Through the service of nearly 2,000 volunteers across the country, the lives of colorectal cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers are greatly improved, and we grow closer to ending this disease together. In this Q&A, get to know Brianna Mercker, a passionate Colorectal Cancer Alliance volunteer from Seattle, and consider becoming one yourself.
Can you tell us about yourself and your connection to colorectal cancer?
I am a young-onset stage IV rectal cancer survivor. I received my surprise diagnosis in April 2018, just three weeks shy of my 39th birthday and a few days short of our twin sons turning three. It was totally unexpected; I was otherwise healthy and active, had no family history nor known risk factors. Fortunately, my body responded well to treatment: a full year of chemo, radiation, liver ablation, surgeries - the works. Hopefully, this Spring I’ll celebrate 5 years NED along with my 45th birthday. You’re never too young for colorectal cancer!
Why did you sign up to volunteer with the Alliance?
After completing treatment, I started looking for ways to get involved in raising awareness about CRC, especially as it affects more and more young folks like me. The first Alliance event I participated in was the Portland Walk to End Colon Cancer (formerly Undy). I was so inspired by what I saw and experienced, I eagerly volunteered to join their planning committee with the idea of learning what all was entailed in order to bring the Walk to my hometown of Seattle.
In 2022, I led the launch of the first annual Seattle Walk to End Colon Cancer, which registered 620 participants and raised over $115K - a truly awesome impact in its inaugural year! Planning this event with a small but mighty volunteer team was a tremendous undertaking, but also very humbling and rewarding. Our second annual event was awe-inspiring as well, with 1,000 participants and over $200K raised in support of the Alliance’s work to advocate for screening, magnify patient support, and accelerate research.
I’ve volunteered in other capacities, including collaborating on a few different DIY fundraising events, representing the Alliance at local health and wellness fairs, initiating the first Strike Out Colorectal Cancer Day with the Seattle Mariners, and joining the Never Too Young Taskforce.
Brianna, left, and allies at the Walk to End Colon Cancer
What have you found most rewarding about your volunteer service?
I am super motivated to raise awareness and resources while also creating space for community building and connections among those of us touched by CRC. The personal relationships with other survivors and volunteers equally passionate about turning pain into purpose has been the most rewarding aspect of volunteering.
I’ve become a fierce advocate dedicated to educating folks about this disease. I share my story openly and candidly. I figure, if I can save one family from going through the hell we did, it’s worth it. I’m happy to talk poop and love hearing from people whom I’ve inspired to get screened. Also, I feel it’s important to highlight a hopeful stage IV success story.
How do you think volunteerism impacts the mission to end colorectal cancer?
I think it puts a face to the disease and implores people to pay attention.
Can you share a memorable moment you’ve had while volunteering with the Alliance?
Executing the Seattle Walk to End Colon Cancer has proven to be an exhilarating, emotional, and inspiring experience. At both Walks, I’ve had the honor of leading the event’s signature “Moment of UNsilence,” activating first the survivors and then the entire community of allies in attendance to harness and unleash all of their #WalkLoud energy, making as much noise as possible to symbolically end the silence of this deadly yet preventable disease. It’s powerful, moving, energizing, and cathartic.