Monday, March 2, 2015

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. What does it take to show that you are aware? Could it be as simple as saying, "I assert that colon cancer exists as a disease"? 


That is not what proper awareness means. What I want from you is not simply your assent, but your engagement. For some, engagement is easy, perhaps too easy. This year, in the USA and Canada, it is estimated that 146,000 will be diagnosed with colonrectal, or anal cancer. That means just over 12,000 people will be diagnosed with colonrectal, or anal cancer during the month of March alone. Now that is engagement, but not the kind I'm hoping for. 


Take note that these figuredo not include all the people who are already living with colorectal cancer and its effects: those who are in active treatment (radiation and chemotherapy); those who suffer from the long-term effects of surgery and treatments; and those who, like me, are living with genes that predispose their bodies to cancers like colorectal tumors. 


Nor do those numbers take into account all the people who live with people who live with colorectal cancer. The thousands of friends, families, and medical caregivers who actively support those people who are struggling through, and triumphing over, colorectal cancer. 


There are a lot of people who, by virtue of being singled out by colorectal cancer, are certainly engaged--not only during the month of March, but in all the other months as well. 


So why these awareness months? Are we not already aware? Between the patients and the families and the friends and the medical professionals, you'd think virtually all of us are aware of colorectal cancer. 


But, really, we are not. Cancer of all kinds is one of those things that needs to be actively brought to the attention of people. And, no, I am not talking about big expensive campaigns that spend almost as much money as they raise in donations. What I am talking about is people engaging with people. People engaging with their own bodies. And, frankly, people engaging with their wallets as they consider what health and research is worth. Awareness is people engaging with the ravages of a disease which, in many cases, can be prevented or reduced in frequency by changes in lifestyle. Exercising daily and changing from a sedentary to an active lifestyle can lower the risk of colorectal cancer by 30% or more in the average person. 


But awareness is also the continued recognition of the cost of disease and of the reality of our mortality. It brings us face to face with the brevity of life. 


In my talks around the content of my book, What I Learned from Cancer, I speak about the three most important things that I learned from my journey through cancer, a journey that has been more than 20 years in the making and continues for me from day to day. These are the things that, for me, are the most important part of being aware. To be truly aware is to open our eyes to the things in life that are important. Being aware is to step into the light and embrace the lives that we have been given. Being aware is to live in full knowledge that the cure, however that is defined, is ultimatelnot the most important thing. 


I learned three things in my journey through and with cancer. I learned, first, that I am not my disease, and I will actively resist anyone who would treat me as though I am. I am not my disease means that whatever my disease, my ailment, or my crisis is, I can and should be treated as the person I am rather than a problem to be fixed. 


I learned, second, that my community is the most important resource I have. My community--the people around me who are my friends, my family, my co-workers--these are the ones from whom I draw strength when my strength fails. The ones whose comfort I take and whose arms I rest in when I am weary. The ones whom I should never push away in either the highs or lows of my life. 


And finally, I learned that my wholeness is far more important than my health. All of us, each one, is afflicted with a condition that we share with all of humanity. We are mortal. And while colorectal cancer takes some of us sooner than we would like, in the end we all must go. We make a mark on the world, and then we leave behind the legacy we have created. We leave behind the effects of our accomplishments; we leave behind friends and family. We all leave something behind. And with that knowledge we can begin to quest after those things which are most important: lives of integrity and meaning. 


I am aware of colorectal cancer, for I have had it removed from my body twice. I am aware of what it has taken from me. I am aware of the emotional and physical toll that it has exacted on my friends, my family, and me. But in my awareness of cancer, I am drawn to a more profound awareness, one that I am only just learning to embrace and understand: there are so many things that cancer cannot take from me. And it is those things that drive me to be the best person I can be, despite what cancer would try to take.

In celebration of Colon Cancer Awareness month I am having a sale on my book, What I Learned from Cancer. Starting on March 3rd the eBook will be priced at $.99US and this sale will extend to the end of day on March 9th. After that, and continuing throughout March, you will still find a reduced price, just less and less as the month wears on.

To buy an electronic copy of the book for Kindle and Kindle readers visit any Amazon online store. Here are links to some of them. USA: Canada: UK:

I am also waiving shipping charges on all purchases of physical copies of the book from the Prompters to Life web store. To purchase the hard or soft cover version of the book, please visit: Use the discount code march to receive free shipping, anywhere in the world.

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