“I’m sorry to have to tell you this. Calls like this are the worst part of my job and knowing how you have four young children makes it that much more difficult. Your biopsy results have come in and I regret they confirm – you have cancer.”
At 37-years-old, an avid runner and busy mom of four, a colorectal cancer diagnosis was the furthest thing from mind when I received the devastating news that day. To call it an unexpected life interruption would be a massive understatement.
I thought colon cancer was what happened to other people. I believed it was the kind of thing you needed to worry about later in life. It was supposed to happen to older men in their golden years and not to young mothers in their 30s. Turns out, my dangerous misconception about that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Colorectal cancer does not run in my family and genetic testing would later prove that I had no predisposition for it. My own doctors didn’t suspect cancer because I appeared too young and seemingly healthy.
Cases of colon cancer are on the rise in young adults and the median age of patients diagnosed is getting lower. According to the American Cancer Society, half of all new diagnoses this year are in people under the age of 66. Actor Chadwick Boseman died last year of colon cancer at age 43 after battling the disease. He was just 39-years-old when he was diagnosed.
Colorectal cancer is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because it often doesn’t cause symptoms until after it has grown or spread. Unlike other forms of cancer, colon cancer is also not easily detected through your annual blood work. You can have it and not even know about it, for years.
That’s why it’s best to be tested for colorectal cancer before experiencing any symptoms. When found early through screening it can be easier to treat. Screening can even prevent some colon cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
One suspected reason for the rise of this disease at alarming rates in young adults is that this age group is less likely to seek help for symptoms commonly associated with colorectal cancer. When my own symptoms first appeared, they seemed insignificant. I was also admittedly embarrassed and it was easier to make up excuses like being too busy with work and family life to meet with my doctor.
I ignored the red flags that my body used to indicate that something was wrong for five months. I can’t help but often wonder what might have been different if only I had gone in sooner.
The way I see it, people are dying because people aren’t talking about the need to screen. My goal is to change that as an advocate speaking out about the signs and symptoms that we all need to be looking for in an effort to raise awareness this March for Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
That phone conversation I held with my doctor was back in November of 2019. Since then, I have undergone surgery to remove a 2-inch tumor and six inches of my sigmoid colon, eight grueling months of chemotherapy, and finally a harrowing grand finale as the first cancer patient with COVID-19 admitted to the ICU at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine, California during the first surge of the pandemic last summer.
Last year was challenging for all of us, but for me, arguably more than others. This year is my second chance at life. I have recently regained my health after having gone into remission and consider this my come back challenge. I am on a mission to help others avoid experiencing everything that I went through and even hope to save lives.
To accomplish this goal, I have launched Butt Kickerz Virtual Run this March for Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Here are ten reasons why you should consider joining the movement and run (or walk) with me:
1. Tomorrow Can’t Wait
This year in the United States, 53,200 people are expected to die of the disease and 147,950 cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the nation’s second leading cause of cancer death, but one of the most preventable.
2. Screening Saves
Early detection saves lives. When caught early colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. When you join Butt Kickerz Virtual Run, you support screening awareness efforts that demystify the process and inform others about the importance of early detection. The theme of the Virtual Run is Check Yo Self. Our efforts focus on preventing cancer through encouraging on-time screening and education.
3. No One Walks Alone
A cancer diagnosis is one of the most frightening days in a person’s life. I believe that no person should ever walk alone on this journey. Fundraising efforts support cancer patients through thoughtful gifts, efforts to raise awareness, and donations to research.
4. Reduce Your Cancer Risk
The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity a week to lower overall cancer risk. You don’t need to do intense exercise to lower your risk of cancer. Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day lowers your risk.
Butt Kickerz Virtual Run (or walk) can be done anywhere you choose, at any pace, and any day before the end of March. We welcome runners, walkers, and joggers of any age. Complete your challenge at your convenience. You can run your race at your own pace, wherever you like. You can also submit your time for whichever distance race you run to see how you compare to others.
6. Run for a Cure
The goal of this event is to be the world’s largest virtual race for a cure. We want to start the tough conversation we all need to be having. You can change that just by participating in the run and sharing your effort with others. Your Butt Kickerz Check Yo Self race shirt makes for a fierce fashion statement making conversation starter.
7. Everyone Can Do It
We’ve included four virtual events for all ages and abilities. Walk the 1-mile turn and 5K or run the 13.1 half or 26.2 full. I continued to run during my own cancer treatment. I often felt like I had strapped cinder blocks onto my feet in place of running shoes, but I knew I needed to move as soon as I felt strong enough to tolerate exercise. Running and walking helped me to recover more quickly from chemotherapy and retain muscle strength. Though you can even use your treadmill, one of the reasons for hosting this event is to get people outdoors. If I could do it – you can too. No excuses.
8. It’s Inexpensive
Registration for all events is just $39.95. Refer 3 friends – and you run FREE! Just get 3 of your best buddies to enter your referral code during their registration process and we will automatically refund your entry.
9. Runner’s SWAG
Who doesn’t like FREE stuff? Every participant will receive:
Super soft Butt Kickerz Cotton Race Tee in women’s fitted, unisex and youth sizes for the entire family
Sparkly Custom Engraved Finisher’s Medal
Race bib. Plus, you can WIN many cool prizes through our contests.
10. Everyone Wins
By participating in the race you increase visibility for colon cancer awareness. You are kicking butt to save lives. This event is a fun run, so the only winner is you for getting out there and being active. Join a nation of Butt Kickerz that are committed to seeing the end to colorectal cancer in our lifetime. Start a team, join a team or walk as an individual. Now is your last chance to sign up before prices increase. Spots are filling fast. Register today!
The many reasons to participate in this virtual challenge for Colon Cancer Awareness this month are certainly compelling and I hope you consider joining me for such an important cause.
That said, the one thing I really want for everyone to know is that you should begin screening for colorectal cancer no later than the age of 45 – even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms. Sooner, if you are experiencing symptoms or have a family history.
The American Cancer Society advises to be checked if you have any of the following problems. In many cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. But you should talk to your doctor if you have any of them so the cause can be found and treated.
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
My hope is that you will never have to receive a phone call like the one I did on that fateful day. My goal is to educate, inspire and inform about the importance of early detection. If I can encourage others to go in for colorectal cancer screening and help to save just one life – then it will have been worth it.
Erin Soto is a colon cancer survivor and advocate, Event Director of Butt Kickerz Virtual Run, CEO of Butt Kickerz Street Style cancer awareness apparel, Author of Mother Fighter, and mom of four based in Orange County, California. She teaches how to turn your worst experiences in life into your greatest opportunities while sharing tips and resources using the power of the human spirit and mindset to overcome catastrophic illness. Sign up for free weekly tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets Column!