Most people think of green, four-leaf clovers and leprechauns when they think of March.
But since November 2017, March only makes me think of blue.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, represented by the color blue. Colon cancer became a very personal topic for me in November of last year when my mom was found to have a cancerous tumor in her colon at age 57.
My mom, Debra, is an awesome human.
She is a vibrant, funny, ass-kicking lady. She has always been her own boss. Mom owned her own store for nearly 30 years, then decided to open her own wholesale business so that she and my stepdad could live life on their own terms. Debra is amazingly cool, if you haven’t drawn that conclusion on your own yet.
As a patient, it was hard for my mom. She likes to be in control and suddenly, she was not. But Mom could control how she approached cancer, so she did it with an amazing sense of humor.
I give you her social media post soon after her colon cancer diagnosis –
Mom: “I look forward to my phone's predictive text suggesting ‘colorful’ rather than ‘colorectal’. #EffCancer”
Mom also started a line of buttons from her business The Word Emporium to sell to people who want to tell the world how they really feel about cancer.
My mom was also incredibly lucky.
She had an amazing GI surgeon who did a partial colectomy that not only removed ALL of the cancer, but also left mom without the need for a colostomy. Mom also did not need radiation or chemo. She is scheduled for annual imaging and bloodwork screenings to ensure early notification if the cancer does come back. My mom is happy and healthy. I could not be more grateful.
Sadly, colorectal cancer is on the rise.
By going through this experience with her, I learned a lot about colorectal cancer that was extremely disheartening, especially as it relates to patients under 50 years of age. Here are some fast facts provided by the incredible Colorectal Cancer Alliance -
- Young-onset colorectal cancer is on the rise in the United States.
- 10% of new colorectal cancer patients are under 50 years old.
- Young-onset patients are often misdiagnosed due to vague symptoms and assumptions that young patients are not at high-risk for colorectal cancer.
Then in December of last year, I became acutely aware of just how young patients dealing with colon cancer can be.
While helping my mom recover from her own colon surgery, I learned about the achingly early passing of a high school classmate, Christopher Roberts, from colon cancer.
In high school, Christopher and I were in several honors classes and band together. He was one of those rare adolescent male specimens who was an extremely nice guy that also played on the football team and had incredible intellect in the classroom. We lost touch after graduation, but learning of his death made my heart hurt. It would make anyone’s heart hurt.
Christopher was only 31.
It was only after his death that I found out that Christopher had been battling colon cancer very publicly. He was interviewed for the Colon Club blog and in the New York Times. Christopher candidly shared his story and helped reach many young people who might otherwise not be aware of the risks of colorectal cancer.
I cannot thank him enough.
Christopher continues to help educate the public. He taught me. Read about him here so that he can teach you.
Let’s think of blue this March.
I write this for my mom, Christopher and all the others out there battling colorectal cancer.
Consider making a donation to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. This organization works to support the needs of patients, caregivers, and survivors, raise awareness of preventative screening, and fund critical research.
You can donate in tribute of those who have lost the fight with colorectal cancer. Last year I donated in the memory of Christopher Roberts. I will again this month. Want to join me?
- Sarah @ New Thing Nurse
More resources about colorectal cancer -
About the Author - Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL is an educator, speaker, blogger and owner of New Thing Nurse, a professional and academic coaching company for the nursing world. New Thing Nurse is organized to provide support and guidance to aspiring nurses, newly graduated nurses, and veteran RNs looking to make a change in their life.
Whether it’s a new school, new job or new idea,
New Thing Nurse wants to help with your new thing!