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U.S. Navy Veteran, Dan Shockley

Veterans Turned Colorectal Cancer Warriors

Veterans Turned Colorectal Cancer Warriors

Most people struggle their whole lives to find their true calling. Jennifer Kimmet and Dan Shockley are two veterans who have found it twice. Both found their purpose in the military and have found a second purpose as an ally in the colorectal cancer community through the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

“With respect, honor, and gratitude, we thank those who have paid the ultimate price for serving our country and protecting our freedoms,” said Michael Sapienza, Colorectal Cancer Alliance CEO.

U.S. Air Force Veteran, Jennifer Kimmet

U.S. Air Force Veteran, Jennifer Kimmet

U.S. Air Force Veteran, Jennifer Kimmet

Seeing a chance to do something different in her life, Kimmet joined the Air Force immediately after college. Currently serving as Chief of Medical Formal Training on Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio,Texas, Kimmet has been serving since 1988. During her career, she has been deployed multiple times, serving as a flight nurse in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

“It’s an honor to bring our wounded warriors home. That’s what kept me in all these years,” Kimmet said. “It’s a tough job, physically, and emotionally. But it’s the most amazing job that you will ever do.”

In 2015, Kimmet began experiencing blood in her stool occasionally. She put it off until after her stepson’s wedding, when the bleeding continued unabated for about two months. Since she was approaching 50, the standard age to start screening for colon cancer, her physician recommended a colonoscopy.

“I remember I woke up during the procedure, and I was looking around the room. There were all of these extra people in the room. They were staring up at the TV in the room, and then I made a comment like, ‘that’s not a good sign,’” Kimmet said. “The surgeon said, ‘I will be talking to you soon,’ and they gave me more meds and put me out.”

Diagnosed the week before Thanksgiving with stage 3b colorectal cancer, life sped up for Kimmet. Her surgery was scheduled for the week prior to Christmas, followed by a temporary ileostomy. With radiation, Kimmet’s tumor was downsized to stage 1.

“Being in the military while going through this was great because I didn’t have to worry about my medical (benefits). I didn’t have to go through anything with insurance,” Kimmet said. “I was very privileged and I knew that I was going to get well taken care of. I didn’t have to worry about losing my job.”  

Although it wasn’t required, Kimmet continued working because it helped her feel normal. And normal for her was getting up in the morning and putting on her uniform.

“It was interesting, trying to adapt,” said Kimmet, discussing being on active duty in the Air Force. “Right now I struggle wearing my combat boots because of the neuropathy. Military uniforms aren’t made to accommodate ileostomies and my scars were sore. I ended up wearing maternity pants. These are little things that people don’t think about.”

While doing internet research, Kimmet learned about the Dallas/Ft. Worth Undy Run/Walk on the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s website. Last year, she participated virtually because she is still undergoing chemotherapy. She also participated in the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s Buddy Program, a peer-to-peer mentor program for survivors and caregivers on their journey through diagnosis and treatmentbecoming a true ally.

“I asked for a Buddy, just to have someone to talk to and to help me understand what I would be going through. It was extremely helpful to me,” Kimmet said. “I’ve returned the favor since then. I have two other friends of mine who are also vets and have been diagnosed with (colorectal cancer). I want people to understand that they don’t have to be afraid and they can live their life.”

U.S. Navy Veteran, Dan Shockley

U.S. Navy Veteran, Dan Shockley

U.S. Navy Veteran, Dan Shockley

Two years out of high school, retired U.S. Navy Veteran and Sacramento-based Dan Shockley enlisted and spent 22 years serving his country. With a specialty in telecommunications, he has served in Operation Desert Storm and was stationed in Bahrain from September 2001 to September 2003, in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Shockley retired from the Navy in 2003. While checking in with a Veterans Affairs hospital for medical records, he began having annual physicals at 43. He didn’t experience any symptoms except for an unexpected weight loss of 14 pounds, which he attributed to his busy work schedule. After a routine colonoscopy, 100 polyps were detected. His medical team also provided genetic testing, during which it was discovered that Shockley also had AFAP, Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, a rare genetic mutation that leads to colon cancer.

“It was so much information, I had to break it down in phases. My military training was very helpful with this. I had to improvise, adapt, and overcomewhich is a motto from the marines,” Shockley reflected.

After extensive surgery, Shockley no longer has colon cancer. During his diagnosis and treatment, Shockley reached out to several organizations for more information about colon cancer and gene mutation. One of them was the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Shockley has become an unrelenting ally for patients and survivors, becoming a Buddy to mentor other survivors through their own survivor journeys.

