We continue to be inspired by the hundreds of volunteers who are out there on the front lines, spearheading efforts to put colon cancer on the map and changing the face of this disease. That’s why we started the Volunteer Spotlight feature – honoring and celebrating some of our most passionate, dedicated volunteers and sharing their stories so you can be inspired, too! This month, we’re celebrating Jasmin Mejia from the Colon Cancer Alliance Central Arizona Chapter. From her involvement driving Latino outreach efforts to answering Spanish calls on our Helpline and her relentless dedication as a chapter board member, Jasmin continues to touch lives of those in Arizona and beyond. Get to know her!
Why did you get involved as a Colon Cancer Alliance volunteer?
I decided to get involved because I wanted to find a way to honor my mother’s memory. She lost her fight against colon cancer at the young age of 42 years old. I was 19 years old when she died and I was her sole care taker. She had surgery early on to try and stop the cancer but it spread quickly throughout her body. After a long day of work, I would come home to care for her, help her change her colostomy bag, bath her and make sure she ate. I also helped with my younger siblings; the youngest was 5 years old at the time.
At that time, there was so little that we knew about this cancer and resources were nowhere to be found. One of the absolute hardest parts of having been through this experience was that, because her doctor was not bilingual, I was the one who had to tell my mom she wasn’t going to make it and would die from this horrible cancer. I volunteer because I don’t want anyone else to have this experience.
Why is Latino outreach vital when it comes to colon cancer?
I think outreach to the Latino community is vital because prevention is not part of the Latino culture. Most Latinos go to the doctor only when they feel sick, especially the older generation. We also tend to be a lot more conservative when it comes to talking about our bodies, so getting a colonoscopy is sometimes viewed as embarrassing and no one wants to talk about it or acknowledge that they might need to have one done. With our current efforts in Latino outreach, hopefully we can continue moving this dial.
What do you get out of your volunteerism?
I get a sense of hope that I may have saved a life by simply talking to others about my experience with my mom. Volunteering is what I do to honor my mom’s memory.
What would you like people to know about colon cancer?
I would love for people to know that prevention is the most effective way to fight this cancer and beat it. Also, the colonoscopy itself is easy and the prep is nothing, especially if you consider that it could save your life!
Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help.