There are two things we would ask you. The first we hope you will all do and the second only if you are comfortable.
1. Please pledge that you will personally get screened at the appropriate times and that you will relentlessly push your family and friends to do the same. Here is what Joanna wrote in her Caring Bridge entry on screening:
“Please, please, be vigilant about your own health. We are pretty much all (ahem you know it as Columbia!) of a certain age at this point. It can take many years for a non-cancerous polyp to turn into cancer and most people think it takes ten years for a polyp to become stage iv cancer. I was diagnosed at age 47 but probably had polyps even in my late 30s or early 40s. If you are over 50 (or 45 for African Americans) please get a colonoscopy. This is the recommended timing. I believe that everyone should be getting these earlier (in their 40s, and Lee can bore all of you with numbers on why). So many diagnoses are missed early, and the consequences are great. But that is something to talk to your doctor about. Even if you don’t get a colonoscopy, get a stool test at your next check-up (schedule one if it’s been more than a year!). This may identify blood in your stool, which is a possible indication of polyps (if you do get this and it shows blood don’t worry the vast majority of the time it’s something minor like hemorrhoids). Then determine if you need to see a gastroenterologist and take any next steps.
Don’t be turned off because we are talking about poop! We have kids!!! As one friend said, she gets her dog tested regularly, why is she not taking care of herself? Another friend, age 46, upon hearing of my diagnosis, underwent a colonoscopy and pre-cancerous polyps were removed. Now he can be monitored. And if you do wind up getting a test and you want to talk to someone about it, please don’t hesitate to call.
Choose to take care of yourself, for yourself and for your family. I choose to LIVE with cancer, every day. “Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.” ~ Maya Angelou”
2. If you feel comfortable, please consider making a gift to the CCA set aside for the CRC Prevention Task Force project in memory of Joanna Dranikoff.
(To donate, click on the blue box in the top right corner that says "DONATE"). Joanna was diagnosed with rectal cancer at age 47. She was already stage IV at diagnosis. Soon after Joanna was diagnosed in 2014, she and Lee talked about trying to do something to prevent this terrible disease.
Background on screening
A few brief facts. Currently colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second-leading cancer killer of men and women combined in the U.S., taking roughly 50,000 lives per year. This staggering toll vastly exceeds nearly all other cancers and numerous other public health crises. The irony is that CRC is largely preventable using existing screening methodologies. Nothing new needs to be invented to achieve these results. We just need to all do the screenings.
But making a fundamental change in screening will require a comprehensive plan and a meaningful budget. Unfortunately, CRC is one of the most underfunded diseases in the United States. There are numerous excellent non-profits that are committed to encourage greater screening and they are already working together to advance this cause. But in aggregate their total spend in this area is likely less than $3 million per year. (By comparison American Lung Association budget is roughly $60 million and the CDC estimates that $2 billion is spent annually by states on lung cancer prevention, the Komen Foundation budget is over $300 million per year, etc. and both organizations are right to say that they also need more money to do their work).
In the case of CRC, the disease is one of the most preventable and probably the most underfunded. (50,000 deaths vs. $3 million in prevention dollars). The reasons are many but the solution is clear. If a colonoscopy were a pharmaceutical drugs ( instead of a procedure), they would be marketed heavily like a drug with all of the various levers at our disposal (advertising, detailing, payor and large company partnerships, etc.). Unfortunately today, none of this happens. Interestingly, Katie Couric’s very public colonoscopy in 2008 made a big impact on screening rates because a little marketing can go a long way.
So that brings us back to this effort.
Lee and Joanna worked together to help form a task force focused on a “go big” strategy to work toward eliminating CRC through effective screening. Lee plans on continuing with this effort in memory of Joanna. The group includes many of the critical players who are already focused on this solution including: the American Cancer Society, the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, the Colon Cancer Alliance, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. McKinsey & Co., has graciously agreed to do a pro-bono consulting project to help launch this effort.
Your donation will go toward implementing this strategy and ending this disease.