“My life is like that movie, ‘Pay it Forward,’ especially to the medical community. Anytime I can give back, that’s what I do,” said Shockley.

Shockley has testified in front of Congress twice on behalf of colorectal cancer patients, sharing his journey and the importance of early detection in hopes that uninsured and underinsured patients are able to get a colonoscopy.

In 2017 alone, over 135,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and nearly 50,000 people are expected to die from colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is highly treatable, if detected early.

What are the differences between colon cancer and rectal cancer?

Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have a lot in common—including some symptoms—but they are different, depending on where they originate. Dr. Philip Parks, Head of Medical Affairs at Exact Sciences, provides more information in this Q&A.

What is the difference between colon and rectal cancers?

The greatest difference lies is the anatomy of the body and gastrointestinal tract. While the colon and rectum are both part of the large intestine, the colon is approximately five feet long and the rectum is the last five to six inches of the colon that connects to the anus. There is a trend over the last few decades of slightly decreasing incidence in colon cancer in older individuals. However, there is a recent trend of increasing incidence of cancers of the distal colon and rectum in individuals under the age of 50. Most of these cases in younger individuals occur in people who are in their 40s and, in general, these cancers in younger individuals are more aggressive. There are common symptoms for colon and rectal cancer (bleeding, pain, changes in stool) and there are also some unique symptoms for colon and rectal cancer.

How do you diagnose colon versus rectal cancer?

While many people may be familiar with colonoscopy as a common form of screening for colon and rectal cancers, there are also non-invasive options for screening, including a stool DNA test, fecal immunochemical tests, and CT colonography. Major guidelines encourage patients and healthcare providers to select the best screening test for the patient by talking about the options. Knowing your risk factors and getting screened are the keys to diagnosing colon and rectal cancer early, when they are most treatable. If caught early, the survival rate for colorectal cancer is 90 percent—as opposed to less than 10 percent if caught in the latest stage.

Is one cancer more serious (or aggressive) than the other?

Again, anatomy plays a role. The stage of cancer—or how much the cancer has spread—is one of the most important ways to define severity. Overall, the rectum is much shorter than the colon and in a tighter spot in the body, making it potentially easier for the cancer to spread to surrounding tissue. In general, rectal cancer can be more difficult to treat and cure and may recur for as many 55 percent of people.

Are treatments for colon cancer and rectal cancer the same?

Depending on the diagnosis and progression (“stage”) of the disease, surgery and/or chemotherapy may be options to treat both colon and rectal cancers. One difference is radiation therapy, which is not commonly used to treat colon cancer; however, radiation may be used to treat rectal cancer.

What is the benefit of screening and early diagnosis?

One of the most important public health challenges is that millions of individuals are not up to date and current with colorectal cancer screening guidelines. Because of the “screening gap,” colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. among men and women combined, claiming more than 50,000 lives each year. The good news is that through early detection, nine out of 10 people survive—as opposed to only one in 10 if the cancer is caught in the latest stage.

Learn about colorectal cancer prevention and screening here, and consider donating to the Colon Cancer Alliance to advance our work to support the needs of patients and families, caregivers, and survivors; to raise awareness of preventative screening; and to help fund critical research. 

Colon Cancer Alliance Announces Corporate Name Change

National Non-Profit Begins A New Chapter Revealing New Name, New Logo, & Inclusive Mission

November 2, 2017 (Washington, D.C.) –  Effective immediately, the Colon Cancer Alliance is now the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, embracing the entire colorectal cancer community, adopting a new name, and committing to a powerful mission: To empower a nation of allies who work with us to provide support for patients and families, caregivers, and survivors; to raise awareness of preventative measures; and inspire efforts to fund critical research. The official rebrand brings an inclusive identity that ensures accuracy, leadership, and most important- alliance within the colorectal cancer community.

The Launch of a Nation of Allies – The name change is part of a larger rebranding effort for the organization which includes a new logo and visual identity, new website, and commitment to accuracy for the entire colorectal cancer community.

With the strategic mission of servicing both colon and rectal cancer patients, combined with fierce determination to end colorectal cancer within our lifetime, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance set three ambitious goals:  

  • Double the number of patients served by 2021
  • Save 100,000 lives with preventive screening in the next 10 years
  • Invest $10 million in critical research

The organization launched nationofallies.org a national network for advocates and allies to show their support in eliminating colorectal cancer within our lifetime and highlight ways individuals can educate their local communities on prevention and screening options. The focus of the “Nation of Allies” theme is to empower individuals to work with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to provide support to patients and families, survivors, and caregivers, to raise awareness of preventative measures, and to inspire efforts to fund critical research.

