We continue to be inspired by the hundreds of volunteers out there on the front lines spearheading efforts to put colon cancer on the map. That’s why we started the Volunteer of the Quarter feature: to honor and celebrate some of our most passionate, dedicated volunteers and share their stories so you can be inspired!
This quarter, we’re honoring Michelle Batista, who’s been a rock star volunteer for three years. As a survivor, she’s shared her story through blogs and publications, supported newly diagnosed patients in our Buddy program and even took home an Undy Run/Walk award! This year, she helped her town go blue for Colon Cancer Awareness Month and we can’t thank her enough. Learn more about Michele and how you can get involved.
Tell us about your connection to colon cancer.
I was diagnosed with stage IIIc colon cancer from my colonoscopy at 50. I had no symptoms and never expected my gastroenterologist to say "you have cancer" when I woke up. In the beginning, I didn't want to talk about it—I just wanted IT out. However, by the time I had surgery two weeks later, I was emailing family and friends about my experiences. More importantly, I asked everyone if they were screened and immediately eight colonoscopies were scheduled.
The six months of chemotherapy hit me hard. After chemo, instead of springing back to the old me BC (Before Cancer), new side effects hit me within a week. My first step to healing beyond more medication and supplements was a free Livestrong program at the community YMCA, which helped me get my coordination and strength back, and acupuncture, which relieved the neuropathy and fatigue short term.
When did you find out about the Colon Cancer Alliance and how long have you been a volunteer?
I found out about the Colon Cancer Alliance when I joined the daily online chats after my surgery and six months of chemotherapy. I became a volunteer in February 2013!
I signed up for my first Undy Run/Walk the year after treatment with Team RBGastros and loved the whole experience—especially the Survivor ceremony. I was thrilled when our team took home the Largest Team Award at the Jersey Shore Undy in 2015!
What’s it like to be a Buddy?
The opportunity to offer words of wisdom from my own experience to ease my Buddy’s mind is an incredible feeling. My favorite moment as a volunteer was when my Buddy Judy finished her chemo treatments and signed on to be a Buddy herself!
You did some amazing things this Colon Cancer Awareness Month! Can you tell us about your March efforts?
I networked with a local newspaper reporter to write an article about my diagnosis and journey, along with two other colon cancer survivors,
which got published the day before Dress in Blue Day.
On Dress in Blue Day, I volunteered with Red Bank Gastroenterology Doctors and Nurses to raise awareness with the staff at the Red Bank Foodtown.
My town got involved by proclaiming March Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month—my local library even displayed the Proclamation, along with colon cancer books and information, throughout March.
I also signed up for my fourth Undy and started my fundraising with a goal of $1,000 and continued to blog on my four-year cancer-versary to raise awareness!
What would you tell someone who’s interested in volunteering with the Colon Cancer Alliance?
All of my experiences with the Colon Cancer Alliance volunteers have been positive and rewarding—and the staff members are all caring! I especially love that some of the monies raised at the Jersey Shore Undy go to local hospitals to help raise awareness and support colon cancer screenings.
Visit our website to learn ways you can get involved. Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help!