Creating Experiences to Last a Lifetime

Guest Blog By Sarah DeBord


On the night I was diagnosed, I came home and nursed my baby boy to sleep through uncontrollable tears. As is the case with most babies, he was obsessively in love with me and I with him. My only thought as I stared down at him was if I would live long enough for him to know how much I loved him. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would die before he and …

Let’s talk about sex……AND cancer.

By Riley Lewis Castro

When most people think of sex, the last thing they think about is cancer. That is not the case for me, or the millions of other people in the world that have had the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your outlook) ‘honor’ of experiencing this wonderful disease. I have attended many cancer related functions; and, other than cancer, they all have one complaint in common. Sex and the lack of education survivors are given before, during, …

When Did that Even Happen?

By Diana Sloan


When we are fortunate enough to have our parents with us to a ripe old age, we often end up becoming their caretakers. We return the love and care they gave us when we were unable to care for ourselves. We expect and accept that this is the way of things. It may be hard on both parties to admit the roles have changed due to illness or frailty, but we do it. We take care …

The Talk I Never Wanted to Have

By Diana Sloan

When you have incurable cancer and children, the talk about death is inevitable. But, man, do you really try to avoid it. Not because we shouldn’t talk about death with our kids, but because it is a specific discussion about your death. And like any parent, you want to protect your child from all the pain in the world. Especially this pain.
So when my eight year old daughter snuggled up beside me on the couch this …

Fighting the Fight: Through a Caretaker’s Eyes

By Kristina Smith

After my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer, had a total colectomy, then being reopened, to allow his abdominal wound to heal from the inside out, body issues were a daily struggle for him. A confident, well-built man in his thirties, he now had an abdominal opening that began under his rib cage to below his belly button. There were also issues of having to use the bathroom seven to nine times a day, the

What They Didn’t Tell Me

By Kristina Smith


Going into becoming a model for the Colon Club, brought me great honor, as I would be one of the first to represent caregivers, after losing my husband to colon cancer, all too young. Although past models, now friends, had shared that this experience was life changing, that’s all they could really say. Questions ensued, presented in rapid fire like an intense interview, but still, the answers remained the same. A distant look off into the

Most Magical Vacation from Hell

After 2 HIPEC surgeries in 2005 & 2006 I had PET scan every 3 months. There was a spot “glowing” on my spleen we watched for over a year. It wasn’t getting bigger but it wasn’t going away. Near the end of 2007 my doctors ordered a biopsy. After the procedure the doctor informed me the mass was fluid filled and most likely not cancer. He was wrong.

Cancer again, surgery #5

A splenectomy was performed 12/27/07, 1 day after …

Colon Cancer Ruined My Kidneys But Didn’t Ruin Me

My first HIPEC surgery Friday on 1/21/2005, lasted 14 hours. I was so close to death my surgeon said I wouldn’t have lived through the weekend without it. During the surgery that saved my life, my right ureter was nicked. That tiny little whole in a tiny little tube would have a catastrophic effect on my quality of life forever. Long story short, that nick cost me my right kidney. For years we tried to save it but by 2013,  …

The day cancer took me from anticipation to devastation — and then we danced

Tom Marsilje and his daughters

“CT scan of the abdomen shows the patient to have multiple bilateral, too numerous to count, liver lesions consistent with widespread liver metastases.”

My jaw dropped as I read the report. My vision blurred. The world before my eyes spun and came to a standstill. Reeling, I fumbled for a bench outside near a sign which proclaimed, “There is Always Hope.”
I had woken up feeling laid-back, looking forward to the father-daughter school dance that …

The single life with cancer.


Hindsight- recognition of the realities, possibilities, or requirements of a situation, event, decision etc., after its occurrence.

My name is Kenny Toye. November 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I am blessed to be cancer free at the time of writing.

When the news spread about my diagnosis, I received encouragement and support. It felt good to know that people care. My friends and family wanted to help with anything and everything. As challenging as a …

Single Cancer Survivor

Lauren Miller

“Hello, my name is Lauren. I’m single and a cancer survivor. Want to date me?”

I dread the mere thought of this becoming my name tag in the dating world. But around June 2015, I was looking to get back into the dating game after a recent break up. Most of my previous partners have been guys I met through mutual friends. I knew I didn’t want to meet guys in the bar like I used to in my 20’s …


By Krista Wilson President of The Colon Club


Colossal Idea
Molly (McMaster) Morgoslepov was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer on her 23rd birthday. Feeling broken and alone she set out to and eventually met another young adult survivor – Amanda Sherwood (read their story here: It was through Amanda that Molly met Hannah Vogler and together they founded The Colon Club. Molly and Hannah soon met Erika Kratzer a stage IV survivor diagnosed at 22. They joked about …

March Blue



By Leighann Sturgin

Infusing IV fluids all day and TPN at night I have to pee…quite often. If it’s not my ostomy, it’s my bladder but I feel like I’m running to the bathroom 100 times a day. At night, I frequently dream I’m searching for a bathroom. Sometimes in my dreams I find a toilet, pee but still feel like I have to pee. Sometimes there is something wrong with every toilet I find so I can’t go. …

Colon Camp 2017


Guest Blog by Kenny Toye, Featured Survivor in 2017 Colondar

After my last chemo treatment, the nurse disconnected me from the chemo device that was attached to me every 2 weeks for two days, I thought the world would celebrate with me like I won the Super Bowl, The NBA championship and The Kentucky Derby. I realized quickly that unlike winning a championship, at the conclusion of cancer treatment; there was no trophy presentation, no Gatorade shower, no monetary bonuses, …

Living ‘Skinny-Fat’ and ‘Healthy-Sick’

Staci Wills

Forward by Leighann Sturgin Colon Club Blog Administrator and Colondar 2.0 Staff writer. Featured Survivor in May 2015 Colondar 2.0.

