In May 1999, my youngest sister Elaine was rushed to the emergency room at our local hospital complaining of abdominal pain. Later that evening she underwent urgent surgery to have her colon resected. She unfortunately had advanced colon cancer. Sadly, just one year later, on May 18, 2000, she died, at the young age of 44 years old.
The tragic loss of my youngest sister could have been avoided if she had been screened for colon cancer.
A few years later, when I was 55, a colonoscopy revealed that I too had colon cancer and I required extensive surgery. Thankfully, to date, the cancer has not reappeared.
I was so much luckier. However, having been present throughout my sister’s painful battle with colon cancer, I still ask myself why I wasn’t more proactive in getting screened long before I was diagnosed with the disease. I guess I felt that it was something that could only happen to someone else. Perhaps I was embarrassed at the thought of having a doctor examine me or perhaps I was unjustifiably afraid of getting screened…I guess, I was afraid of what they would actually find. How ridiculous!
Looking back, none of these reasons were worth delaying getting screened. The gravity of the physical and psychological trauma that I went through following my diagnosis, and the anxiety experienced by those close to me, far surpassed any possible concerns I could have had about getting screened. All the pain and suffering could have been avoided by detecting the disease even before it became a cancer.
Following my recovery, I felt I had to do something to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I made. I contacted the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, and asked how I could help. I entered the CCAC’s Cancer Coach training program, and have been a coach for the past since 2008.
“For me, there was a time when it was merely a word. A scary, alien word, yes, but still just a word. Cancer. That time is a distant, innocent memory.
Six years ago, when Dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, that alien word invaded our family. Four years ago it took Dad away from us — his loving family and friends — amidst his prime.
Still scary but no longer alien, cancer has a different meaning to me now. It is too familiar and brings with it many intense associations, memories and feelings. Pain. Anger. Confusion. Stress. Anguish. Unrelenting longing.
But along with the negative associations, memories and feelings there is the positive.
First and foremost amongst these is the memory of how Dad chose to approach his condition. He was optimistic despite a bleak outlook, positive despite great pain, and was immensely concerned with how his illness and the chance of death would impact the lives of those who loved him. And he chose to help others with the same illness. He got involved in the CCAC and became an advocate. He pushed for greater awareness about colorectal cancer, for early screening programs and for funding for effective cancer drugs.
Dad believed in and supported the CCAC. Through education, support and advocacy the CCAC provides help to many individuals like Dad and families like ours. It is a positive balance during dreadfully negative times. I continue to support the CCAC after his death because its work provides me with hope for a day when people know full-well about the cancer word but know it in a way that is different — a way where cancer is less scary, less painful, and where the only stories are ones of survival.”
The Giant Colon’s presence at the K Rock Centre in Kingston on March 9, 2012, gave Kingston spectators a unique opportunity to interact with and be informed by the giant colon. During this stop, the GC was located near the entrance in the Kingston arena prior to and during a Junior A hockey game between Kingston and Mississauga, held in honour of Hugh Ball and other OHA players who died of colorectal cancer in recent years. Hugh was very active in Junior hockey in the Kingston area and his widow Betty Ball helped organize this event in his memory.
Betty spoke at the event about her husband, his battle with CRC and his fight to live:
“March is Colorectal Cancer Month. One local sportsman we remember tonight is Hubert Ball, whose life was claimed by colorectal cancer over 15 years ago. If Hugh were alive today he’d urge you to get screened early and to not ignore the danger signs. We invite you to visit the giant colon and tabletop display in the foyer. The exhibit, owned by the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, is sponsored by the OHA, local health providers and Cancer Care Ontario. It is an amazing teaching tool.
Hockey was Hubert’s first love, taking him through Kingston’s Minor ranks from JR B to JR A, and ending with Cataraqui Oldtimers.
His second passion was bird watching and carving. Till near the time of his death in 1996, Hubert spent a major part of each day on decoy making and painting, competing on the local & national scene with longtime OHL friends, Richard Cherry & Bob Collins.
What stands out over and above his hobbies is his love of family and life itself. He was proud of his wife and children and his own achievements. He fought valiantly to live a little longer and enjoy each moment. In his fight for life he was heroic.
On behalf of myself and my family and the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, we thank tonight’s sponsors for the opportunity to remember Hugh and all those whose lives have been touched by colorectal cancer. Awareness, screening and simple acts of kindness are our best tools in fighting this preventable disease.”
