Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day

March 1st marks the beginning of colon cancer awareness month, and provides the ideal opportunity to recognize all those affected by this disease.  The Raymond Foundation chose March 1st for their annual Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day as an opportunity to pay tribute to colorectal cancer survivors worldwide and honor those who have passed from this disease. By creating a day to honor and celebrate the lives of all colorectal cancer survivors, our hope is that each survivor’s story of courage will help inspire those patients currently fighting this disease to know they are not alone. 

For many individuals who receive a cancer diagnosis, they look for ways to help others through awareness, education and advocacy.  One of the many positive outcomes of Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day has been the outpouring of support for families, caregivers and those who are newly diagnosed.  Patients who are often struggling themselves with treatment related side effects give of their time to help mentor newly diagnosed patients.  Caregivers and family members struggling to find enough hours in the day reach out to other families offering support and encouragement.  I like to think of this as a ripple effect of paying it forward.  Together we are building a community of support.

An important part of our Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day is remembering those we have lost to this disease.  Through candle lighting ceremonies both in person and virtually, our community comes together to remember and honor our friends and loved ones.  Stories, photos, and remembrances shared let us know we are not alone and that others understand our heartbreak.

Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day was created in loving memory of my parents, Margaret and Patrick Raymond, who both passed away from this disease while in the prime of their lives.   Unfortunately we all know someone who has been affected by this disease.  Colon Cancer Survivors are not just statistics - they are our mothers and fathers; sisters and brothers; husbands and wives; and sons and daughters, and as we mark Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day we pay tribute and celebrate the lives of these truly remarkable individuals.

Insights Into The Colorectal Cancer Survivorship Experience Survey

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Thank you for sharing your insights as part of our Global Colon Cancer Survivor Day forum. Your experiences are important, and will help us improve programming & education efforts for all those affected by this disease. For purposes of this survey - survivorship is determined as a patient living with, through and beyond cancer. All survey responses are completely anonymous.

SURVEY: Identifying The Unmet Needs Of GI Cancer Patients

On behalf of the GI Cancers Alliance, a brief 12 question survey has been created to assess the unmet needs of the gastrointestinal cancer patient and survivor community. Identifying and better understanding these unmet needs will help shape the programming and education efforts for the GI Cancers Alliance moving forward. 

  • The survey will be open for 6 weeks:  from October 4 -  November 15, 2016
  • All responses are anonymous
  • The brief 12 question survey should take only 5 - 10 minutes to complete
  • For assistance or questions, please contact Martha Raymond

Survey results will be shared at the December 2016 Ruesch Center Fighting a Smarter War Against Cancer Symposium (Washington, DC) and the January 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology/ASCO GI meeting (San Francisco, California).

One Voice

A favorite quote of mine reads:  “One voice can make a difference.  That voice can be yours.”  For years I have searched in vain to credit the author of this meaningful phrase that speaks to my heart and has guided me on my colon cancer advocacy journey of nearly 30 years.  You see, sometimes the path of advocating for increased colon cancer education and awareness for a disease that has claimed the lives of your loved ones can be extremely rewarding, and – being totally transparent – sometimes it can be extremely heartbreaking. 

I’ve learned and am still learning many lessons on advocating for those affected by this deadly disease.  One of the lessons I’ve learned is that we all have the opportunity to make a difference.  To me, advocacy is simply about the desire to help others. It is about listening to the voice of someone in need, and working tirelessly to help meet this need.  It is creating change.  It is compassion.  It is grace.  One voice – one person at a time.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of colon cancer patients and their families – sincere, loving and gracious individuals living through pain and heartbreak.  I keep a remembrance journal for all those who have crossed my path due to this disease – photos, stories we shared about family, children and beloved pets, their struggles, and their hopes for the future.  When I thumb through the pages of my journal I smile and know their voice is still with me – still guiding me to move forward.  Their voice and their hopes resonate with me every day. 

As March - Colon Cancer Awareness Month - approaches, I remember those we have lost to this disease.  I remember those individuals still in treatment, struggling, and searching for research advances.  A time of reflection.  A time to honor friends and loved ones. 

Colon Cancer Awareness Month offers the opportunity for all of us to honor friends and loved ones as we advocate for increased education, prevention programs, research, and supportive care for patients.  Meaningful advocacy doesn’t need to be costly, lavish, or even on a large scale to be effective.  On the contrary, I’ve learned that the most meaningful advocacy begins with building relationships one person at a time.  No effort is too small.  One life saved or enriched is certainly not a small effort – it is effective advocacy.

If all of us seize this opportunity to help one person at a time and continue to pay it forward, can you imagine the difference we will make?    

One voice can make a difference.  That voice can be yours.

Empty Chairs

Loss.  Loneliness.  Emptiness.  The feelings are palpable. 

In my dining room I have the antique chairs (circa 1870) that once filled my childhood home.  My family home was once a Civil War Stagecoach Inn, a landmark filled with rich history.  But to me, the home where I grew up was all about family, security, unwavering support and love.

When I look at these chairs, the chairs where my Mom and Dad once sat, I reflect on all of life’s occasions where their presence, laughter and conversation is greatly missed.  From Graduations to Holidays; Birthdays to Baby Showers; and from Sunday Dinners to every day milestones both big and small.

My reflection leads me down the path to ask what life may have been if my parents had not been diagnosed with colon cancer while in the prime of their lives.  I don’t like this turn in the path – even after so many years, this thought takes me back to the time of their deaths.  To the time when nothing made sense to a young girl in 7th grade losing her Father.  Or being a senior in college losing my Mother – my best friend and confidante.

We all have experienced great loss.  No one is immune to the sick, gnawing feeling that we carry in our hearts.

We go about our daily lives, cope with our own unique feelings the best we can, and in many cases put on a brave face in front of others.   For me, the best way to cope has always been to help others understand this disease, and to advocate for prevention and screening.  And so for the past twenty-five years I have tried to turn my pain into a purpose, becoming a passionate colon cancer advocate.  As Katie Couric said, “Sometimes you find your passion.  And sometimes your passion finds you.” 

Trust me, I wish this passion never had to find me.  I wish I had never heard the words: colon cancer.  I loathe this disease, and what it did to my family.  But helping others has been and will continue to be my passion, and in doing this work, I keep the spirit of my Mom and Dad with me. 

Medical advances are significant since my parents were diagnosed in the 1970s and 1980s.  A generation ago, there were not screening tests readily available for patients experiencing symptoms.  Colonoscopy was in its infancy and still in clinical trials.  Exploratory surgery was the diagnostic tool of choice.  I recall in my Mother’s case, the surgeon saying, “We opened her up and all we saw was cancer, there’s nothing we could do, but close her back up.” 

Those words haunt me every day. 

Today, however, there are screening tests, colonoscopy and options available.  We have the knowledge and the tests today to help eradicate colon cancer.  We can do this.  We can help alleviate the suffering a colon cancer diagnosis brings.  We may not have had these resources to help prior generations, but we do now.

I hope you’ll join me in this call to action:  During the upcoming Holidays, take a moment and ask your loved ones about your family health history.  Do you have any colon or GI cancers in your family?  Do you have any symptoms or feel that something isn’t quite right?  Trust your intuition and ask your healthcare professional for a screening test.  Screening is the smart choice.  Do this in memory of those who didn’t have a choice.

In honor of my parents, Margaret and Patrick, I remain passionate about eradicating colon cancer.  Please join my efforts so that another family does not have an empty chair where a loved one once sat.