Do you have a 2014 Colondar hanging on your wall? You should. It sends a powerful message of hope. You may have read about the Colondar in a prior “Issues in Cancer Survivorship” story about Lynch Syndrome survivor David Dubin, who was Mr. January in 2012.1 This is the 10th year that the unique calendar is being distributed. Published by The Colon Club, each month of the Colondar features a revealing photograph of a survivor of colorectal cancer. No stereotypical older men appear in this calendar; for this year’s Colondar, the models are 12 young men and women who received their diagnoses of colorectal cancer before they were 50 years old.
THE COLON CLUB
Two young women started the Colon Club in 2003: survivor Molly McMaster whose colon cancer diagnosis came on her 23rd birthday, and Hannah Vogler, whose cousin and McMaster’s friend, Amanda Sherwood Roberts, died of colon cancer when she was 27 years old. McMaster and Vogler wanted to spread the word that anyone could have colon cancer. Their goal was to bring “colon talk” to the table; to spread the knowledge about colon cancer to as many people as possible, as early as possible, and to do it in interesting, unique, and outside- the-box ways. They proposed that colon cancer should be part of normal, everyday conversation, with discussions including risk factors, symptoms, and the appropriate time to go for screening.
Crazy projects According to the Colon Club website: “Our crazy projects are designed to get people of all ages to finally pay attention to colorectal cancer, to help prevent the disease and to SAVE LIVES!”2 The first crazy project Molly McMaster undertook was Rolling to Recovery, a 2,000-mile inline skate ride from New York to Colorado following her diagnosis and treatment. When she was chosen to take a turn at carrying the Olympic Torch in 2002, Katie Couric invited her to discuss colon cancer on the Today Show. Couric’s husband died of colorectal cancer, and she is an important advocate of colorectal cancer awareness. She gave McMaster a challenge to come up with something crazy for March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The young women took up the gauntlet and built the “Colossal Colon,” which made its debut on the Today Show.
The Colossal Colon At 40 feet long and 4 feet tall, this crazy project is a model of the human colon designed for children and adults to crawl through. But this is not just any 40-foot long colon—this one accurately depicts cancerous and non-cancerous polyps, the stages of colorectal cancer, and diseases such as Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids. Artists created the colon using colonoscopy images, carving and painting each feature by hand. For those who would rather not take the invasive journey, Coco—yes, it has a nickname—has windows along its length. People can peek at a polyp, or see why those hemorrhoids are so bothersome. Coco travels, and enhances colorectal cancer awareness by visiting hospitals, malls, museums, and other locations throughout the United States and Canada.
COLON TALK FORUM
The Colon Club website (www.colonclub.com) is a resource for education and support about colorectal cancer survival. The message boards in the Colon Talk support forum are full of poignant questions and answers. Conversations pull no punches; one recent post was about cancer growing on a patient’s scar tissue, another asked “How do we die?” But other posts discuss exercise and fitness, modeling for the 2015 Colondar, and invitations to special events or a night out. There is a lot of humanity here.
SPREADING AWARENESS AND HOPE
The Colon Club does amazing things. It raises hope. It sponsors bike rides, ice hockey games, and soccer events. It provides support and answers for patients, families, and caregivers. The website has a store stocked with the practical (personal cleanliness items), the whimsical (a semi-colon Tshirt), jewelry, and of course, the annual Colondar.
Colon Talk recently launched a partnership with Michael’s Mission, an organization devoted to improving the quality of life and treatment options for people with colorectal cancer. Both organizations will improve the quality of life for cancer patients with one interactive, web-based platform.
And then there is the new 2014 Colondar, sponsored by a number of businesses and nonprofit organizations that support the mission of colon cancer advocacy and awareness. The award-winning Colondar’s special mission is to raise awareness of how prevalent colon cancer is and to encourage screening among young adults. You can get yours here: http://store.colonclub.com/collections/colondars.
Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.
1. Kaplan BW. First a patient, now a patient advocate, Dave Dubin is more than a cancer survivor [Issues in Cancer Survivorship]. Oncol Nurse Advis. 2012;3(6):45-46.
2. Crazy projects. The Colon Club website. http://www.colonclub.com/crazy-projects/. Accessed March 12, 2014.