Frank at the start line of the Scotia Charity Challenge 5K Walk on April 29, 2012

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.