“On behalf of the entire Colorectal Cancer Alliance community, we are beyond thrilled to be launching this new name, logo and visual identity to help continue to grow as the leading resource for patients and families,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.  The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is the oldest, largest colorectal cancer non-profit in the nation and I am proud to part of this amazing evolution” Michael Sapienza, CEO, Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Nearly a third of all colorectal cancers diagnosed this year will be rectal cancer. Nearly 40,000 new U.S. cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2017 alone. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have a lot in common—including symptoms—but they are different, depending on where they originate. Through this rebrand, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance has extended its reach into the colorectal cancer community by 30% while committing to align a nation of allies, together in the mission to end this disease.

“We share a common goal of eradicating colorectal cancer through prevention and early detection,” said Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences and long time national partner of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “As this new chapter begins for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, we are committed to working together to increase awareness about the importance of getting screened for this preventable disease.”

The name change and brand reveal debuted alongside the 2017 Tomorrow Can’t Wait National Conference at the Cleveland Clinic on November 1st. Conference attendees consisting of patients, survivors, and caregivers, had front row seats and true VIP access at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the official kick-off. The nonprofit decided on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame from so many requests from cancer patients attending the conference. You can visit the Facebook live rebrand announcement at tomorrowcantwait.org.

“To be surrounded by patients and families at such a historic event, celebrating new beginnings and amazing accomplishments is truly one of the most important nights of my life. We are grateful to this nation of allies supporting our vision: A world free of colorectal cancer within our lifetime” Michael Sapienza, CEO.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance worked with Alexandria, VA based creative agency Grafik on the new identity and overall rebranding efforts.

To learn more about the rebrand and Colorectal Cancer Alliance, visit nationofallies.org.

 

About the Colorectal Cancer Alliance

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colorectal cancer. Working with our nation of passionate allies, we diligently support the needs of patients and families, caregivers, and survivors, eagerly raise awareness of preventative screening, and continually strive to fund critical research. As allies in the struggle, we are fiercely determined to end colorectal cancer within our lifetime. For more information, visit nationofallies.org.

Over 200 Colorectal Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers to Take Part in the 15th Annual National Conference focused on Patient Empowerment

Now in its 15th year, the Colon Cancer Alliance’s annual National Conference will honor and celebrate colorectal patients and families, survivors, and caregivers. This two-day conference at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, is made up of those who have been personally affected by colorectal cancer in their lives. The theme of the conference is “Tomorrow can’t wait,” and this year’s focus is all about patient empowerment.

“An empowered patient is educated in all aspects of the patient journey, understands the need for an open and honest dialogue with their healthcare team, and is able to advocate for themselves and others. The Colon Cancer Alliance understands that now is the time to empower our community: Tomorrow can’t wait” – Michael Sapienza, CEO, Colon Cancer Alliance.

Close to 75 percent of conference attendees are colorectal cancer patients, and 35 percent of them are currently undergoing treatments. Attendees will participate and discover through interactive discussion the important role that patient empowerment plays in all aspects of a colorectal cancer diagnosis.

“Feeling like you have a community of support and information to help you along your journey is the most important goal of this event. We want attendees to feel empowered, educated, and to provide a shared sense of camaraderie,” Michael Sapienza said.

The conference will empower all participants. The theme of Tomorrow Can’t Wait carries into the agenda packed with empowerment-focused topics ranging from effective communication when talking to healthcare professionals, to support around important needs and challenges caregivers face. Additionally, attendees will participate in out-of-the-box plenary sessions that include the following:

  • Clinical Trials:  What All Patients Need To Know
  • Case Study Interactive Discussion with Leading Healthcare Professionals
  • Relationships and Intimacy

This year’s conference is sold out, but the Colon Cancer Alliance will livestream the event. The event link can be found here and will be live Nov. 1. This event was made possible through the support of our trusted partners: Genentech, Lilly Oncology, Array BioPharma, Bristol-Myers Squibb, BTG, Merck, Taiho Oncology, Clinical Genomics, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Boston Biomedical, Epigenomics and Igynta, and the Cleveland Clinic.

A very special announcement will be made the first night of the conference…stay tuned for more exciting details.

About Colon Cancer Alliance
The Colon Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colon cancer within our lifetime. Our mission is to knock colon cancer out of the top three cancer killers. We are doing this by championing prevention, funding cutting-edge research and providing the highest quality patient support services. www.ccalliance.org

For more information on the conference, please visit our conference page.