My friends 13 yr old, athletic, daughter, Chloe, is 5’4 3/4″ tall and weighs 98 lbs. My exact dimensions, although, my hips are wider (from carrying and birthing 2 children!) and I have breasts. I said to my husband, “How can we be the same dimensions but look so different? Chloe looks so much skinnier than me.” My husband replied

Starting Young

Anita and daughter

Written by Emily Mitchell (left) daughter of 2007 Colondar survivor Anita Mitchell (right)

As I thought about how to approach my 25-second graders about colon cancer awareness, all I could think about is “I don’t want to scare them” and “can they handle this”. I thought these two things for many reasons. One being that this is a very REAL issue and two being that we are talking about the parts of our body that people seem to avoid like

Family Ties


By Leighann Sturgin

My Lynch Syndrome comes from my Dad’s side of the family. We have the MSH2 gene mutation. My dad has had several polyps removed during colonoscopies over the years and has had several spots of skin cancer. (Both squamous cell and basal cell are related to Lynch.) Two of 6 of my dad’s siblings have had colon cancer in their 30’s. There is more colon cancer in previous generations too. There are 13 grandchildren on my dad’s …



By Leighann Sturgin
I’d like to have One Day Off. One day that I didn’t have to think about the crapsack on my belly. One day I didn’t hear the bag crinkle or my stoma didn’t make weird, loud, embarrassing noises. One day I’m not worried about the crapsack leaking. One day I didn’t need to know where every bathroom along my path was located. I just want one day off from my skin hurting all the time. I believe …

Happy New Year


By Leighann Sturgin

Happy New Year! I’m so thankful to see 2016. The holidays were a little tough for me this year.

On 11/25/15 (the day before Thanksgiving) I had stoma revision surgery. I lost another 12” of small bowel leaving me with a total of 120 cm of intestine. I had a very retracted stoma making it impossible to get a ostomy wafer to seal. The skin around my “innie” stoma looked like hamburger. It hurt…all the time. After …

Perspective on Patience & Life

lauren miller blog

By Lauren Miller

On a recent flight back to Chicago, I had the pleasure of sitting next an 18-year-old male college student. It was an early morning flight, and we boarded the plane in record time. Due to this, our pilot announced we would have an early arrival. The young man said allowed, “Yes! I have a connecting flight and I was worried I’d miss it.” This gave him an immediate sense of relief, and we began talking about what …

Hope, Strength and Inspiration

Lauren Miller

By 2016 Colondar Model Lauren Miller


I recently found out my coworker is having preventive surgery for breast cancer. She is a 5-year

breast cancer survivor and had the genetic testing done. It was confirmed that she has BRCA-1

gene. Because of this, she is also getting a partial hysterectomy in December to remove her

fallopian tubes. She will then get double mastectomy in March. What struck me as surreal was

that she is 52 years old, and came

I’m Stuck


I’m stuck…I’m stuck between a world of cancer and wellness. I’m very grateful to be cancer-free but I’m far from healthy. It’s a lonely place. Sometimes I find myself jealous, even resentful of people who beat cancer and carry on with “normal” life. Then I’m quickly reminded of the many friends who have finished the race and are now resting then I feel guilty. I do not envy my friends who are on chemo indefinitely, or the ones who’ve run …

2016 Colon Camp

2016 colondar-family

By 2016 Colondar Model Phuong Gallagher


Eight years ago today, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Although the cancer itself was not a blessing, some of the things that it brought me absolutely are. It has given me the experience and with it the wisdom to help those that are lost somewhere in the journey through their own diagnosis. It has also taken me through my own journey where I have met precious friends along the way. Too often …

Health Insurance Q&A

By Andrew Elder

After my last post, The Best Defense is Good Insurance, I received an email from a recently diagnosed gentleman (we’ll call him “Mike”) through LinkedIN with several excellent follow-up questions. I replied, but it seemed that his connection in LinkedIN wasn’t working. So to be sure Mike receives my response, and to hopefully answer some questions others of you may have had, I’m including his questions and my answers below.

