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Donated Care, even in a pandemic, at Operation Access

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Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women. Yet, it is preventable, treatable, and beatable. Sixty percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented through early screenings.

The Colon Cancer Coalition is thrilled to partner with organizations like Operation Access in San Francisco. Through a grant from money raised at Get Your Rear in Gear – SF Bay Area, Operation Access facilitates screenings for those who are most at-risk for developing colon cancer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, services were disrupted for several months last year. Despite the challenges, Operation Access volunteers continued to provide much-needed screenings to patients. One doctor in particular, Dr. Elizabeth Ross of Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, their most active GI volunteer, provided 30 donated colorectal cancer screenings in 2020. In total, 54 gastroenterologists provided 252 donated screenings.

Two of those patients were Luis and Ana:

Luis Operation Access Patient

Luis has been healthy most of his life, but began experiencing painful GI distress at the age of 47. He was worried because he had a family history of colorectal cancer. Originally from Costa Rica, and uninsured because of immigration status, Luis was concerned about the cost of care. After having his symptoms evaluated, he was happy to learn he qualified for a donated colonoscopy through Operation Access.

Because of his family history, Luis knew that getting this colonoscopy was very important. On the day of the procedure Luis couldn’t stop thinking about his father who had died two years earlier from colon cancer.

During the procedure, Dr. Natalie Lee from the Endoscopy Center of Marin removed two polyps. Luis was relieved to learn that the biopsy of those polyps did not indicate colon cancer.

“I was fortunate enough that Operation Access and Dr. Lee helped me. Many thanks to all [those] who worked hard to help me, infinite thanks…. May God bless you. Keep working hard to help the most in need in our community….

Thank you and ‘pura vida’ to all.”

Ana Operation Access Patient

Ana is a stay-at-home mom living in San Joaquin County with her husband and children. Several years ago, Ana started experiencing abdominal discomfort. Ana, however, was uninsured and deferred treatment because she could not afford the procedure need to diagnose her symptoms.

After a year of worsening discomfort and a trip to the emergency room where an FOBT test revealed blood in her stool, Ana was referred for a colonoscopy. She was relieved to learn that she qualified for a donated colonoscopy and transportation to and from the procedure through Operation Access.

Dr. Harvey Young from Waverly Surgery Center in Palo Alto found and removed three polyps during Ana’s procedure. These polyps were the likely cause of her abdominal pain. Dr. Young advised her to avoid certain foods to help manage remaining symptoms. To Ana’s relief, the polyps were not cancerous and within a short time she already noticed vast improvement.

“Dr. Young and his team were very friendly and welcoming from start to finish. They answered all my questions and I feel like I really understand why I needed this colonoscopy, and why I was having so much pain. I am grateful Operation Access and Dr. Young. We could not afford the care I needed on our own. Thank you to everyone who has helped me, and for helping those who need it the most.”

The Colon Cancer Coalition and the volunteer team behind Get Your Rear in Gear – SF Bay Area are thankful for the work done by Operation Access and for all of their efforts during these unprecedented times. A year into a pandemic, and now with the help of vaccinations, Operation Access hopes to return to or exceed pre-COVID-19 levels of donated services in 2021 as the demand for GI services continue to be in high. Operation Access currently has 125 patients waiting to be matched with GI specialists who have capacity to provide screenings.

If you’d like to support Operation Access’ colorectal cancer prevention work, join or donate to Get Your Rear in Gear – SF Bay Area, and help patients like Luis and Ana.Get Your Rear in Gear San Fransicso largest team