Top left: Betty Ball with her son David Ball
Top right: Our own Frank Pitman, Nathan De Bono and Adrien Mitchell in front of the GC
Bottom left: Dr. Hugh Langley, Gwen Potts
Bottom right: Dr. Hugh Langley, Lori Van Manen (MGR of Community Prevention)
Don’t let your New Year’s resolutions fall through the cracks
If you are like most people, one of your 2012 resolutions may be to lose weight or get more active. Although dipping temperatures and mountains of snow may beckon you back to your warm couch and old habits, don’t let old man winter or Jack Frost nipping at your nose keep you indoors this winter season.
According to the Canadian Fitness and lifestyle research Institute, 61% of adults aged 18 and older are considered insufficiently active, putting them at a higher risk for chronic disease such as colorectal cancer.
This winter, help reduce this statistic by sticking to your new or existing fitness program, coupling it with the added benefits of fresh air. To inspire you to bundle up, get outside and get active, here are a few cold weather exercise activities that are fun for the whole family.
Snowshoeing is one of the hottest things in winter sports today. It offers a great cardiovascular work-out for all ages and fitness levels. It’s a low-impact sport, much simpler and safer than skiing and can burn up to 500 calories per hour.
Walking & Hiking
Trade in your hiking shoes or runners for thermal winter boots and experience your favourite trail in a new light – the gleaming white snow.
Find a frozen surface, either at a local park or arena and lace up. Skating can not only get you to break a sweat but it helps build muscles and endurance.
Canada’s national sport can be played both on or off the ice and offers the benefits of skating combined with teamwork. Pile on the layers, top it off with your favourite jersey, grab a few friends and get out there!
More than one million Canadians curl at least once a year at one of the country’s 1,200 clubs. The low lunges you have to get into to throw a rock help increase hip flexibility, and the vigorous sweeping exercises your arms, legs, lungs and heart. Try it out, you may sweep your way into a new pastime.
Choose between cross-country or downhill and get your heart rate going as you plough your way through trails or bomb down the hill. Pace yourself and select trails that match your experience and fitness levels.
Snowboarding is an increasingly popular winter sport that offers a number of health benefits. Even if you’re not the most proficient snowboarder, you can still enjoy cardiovascular benefits and burn calories. Like skiing, it is an aerobic exercise that incorporates muscle strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
If you have ever slid down a snow-covered hill, you know what a rush it can be. Let us not forget the cardiovascular upside to the uphill trip – it is a great workout that will definitely get your heart pumping!
Build a Snowman
Be a kid again! Although building your very own Frosty is a time honoured fun family bonding experience, packing, rolling and lifting heavy wet snow will also work your back, arms and leg muscles.
Before any medical procedure or test, it is only natural to be plagued by varying degrees of the jitters.
While colorectal cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Canada, it can be prevented and, if caught early has an over 90% cure rate. Most adults are aware that a colonoscopy is a proven screening tool to catch pre-cancer or cancer cells in the colon and rectum. However, many shy away from testing due to anxiety or embarrassment.
The uncertainty of pain or side effects can unnerve even the most fearless among us. Not to mention the humility one faces during the close encounter with their gastroenterologist and their medical team.
If you’re worried about feeling pain in such a sensitive part of the body, you’re not alone. However, it may help you to know that prior to your colonoscopy, you will be given a mild sedative that will diminish your discomfort.
As for issues of privacy, doctors and nurses who perform colonoscopies on a regular basis understand that people may be feeling self-conscious during the procedure, so they behave professionally and respectfully toward patients and the procedure is done in a closed off room.
Being well informed about the details of this important prevention and detection procedure is the first step in calming your nerves and removing any reservations you may have. Try to sit down with your doctor before your colonoscopy appointment to review any questions or concerns that you may have.
In the meantime, why not try laughter as the prescription to melt your fears away. Gastroenterologist Patricia Raymond, a.k.a. ‘The Divine Ms. Butt Meddler,’ founder of Your Health Choice and Rx For Sanity, has created a website, Laugh your fears away, which discusses the very serious and taboo subject of colonoscopies in a light hearted way. Her efforts to reduce the colonoscopy ‘ick’ factor humorously helps folks make the small choices that lead to big health.
