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By: Jordan Ballard, Ally Author

Karrie Kuroda’s story, and many others like it, is a testament to the inspiring acts of service that can grow out of unimaginable loss.

Karrie’s journey with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance began following her husband Mel’s diagnosis with stage-IV colorectal cancer on August 13, 2015. 

After his diagnosis, Karrie found a friend in Jeannie Moore, a patient navigator at the Alliance, who would help guide the couple through Mel’s treatment. When Mel passed in September of 2016, Jeannie was there to offer support while Karrie grieved her husband. 

“There’s a book by Tom Zuba, one of Jeannie’s friends, called Permission to Mourn. Jeannie gave that book to me, and it saved my life,” Karrie said.

Karrie’s friendship with Jeannie also helped her find a community with the Alliance. She found others who had lost loved ones to colorectal cancer and found a way to make a difference. 

Karrie was inspired by the story of fellow ally Annlouise “Weez” Altomari, who started a colorectal cancer awareness night in honor of her son, Greg, who passed at age 37 from the disease.

Karrie wanted to borrow her idea and start a similar event in Oregon, working with her employer Salem Health to increase employee screening rates. Salem Health is a regional hospital in Salem, Oregon. 

Their first Colorectal Cancer Awareness night was in March 2018. In conjunction with its own cancer institute, Salem Health shared articles on their company intranet, handed out materials about screening, and held workshops at the Community Health Education Center.

Since Salem Health partnered with Karrie on awareness of colorectal cancer, they have seen employee screening rates increase by almost 15%.  

Karrie and Salem Health have also built a three-year partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers to do a colorectal cancer awareness event. To Karrie, what really matters is that more employees are aware of their need to be screened. 

Volunteering with the Alliance and working to improve colorectal cancer screening rates has helped Karrie process her grief. She’s helping the world in a positive way and, through her story, she is helping people understand being screened isn’t scary. A few minutes of discomfort is better than the grief that comes from losing someone they love.

For other allies who want to increase the screening rate among their fellow employees, Karrie has some advice on getting started and making the most of their impact:

  • Personal stories are one way to make the need for screening real and can have a tremendous impact on someone listening.

  • It’s important to find good partners. Professional sports teams can help generate interest and having support from your employer can go a long way.

  • Colorectal cancer and screening are topics that can be scary, but a fun message can make it a more comfortable topic to talk about.

Karrie Kuroda is proof that one ally can make a difference in the mission to end colorectal cancer.

To get involved with the Alliance, click here.



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