Speaking out for Colorectal Cancer Awareness

by Terri Griege

As an endurance athlete, I developed the ability to push through obstacles to reach a goal. I’ve completed marathons and triathlons, and even the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Yet the biggest obstacle – the one that has had the greatest impact on my life – was largely avoidable. That obstacle is colon cancer.

Teri Griege Survivor

Terri Griege - Stage 4 Colon Cancer Survivor, Iron Man Endurance Athlete 

Colon cancer has a wide range of symptoms that don’t always point to cancer – particularly in someone under 50. I attributed my extreme fatigue to overtraining. When I finally did see a doctor, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 48. As a result, I learned the importance of early detection. Following my diagnosis, both my sisters went in for screening. One found out she had stage 3 colon cancer. (She is the first one to tell you I saved her life!) My other sister had precancerous polyps, and two of their four daughters had precancerous polyps as well. Because their conditions were caught early, they will not develop colon cancer.

There was a time when people only whispered the word “cancer” because it wasn’t considered appropriate for polite conversation. Even today, talking about one’s colon is often considered too personal or too embarrassing. The problem comes when that embarrassment prevents people from even talking to their doctors and getting the vital screenings that could one day save their lives.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. As a colon cancer survivor and a warrior in the fight against this disease, I am determined to spread the word: Colorectal cancer is very common, yet it is preventable, treatable, and beatable if caught early. The screening procedure is way easier than most people think, and certainly easier than dealing with cancer down the road.

It’s simple. If you’re 50 or older, get a screening test for colon cancer. If you are under 50 with a strong family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about when you should get a screening.

Here are a few simple facts:

1. Early detection is vital.
While colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the US, it is estimated that over 90% of all cases of colon cancer can be prevented with recommended screening. Despite its high incidence, colon cancer is one of the most detectable and, if found early enough, most treatable forms of cancer.

2. Nutrition matters.
According to the American Cancer Society, the best advice about diet and activity to possibly reduce your risk of colon cancer is to:
• Increase the intensity and amount of physical activity
• Limit intake of red and processed meats
• Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D
• Eat more vegetables and fruits and maintain a healthy diet
• Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection
• Avoid excess alcohol

3. Know your family history.
Statistics for the average person may not apply to you. If you have close family members who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer (particularly if they were diagnosed before age 50) speak to your doctor about getting screened early.

Knowledge is power. The more we talk about this and educate everyone, the more lives we will save. Maybe someone you love. Maybe even you.

Additional resources and information can be found at:

Colon Cancer Alliance
Fight Colon Cancer 

Undy 5000 5K Run and Walk – a brief run/walk to fight cancer! For more information or to find a race in a city near you, visit http://support.ccalliance.org/. Or join Powered by Hope/Team Teri at http://terigriege.com/undy-5000/ to walk, run or donate.

Teri Griege had been a high school athlete and always enjoyed sports. She began running marathons in her forties, including Chicago, Boston and New York. Her interest in endurance events led her to triathlons, and she set her sights on the big prize: The Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Teri completed Ironman Louisville in 2008 and missed qualifying for the World Championship by just five minutes. Even more determined, she returned to training. Throughout the next year, Teri suffered minor injuries and was unusually sluggish and tired, but she attributed that to overtraining. When she completed Ironman Louisville in 2009 ten minutes slower than the prior year, she was certain something was wrong. Her suspicions were confirmed with a devastating diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer with metastases to her liver.

Teri wasn’t ready to give up and deepened her resolve to complete the Ironman World Championship. After receiving a special invitation to compete as an inspirational athlete, she trained for this grueling race while undergoing chemotherapy. Knowing she couldn’t do it alone, she assembled an army of supporters, Teri’s Troops, who helped her on her incredible journey.

On October 8, 2011, at age 50, Teri crossed the finish line in Kona.

Today, she brings her inspiring message ––Powered by Hope–– to a variety of groups and organizations.

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