Take a look at Ms. Meddler’s charming bowel ballad:
Held at Le Windsor, the event, composed of a cocktail-dînatoire and European-style couture show, aims to transform fashion into a pure sensory experience to benefit the CCAC’s many awareness, education, support and advocacy initiatives in Quebec and across the country.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Quebec and Canada, affecting both men and women almost equally. The gala celebrates CCAC triumphs in prevention and provincial colorectal cancer screening programs and emphasizes that there is still much more to be done in the fight against this Preventable, Treatable and Beatable disease.
“Our annual gala helps spread the knowledge of a disease that has taken far too many lives, simply because too few people are willing to talk about it. Support of this event will help us continue to make a difference so that one day, we can say, we beat this disease with style,” said Barry Stein, President, CCAC.
The “Evening of Luxury” event follows the success of the CCAC’s award-winning online 2010 campaign www.getyourbuttseen.ca. Sophistication, luxury and glamour can be used to describe the runway’s portfolio that will highlight LUNDSTRÖM’s 2012 collection.
“Eleventh Floor Apparel Ltd. (EFA) is extremely pleased and deeply honored to have our LUNDSTRÖM COLLECTION showcased at the CCAC’s fashion show, and to be partnering with such an esteemed association for a great cause,” said Tamar Matossian of EFA.
Tickets to the exclusive event are available at the price of $350 per person, or $3,000 for a group of ten. For more information, sponsorship opportunities, programs advertising or to buy tickets, visit www.colorectal-cancer.ca/gala/ or contact our offices at 514.875.7745
Labelled as a society riddled by overindulgence time and time again, Westerners have succumb to being referred to as gluttons. We eat too much, drink too much and when we are not working ourselves to the bone, we entertain too much. Yet with all these guilty pleasures under our belt, it’s funny how so many of us seem to cast aside the most simple of them all – sleep!
Today, priorities have become conditioned by one’s lifestyle. For the business and social nomads, governed by busy daily schedules, the act of sleeping is considered a waste of time and only needed when extremely tired. However, as the number of health afflictions and disease risks linked to inadequate sleep are on the rise, perhaps this modern notion of sleep as a form of ‘surrender’ requires a re-examination.
Recent study links sleep sacrifice to increased risk of colorectal cancer
In a recent study published in the Feb. 15, 2011 issue of the journal Cancer, researchers from University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, found that people who slept an average of six hours or less per night had an almost 50% increase in the risk of colorectal adenomas compared with individuals sleeping at least seven hours a night. Adenomas are precancerous polyps that, left untreated, can turn malignant.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report a significant association of sleep duration and colorectal adenomas,” Li Li, MD, PhD, the study’s principal investigator and Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said in a statement to the media. ‘A short amount of sleep can now be viewed as a new risk factor for the development of colon cancer.’
Conducted by phone, the study surveyed patients prior to their scheduled colonoscopies at the UH Case Medical Center. The questions were drawn from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and concerned sleep frequency, troubles falling asleep and most importantly, their average hours of sleep per night.
Of the 1,240 patients interviewed, 338 were diagnosed with colorectal adenomas at their colonoscopy. The majority of those diagnosed with precancerous polyps had reported sleeping less than six hours a night, compared to those patients without adenomas. The association between less sleep and adenomas remained consistent despite adjustments made for family history, obesity and smoking.
Dr. Li’s report notes that the dramatic risk increase of insufficient sleep is comparable to genetic risk, having a first-degree relative who has had colon cancer, as well as the risk associated with eating a lot of red meat: “Short sleep duration is a public health hazard leading not only to obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease, but also, as we now have shown in this study, colon adenomas…Effective intervention to increase duration of sleep and improve quality of sleep could be an under-appreciated avenue for prevention of colorectal cancer,” Dr. Li concluded.
Sleep deprivation alters immune function, particularly the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep has been proven to strengthen one’s immune system and consequently help the body battle against cancer. So, while those increasing the hours in their day by decreasing their nightly hours of sleep believe that they are maximizing the time available in their business and social agendas, they are really just aiding and abetting the risk of their lives’ maxing out!
For more information about Dr. Li’s study please consult the Journal Reference:
Cheryl L. Thompson, Emma K. Larkin, Sanjay Patel, Nathan A. Berger, Susan Redline, Li Li. Short duration of sleep increases risk of colorectal adenoma. Cancer, 2011; 117 (4): 841 DOI: 10.1002/cncr.25507
On September 17, 2011, it won’t matter if you are part of a house league or the big leagues, as all Canadians will be drafted to a national team in celebration of the country’s second annual Sports Day.