In This Together To Raise $1.5 million Colon Cancer Alliance’s Annual Gala Exceeds Fundraising Goal For Critical Patient Programs

National non-profit the Colon Cancer Alliance hosted its Annual Blue Hope Bash on Thursday, October 19th at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

The Blue Hope Bash, in its 7th year, is the premiere fundraising gala of the Colon Cancer Alliance that brings together both individuals and corporations that are passionate about supporting our mission to end colon cancer within our lifetime. Since the event’s inception in 2010, the event has raised more than $5 million. This year’s sold out event brought together over 600 attendees and raised a record-breaking $1.5 million support their mission and strategic plan: to invest $10 million in research, save 100,000 lives through increased screening and double the number of patients and families the Colon Cancer Alliance serves.

The theme this year was “In This Together” in which NBC’s Weekend “Today Show” Co-Anchor Craig Melvin carried the theme in emceeing the event and sharing his own connection with the disease when his brother Lawrence, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at age 39. Craig’s brother Lawrence was in attendance at the Bash.

“Seeing and hearing the stories of so many who’ve beaten this dreadful disease was awe-inspiring for me and my brother,” said Craig Melvin. “Raising money and awareness was the goal, but it sure was a lot of fun too. I was honored to be a part of an evening filled with so much hope and love.”

“We are beyond thrilled at the impact of the Blue Hope Bash only in it’s 7th year,” said CEO of the Colon Cancer Alliance Michael Sapienza. “This will offer Colon Cancer Alliance the opportunity to head into 2018 focused on research, patients, and their families, and preventing this disease before it starts.”

The evening also announced the launch of the Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund. Michelle and her husband Avi were the Co-Chairs of the Blue Hope Bash. Michelle Benaim was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2015 at age 47. Michelle unfortunately passed away on September 30th at the age of 49. The Michelle Benaim Memorial Fund will be used to increase screening for the under-50 population and provide assistance to underserved populations who are impacted by colorectal cancer.

Other evening highlights included awarding the Erica & Michael Paul Memorial Award to Lyn Ferriero for her infectious drive, selfless dedication and generous service to the Colon Cancer Alliance, as well a drawing one lucky winner to win a custom 2018 Porsche Boxster. The winner of the custom 2018 Porsche Boxster was Stu and Susan Lisabeth from New York.

The Colon Cancer Alliance would like to thank their top tier sponsors Mike & Amy Aquilino and Jay & Lyn Ferriero for their generous support of the Blue Hope Bash.

For post event photos visit www.bluehopebash.org.

Two Clevelanders Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer in their Mid-Twenties Prepare for the 2017 Cleveland Undy Run/Walk

Cleveland, OH (Sept. 8, 2017) – Cleveland residents Darcy Egan and Eric Lucas have two things in common: they were both in their mid-twenties when they were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and they are both determined to spread the word about what was once considered an “old man’s disease.” They have each formed teams that will be participating in Colon Cancer Alliance’s 2017 Cleveland Undy Run/Walk on Sept. 30 at The Flats at East Bank.

“I had been having colorectal problems when I was in college, so I went to see a doctor. The doctor thought I was too young for it to be serious, but it didn’t go away,” said Lucas. “When I found out about the diagnosis, I was confused about why no one would have taken the initiative to investigate and be proactive.”

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, colorectal cancers are on the rise in adults under the age of 55. However, the recommended age to begin screening for colorectal cancer is 50, unless you have a family history. With no family history of colorectal cancer, the potential for diagnosis flew under the radar for both Lucas and Egan.

Egan, who is physically active, went to the doctor for a routine check-up. During that check-up, her primary care physician recommended that she see a gastroenterologist who would later perform her colonoscopy.

“This was my first time hearing about familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), the disease that led to my colorectal cancer diagnosis. I had no symptoms. I was a little pale, so initially the doctors thought that I might’ve been anemic,” said Egan.

Although the two have yet to meet, they’re both patients at Cleveland Clinic, which is a leader in colorectal cancer treatment and research. Cleveland Clinic is a long-time sponsor of the Undy Run/Walk, an event that draws hundreds of participants each year, the majority of whom have a connection to colorectal cancer.

Every year, participants hit the trails in fun outfits in a show of solidarity and support for colorectal cancer patients, survivors and their families. Funds raised from the Cleveland Undy Run/Walk go toward supporting the mission of the Colon Cancer Alliance whose goal is to knock colon cancer out of the top three cancer killers by championing prevention, funding cutting-edge research and providing the highest quality patient support services.

“Colorectal cancer is both preventable and curable with the appropriate screening and interventions. We are dedicated to raising awareness and starting conversations about this disease with the ultimate goal of saving lives. The last two years of this race in Cleveland have been amazing. It is incredible to see so many people participate and support the cause in what is a very fun event. It is also important to note that a portion of the funds raised stay right here in Cleveland for the benefit of our community,” said Matthew Kalady, M.D., director of The Sanford R. Weiss, MD, Center for Hereditary Colorectal Neoplasia and co-director of the Colorectal Cancer Program at Cleveland Clinic.

