyone struggling out there, is to never lose faith that better times are ahead. Life is tough, but focus on what you want. Navigate the bumps (and mountains) and don’t lose sight of your goals and the people you can help along the way.
Return to Faces of Blue Colon Cancer Screening Options Tour de Tush