Participants are invited to wear their hearts on their numbers to demonstrate their love and support for sport by wearing a jersey, team or club uniform to work, school or play on what has been dubbed as national Jersey Day.
Presented by CBC Sports, ParticipACTION and True Sport, Sports Day is guided by a committee of national sporting organizations and their networks of coaches, athletes and enthusiasts. The day, closes a week of thousands of sporting events and activities across the country intended to encourage and increase national physical activity and love of the game.
Trail and Error – Take the chance to discover “your sport!”
Whether your current level of physical activity is high, low or non-existent or whether you are part of a team or simply a professional spectator, everyone is invited to be a part of the celebration. Take advantage of the numerous open houses, try-it days, competitions and tournaments in your area from September 10-17. Get involved, get active and hopefully get hooked on a sport!
Did you know that physical inactivity is a risk factor in colorectal cancer development?
An inactive lifestyle has been linked to increase the risk of colorectal cancer development. It is estimated that 22,200 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in Canada in 2011. The good news, is that minor adjustments can play a major role in the modification of these statics. By getting your butt in gear and increasing your activity level, you will ultimately decrease your chance of contracting the disease.
Other identified risk factors include:
- Poor diet – low in fruits, vegetables and fibre
- High red or processed meat consumption
- Excessive alcohol intake
Reducing your risk from the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada can be made simple with a few line changes in your daily routine. First play change – take advantage of the national Sports Day festivities. Leave your laziness, excuses or old routines behind and take a shot at the different sports or activities being offered in your hometown, you may surprise yourself and find a new love!
For more information on Sports Day in Canada or to get involved in the week’s events, please visit CBC’s official link: http://sportsday.cbc.ca/
Canadian Cancer Society : http://info.cancer.ca/cce-ecc/default.aspx?Lang=F&toc=13
Participaction : http://www.participaction.com/fr-ca/Home.aspx
Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada : http://www.colorectal-cancer.ca/en/
 Canadian Cancer Society, http://info.cancer.ca/cce-ecc/default.aspx?Lang=E&toc=13&cceid=4004
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”
Canada has lost both a great man and profound leader. Jack Layton, not only triumphantly led his political party to become Canada’s Official Opposition but was an inspiration to fellow Canadian cancer patients through his unfaltering courage and drive to live.
After battling and victoriously overcoming his first bout of prostate cancer in 2009, he was viewed as a symbol of hope and optimism within our country. When diagnosed with a new form of cancer in July, the NDP leader decided to step down briefly ‘to fight this new cancer, so that he could be back in September to continue to fight for families when Parliament resumed.’
He left with the intent and conviction to win yet again.
Sadly, this time his battle was lost. He passed away early Monday morning in his home, surrounded by those closest to him.
In his hiatus speech on July 25, he expressed his gratitude for the numerous letters and e-mails he received from across the nation, “Your stories and support have touched me deeply and I have drawn strength and inspiration from them.”
In his final letter, Layton continued to lead, even in death, by instilling a positive outlook in the hearts of others who struggle with cancer on a daily basis.
“To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”
To read the complete farewell letter the honourable Jack Layton left behind for his beloved fellow Canadians please see the attached link:
From the article’s description on the CMAJ site:
Guidelines for sensible drinking do not take the dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk into consideration. According to Latino-Martel and colleagues, the amount of evidence for the link between alcohol consumption and cancer has recently increased. On the whole, alcohol is considered an avoidable risk factor for cancer. Current guidelines for sensible drinking are not adequate for the prevention of cancer, and new guidelines based on scientific evidence are needed. Full article
You will need a paid account to access the full CMAJ article, but Carly Weeks’ Globe and Mail article explains our current state of affairs nicely:
In Canada, there are no federally established drinking standards. But low-risk drinking guidelines created by researchers from the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which have been endorsed by many health organizations, say men should consume no more than 14 alcoholic drinks in a week, and women no more than nine.
The Globe and Mail reports that a brand new set of Canadian drinks-per-week guidelines is in the works.
Here’s to hoping that Canada’s policy makers will pay attention to studies like this, a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health collaboration which found that alcohol use above “daily recommended limits” leads to several types of cancers.
Canada’s first national drinking guidelines are expected to be released later this year. Do you feel this will have an impact on the amount of alcohol you consume? Discuss!