Raising Awareness About Colon Cancer One Step at a Time

Raising Awareness About Colon Cancer One Step at a Time

I’m not a runner. In high school, I couldn’t even run a seven-minute mile. When I took up jogging in college, I was relieved when I caught bronchial pneumonia at the end of the semester because the instructor excused me from taking the timed run final exam. However, I can walk for miles if I have a destination or a purpose, such as raising awareness about colon cancer.

On Feb. 29, I participated in the Colon Cancer Coalition’s Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Run/Walk. The event coincided with Rare Disease Day and the eve of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

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An inflatable colon at the event shows examples of disease and cancer. (Photo by Emmeline Olson)

The American Cancer Society predicts 104,610 new cases of colon cancer and 43,340 new cases of rectal cancer in the U.S. in 2020. One in 23 men and one in 25 women are at risk for colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Although colorectal cancer in IBD patients accounts for just 1 to 2 percent of total colorectal cases in the general population, the disease is the cause of 10 to 15 percent of deaths in IBD patients.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation lists six risks for developing colorectal cancer. I check off five of the boxes.

The first on the list is a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis. I have the latter. A second risk factor is having an IBD diagnosis of eight to 10 years. I’ve officially had Crohn’s going on 12 years this summer.

Another risk is having primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). I was diagnosed with PSC a decade before Crohn’s. Although my disease is now inactive because of my liver transplant, I have a slim chance of the autoimmune liver disease recurring.

A family history of colorectal cancer is another factor. My father has been in remission for almost eight years.

Having severe and/or extensive inflammation of the colon also increases the chance of cancer. Even though my Crohn’s is in remission, my gastroenterologist is becoming concerned after finding slight inflammation during my past couple of colonoscopies.

The only risk factor I don’t have is dysplasia. Dysplasia occurs when cells in the tissues or organs develop abnormally, which could be an early sign of cancer. To ensure this isn’t happening, I get a colonoscopy annually instead of the standard five to 10 years.

Because of my high probability of developing colorectal cancer and to honor my father as a survivor, I wanted to walk the 5K. My husband agreed to walk with me as long as it wasn’t the weekend before his first colonoscopy. This was the first 5K for both of us, so we didn’t know what to expect.

The event began with a Kids’ Fun Run. My husband and I likened the children lining up at the starting line to jockeys loading racehorses into the gate. We joked about betting on a lanky boy who was half a head taller than the others to win. With his sunglasses on, he looked calm and focused as opposed to the other kids who were either bouncing up and down in anticipation or oblivious to what was going on.

When the starting horn blew, the children ran through an inflatable colon and back to the starting line. The young boy we would have bet on easily won the race. If only I had such luck at the racetrack!

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Children run through an inflatable colon during the Get Your Rear in Gear Kids’ Fun Run. (Photo by Emmeline Olson)

After the Kids’ Fun Run, the 5K began. We let the serious runners go by and settled into a quick walking pace. We hadn’t even reached the one-mile mark when the runners turned the first corner and headed back in our direction. A young girl who looked to be about 10 or 11 years old ran by, giving the walkers a thumbs-up and yelling, “Good job! Keep it up!”

I wasn’t the only person exasperated by the young girl’s encouragement after barely starting the 5K. A woman behind us retorted facetiously, “Thank you!” as the girl sped by. At least, I think she said, “Thank.”

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From left, Emmeline Olson and her Remicade nurse, An Dube, after the race. (Courtesy of Emmeline Olson)

We were almost to the halfway point when I spotted my Remicade (infliximab) nurse, An Dube, running toward us. We passed by her again about two-thirds of the way through as she was nearing the home stretch.

A little more than an hour after the race began, my husband and I crossed the finish line together. We only raised $131 of our $250 goal to fund colon cancer awareness and screenings, but we had fun. We’re considering participating in more charity races, and the Colon Cancer Coalition’s Get Your Rear in Gear 5K may become a new tradition for us.


Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.

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