I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I have colonoscopies annually—because I have Lynch Syndrome, a genetic predisposition to certain cancers, including colon—which helped catch my colon cancer at Stage I.
Rather than dwell on the discouraging news of my diagnosis, I decided to look on the bright side and channel my energy into something positive. That's when I saw a Facebook post about the Undy Run/Walk. The wealth of information I discovered on the Colon Cancer Alliance’s website after my diagnosis was very helpful to me, and I decided that the Undy could be my opportunity to help raise awareness about this disease that had so directly affected the life me and my family.
Words can’t explain the emotions I had when I participated in my first Undy Run/Walk. Hearing the survivor stories and words of encouragement helped me feel stronger. I was so moved by all of the support, inspiration and kind words I received that I was able to triumphantly cross the finish line at the Sacramento Undy just three weeks after my colon cancer surgery!
Last year, I started to get more involved with the event. I passed out flyers to medical offices, athletic stores and health clubs while proudly wearing the ‘Survivor’ shirt I received at the Undy, and I formed my own team. I also took this opportunity to educate my team and community about colon cancer and Lynch Syndrome.
As I dive into promoting the 2015 race (happening in less than three weeks – February 28th!), I’ve thought about what has helped me to be successful in my efforts to spread the word about the Undy and colon cancer. I wanted to share my top three tips for those who are looking to get involved. I hope they help!
1) Make talking about colon cancer and the Undy as accessible as possible. Few people realize that colon cancer is often preventable, treatable and beatable with early detection. Often people are embarrassed to talk about colon cancer. But I think the more we talk about it, the more lives we can save! During the months leading up to the Undy I can often be seen wearing my Undy fleece jacket or survivor shirt around town. I use this as an opportunity to tell people that I’ve had colon cancer—and I always keep some flyers in my purse to distribute when the opportunity arises.
2) Add personal touches to the event. By creating and distributing flyers with my picture and cancer story, I help to create a personal connection with the people I am talking to about the Undy. It helps them to remember that this is not just a race, but it is about the people who are affected by this disease. Sending personalized emails, letters and Facebook posts are also good ways to promote the Undy. I even used some of my photos from last years’ race to create a short movie trailer promoting the 2015 Undy to help show how fun the event is and encourage people to participate - see below!
3) Enthusiasm is contagious. I have found when I show that I am enthusiastic about a cause, it tends to get other people excited too! This has proven true even at my 6 a.m. spin class last year where I was able to recruit a few team members while wearing my “Lucky to be Alive” shamrock boxer shorts and Undy survivor shirt!
For my dedication and enthusiasm, some people may think I am strange, but I prefer to think of myself as a survivor. I will continue to be positive and upbeat as I do my part to raise awareness about the Undy Run/Walk and colon cancer, especially with Colon Cancer Awareness Month and National Dress in Blue Day on the horizon, and you can too! Next month, I’ll proudly sport my blue shirts and pins and talk to my exercise classmates about March and screening. It’s that simple and has the potential to save a life!
Find an Undy Run/Walk near you at undyrunwalk.org and learn more about Colon Cancer Awareness Month at coloncancermonth.org. 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.