Each month, Be Seen, Get Screened features a member of the colon cancer screening community that has gone above and beyond to spread the word about colon cancer and the importance of screening. We call this Q&A session our "Hero of the Month" feature.
April’s Hero of the Month highlights the inspiring work of a dedicated spokesperson in the fight against colon cancer. Michele Battista has worked for years to raise colon cancer awareness through her participation in countless events with organizations such as Colon Cancer Alliance and Relay for Life.
Her achievements are numerous and impressive, and she shares her story with us below.
Be Seen, Get Screened: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your personal connection to colorectal cancer?
Michele Battista: I am a stage 3 colon cancer survivor for 2 years.
What are you doing to raise awareness of this disease?
Besides the many friends and family that I have preached to about getting screened since diagnosis on Valentine's Day 2012. I want to wake people up who ignore their preventative colonoscopy at 50 because the prep is awful. The colonoscopy was a piece of cake compared to the surgery to remove the colon cancer and 6 months of chemotherapy and the lingering side effects.
I try to make people aware that I had no symptoms going into my colonoscopy at 50 so was not expecting the devastating news from my gastro of "You have cancer." I was like, wait this is a commercial, this is not happening to me! The Colon Cancer CEA blood marker test was not even an indication as normal!
I blog on my Facebook Page, [and on] cancer websites such as What Next and Inspire. Penn Medicine - Abramson Cancer Center featured me in their Focus on Campus Blog in March 2014.
I participate in colon cancer awareness events like the Colon Cancer Alliance's Undy 5000 and Paulette's Steps for Cancer Awareness. I represent the Colon Cancer Alliance at events and became a peer buddy for similarly diagnosed colon cancer patients near me.
I write to obtain proclamations for March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month from my state and town. My story has been in local papers and magazines since last March. I ask friends and family to contribute to my son's Relay for Life at Virginia Tech, the world's largest collegiate relay.
When shopping on Amazon.com, I go to http://smile.amazon.com/ where a portion of my sales is donated to Colon Cancer Alliance.
In your opinion, why is it important for people to be educated about colorectal cancer and available prevention methods?
It's important to educate about colorectal cancer because if you get screened, you can prevent it. I was just one of those folks with no symptoms who had the cancer for potentially 5 to 10 years.
Lastly, what is one thing that you would like people to take away from your story?
Listen to your body and own your health! In hindsight, I didn't want to celebrate my 50th birthday for whatever reason. I just didn't feel like celebrating. I did the yearly visit, mammogram, skin doctor check, and all were good.
I can only say I procrastinated on the colonoscopy due to health issues with my Mom and busy with volunteering for The Ashley Lauren Foundation, a local organization that helps children and their families suffering with cancer. My then general practitioner never mentioned to go for a colonoscopy at my 50th well visit, needless to say I no longer go to them.
I made the decision to have my colonoscopy because I was turning 51 in only a couple of months and it was on the list to do at 50. So glad I did! If I get just a few people to go who may have otherwise skipped their colonoscopy, I feel honored.
I know within a short time of my diagnosis, eight family and friends went for theirs.