Depending on who you are, you may call her Marisa, “mom” or “The Colon Chick!” Marisa Perez has a passion for colon cancer prevention and an enthusiasm that can get anyone excited about screening. The mother of two has been running a colon cancer screening program for the last nine years and shows no signs of slowing down. This month, she organized a successful Screen This Too! luncheon where she stressed the importance of protecting all of your assets this October—including your colon. This dedication to prevention is just one of the many reasons we’re honored to spotlight Marisa as our Hero of the Month.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I'm a single wrestling mom of two awesome boys (ages 20 and 15) and during the week I manage patients with chronic illnesses. I've been a part of this Chronic Disease Team for more than a year and have been extremely successful in keeping patients out of the hospital. For leisure time, I love to watch MMA, hike, go to the gym and spend my weekends watching my sons’ wrestling tournaments.
When did you become so passionate about colon cancer prevention?
I started working with Neal Shindel, M.D. in 2006. His passion for preventing colon cancer was contagious and after learning how preventable this disease is, I quickly became an advocate. We've held successful community outreach events, done a commercial for colon cancer prevention and worked with the mayor to declare our city a “Colon Cancer Free Zone” in 2009—and that's just the start!
A few years after working with Dr. Shindel, my little cousin died from colon cancer at just 26 years old. This turned my colon cancer fever into overdrive and I’ve been spreading the word ever since.
How did you get the nickname “The Colon Chick”?
That’s a funny story! I was invited to one of our OB/GYN's 50th surprise party. For a gift, I naturally wrapped up a box of MoviPrep. He opened it and said, “What else would my colon chick give me?” It was until then that I realized how many physicians referred to me as their “Colon Chick.” I proudly wear that title as a badge of honor!
This lecture was a very proud moment for me. Not only have I had a cousin pass from colon cancer, but I also have a cousin that had to have a double mastectomy a few years ago. Being able to talk about breast cancer and colon cancer awareness in one lecture was something I would do again and again. The lecture was initially meant for my immediate department, which is only about 15 people, but it quickly grew. More than 50 people attended!
After the lecture, I received emails from my coworkers thanking me for putting the program together. They also stopped me in the hallway to tell me how much they learned. Additionally, the education department asked me to do another lecture for a monthly RN meeting, which will be held this month.
What do you want people to know about colon cancer?
What I stress most when speaking to people is that colon cancer is preventable and the screening prep has gotten a heck of a lot more tolerable. I'll be in line at the supermarket and I somehow am able to talk about prevention with strangers. What's my message? Colon cancer is preventable. I'm at the mall checking out—what's my message? Colon cancer is preventable. I'm out at dinner with my boys—what's my message? That we have the “power of prevention” and I could help them prevent colon cancer too!
What advice do you have for others who want to spread the word about prevention?
Striking up a conversation about getting your rear checked out is not an easy thing to do. When speaking about this disease, you have to think out of the box. Using the “Screen this Too!” undies was a great way to “Break the Ice” (that was another slogan I used and received awards for). You have to break down barriers and try to make it something that is easier to speak about. I made stickers that said “Cancer is also blue, so screen your booty too.” As silly as it may sound, things like that work!
Learn more about our Screen This Too! campaign at screenthistoo.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.