For his first Undy Run, Lucas formed a team called “the Crimson Butts,” a fun ode to the time he spent undergoing radiation treatment. Egan and her team, “Darcy and the Polyps,” will be participating for the second year in a row with the goal of beating her record from last year. At the 2016 Cleveland Undy Run/Walk, she raised $9,000 with a team of 120 people.

“We try to make it as lighthearted as possible. I hope the fun element makes it easier for people to talk about it,” says Egan. “Whether you think you’re in perfect health or not, make sure you pursue these symptoms.”

In the state of Ohio, 5,450 residents are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 2,140 residents are expected to pass away as a result of colorectal cancer. However, colorectal cancer is highly treatable, if detected early.

To join Eric Lucas and Darcy Egan at the 2017 Cleveland Undy Run/Walk, please visit the Cleveland Undy Run/Walk page to register and form your own team.

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About the Colon Cancer Alliance

The Colon Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colon cancer within our lifetime. Working with our nation of passionate advocates, we are empowered to support the needs of patients and survivors, eager to raise awareness of preventative screening, and poised to help fund critical research. We are fiercely determined to end colon cancer once and for all. www.ccalliance.org

 

Small Town, Big Bond

Onalaska Woman Finds Support through Online Colorectal Cancer Communities

Tacoma, WA (July 31) – Cancer support networks are imperative when experiencing an illness as frightening as colon cancer. Tacoma native, Janna Parkhurst, knows this too well

Her young sons enthusiastically took on the lion’s share of the chores: cooking, laundry and even painting her nails as she underwent treatment.  While people were shopping for presents and preparing for a long holiday week, Parkhurst’s family was learning how colostomy bags worked during the 2015 holiday season. She jokingly named her colostomy bag, “Betty.” The family quickly caught on and gave “Betty” her own stocking at Christmas time.

Searching for more information about colon cancer and looking for help with her ostomy bag, she came across the Colon Cancer Alliance and their online support community, Blue Hope Nation. The Blue Hope Nation, gave her new hope and a sense of camaraderie through her journey.

“It’s not one of the most talked about cancers, so when I found the Colon Cancer Alliance, I thought this is the place to be and find things out,” thought Parkhurst.

She also found out about the Colon Cancer Alliance’s annual Undy Run/Walk online.  From the moment she saw it, she just knew she had to do it. The Undy Run/Walk is where hundreds of people gather together and hit the trails, rocking underwear-themed costumes to raise money and awareness for colon cancer prevention while honoring those living with the disease and those gone too soon.  Parkhurst is leading the charge in garnering her family and friends to participate in the annual Tacoma Undy Run/Walk coming up on August 19th at Wright Park.

“It is so much fun and there is so much support. And everybody has the greatest attitude. I really felt like I belonged,” said Parkhurst as she eagerly prepares for Tacoma.

This year 95,520 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 50,260 will die from this disease. In Washington, 2,720 of the state’s residents have been diagnosed and 970 people have died as a result of colon cancer.  The Colon Cancer Alliance is dedicated to doubling the number of patients and families served, investing $10 million in research and saving over 100,000 lives through increased screening over the next five years.

“Our support networks, Blue Hope Nation and the Undy Run/Walk series, are the fabric of the Colon Cancer Alliance’s mission. We are committed to letting our survivors and caregivers know that they are not alone,” says Colon Cancer Alliance CEO, Michael Sapienza.

Parkhurst was eventually declared free of colon cancer in February 2017, but dedicates her time to the colon cancer community.

“[Colon cancer patients and survivors] are never alone. There is always someone with them. There is always someone to pray with them and for them. They don’t have to be embarrassed,” says Parkhurst.

To register for the 2017 Tacoma Undy Run/Walk coming up soon this August 19 at Wright Park or to learn how to put together a team, please visit www.undyrunwalk.org. The 2017 Tacoma Undy Run/Walk is sponsored in part by Digestive Health Specialists and MultiCare Health System.

To learn more about the largest online support network for the colorectal cancer community, join Blue Hope Nation or call the helpline 877.422.2030 led by certified patient navigators.

 

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About the Colon Cancer Alliance
The Colon Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colon cancer within our lifetime. Working with our nation of passionate advocates, we are empowered to support the needs of patients and survivors, eager to raise awareness of preventative screening, and poised to help fund critical research. We are fiercely determined to end colon cancer once and for all. www.ccalliance.org