Bear in mind, I’m giving my …

Call on Congress 2015


One day in 2006, while I was on my way to see my oncologist, the Patient Navigator at my cancer center stopped me in the hall and asked me if I’d be interested in going to Washington, DC to talk to Congress about colon cancer with a group of strangers who call themselves Fight CRC. I pictured someone testifying before ALL of Congress, like you see on C-SPAN. And thoughts of traveling with TPN and all the medical supplies that …

Last Moments with My Best Friend

Belle and Maria

By Maria Williams

I lost my best friend a short time ago. As I sit here re-reading through the e-mail she sent me regarding her final wishes I find something I had either forgotten or suppressed. She asked, with great clarity, that I write about her final experience, her death. This is something Belle and I often spoke of in her final weeks. We discussed how there are detailed accounts, opinions and specifics about all other aspects of life: birth, …

The Last Blog


By Belle Piazza

Over the years on The Colon Club, I have read about knights in shining armor. Husbands whose wives they could not do without. Husbands who meet their every need, every moment of every day. And it angers me because I wasn’t lucky enough to have landed such perfection, but this isn’t a vent blog. One of my rules has always been a blog cannot be just a vent, it has to have a purpose, and I will …

Very terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


By Belle Piazza

Today was a hard day.  I’ve recently been put on a dilaudid pain pump – so I’m receiving dilaudid 24/7 with a bolus button I can push for break through pain.  It’s taken a little adjustment and I’m not hallucinating as I doze off as much as I used to – but I wouldn’t say I feel 100% normal 100% of the time.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been advised against driving. You always hear about elderly drivers who …

Belle Strong

Belle Strong cropped

By Leighann Sturgin

After a respectful ‘moment’ of blog silence, it’s only fitting this blog entry should be in honor of our beloved Belle. She and I developed a relationship while writing for this blog together over the last 9 months. She was an amazing, honest, genuine, person with an infectious smile and delicious laugh. She didn’t bother with fluff, she knew there was no time for it.

I’d read many of her stories on The Colon Club blog but …

Last Time?


by Leighann  Sturgin

“Wonder if this will be the last time we’ll all be together?” said my new friend and colon cancer sister, Lindsey. We’d just spent the past 5 days at the 2015 Colondar 2.0 photo shoot with 10 other colon cancer survivors being treated like rock stars by the Colondar staff, many of whom are survivors themselves having modeled in previous Colondars. We were sitting in a Nashville airport restaurant waiting to fly home, back to our real …

When is Enough, Enough?


by Belle Piazza

I always wondered how a cancer patient comes to the conclusion that they’re ready to decline all further treatment and let the disease take its course. I have a husband and two beautiful children who love me. I have an idyllic life living here in the beautiful northwest. I am surrounded by friends who love me – both near and far. So how – HOW – do you say enough is enough? I’m done.   I’m ready to …

2015 Colondar


Sex After Cancer


by Leighann Sturgin

The surgeon who performed my first surgery, a total colectomy and left oophorectomy, had no personality. He was always very serious and didn’t fill me with any warm fuzzy feelings. I was lying on the operating table, in the cold, stark white, sterile OR when Dr. No-Personality came in the room and asked if I had any last questions before the surgery. “Yes” I said, “One question; How long do I have to wait to have anal …

Lost and Found

Clinical Trial

by Belle Piazza

It’s funny the things you remember when you have cancer and the things you don’t. I distinctly remember the day before my colonoscopy. I was mowing our lawn on our riding lawnmower. It was a beautiful sunny fall day and I was over by the dog run as I thought to myself, “there will be life before my colonoscopy and there will be life after my colonoscopy – but it will never be the same”. I don’t …

Life Goes On

photog 2

by Janet Klostermann

Many times, one can find irony in life. A couple of weeks ago, the national news media was focused on the 2 year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy and the anger of people affected by it who have not had their lives return to normal yet. This information surprised me because Super Storm Sandy was just a tiny blip on my radar at the time it happened. We were in Dallas and our 28 year old daughter …

The Best Defense is Good Insurance

by Andrew Elder

Let’s face it; Chicken vs Egg philosophers have it easy. When thinking about money issues that come along with a cancer diagnosis, it’s hard to pick which emergency topic should come first: Should it be health insurance to cover all those expensive treatments? Should it be life insurance to provide security to those who may be left behind? Should it be fundamental personal financial concepts to get control of income and start putting out those debt fires?…

Scanxiety and Being a Crumb

by Leighann Sturgin

I admit it. I had a little scanxiety about the CT scan. It was a recheck from a PET/CT three months earlier. It seems there’s always something lighting up on my scans; follow-ups are inevitable. A few minutes after I arrived a tech brought me a yummy liter of iodine water to drink; but before he hands it to me, he asks if I’ve had anything to eat or drink in the last 4 hours. No one …

Clinical Trial Crossroads


by Belle Piazza

He walks into the room and immediately asks “What’s wrong with your face?” This man can read me like a book. He notices even the smallest of changes. My hair, my face, my appearance in general. No, it’s not my husband (are you kidding me?) or some illicit affair I’m having. It’s my Oncologist. I’ve been seeing him for close to 7 years now. Next to my husband, the longest relationship I’ve had with any man. And …

After the Battle, Life Remains

Family and Money

by Andrew Elder

Let’s face it; cancer ain’t cheap. Besides threatening to kill you, cancer can potentially devastate your career, disrupt your family and friendships, and generally take over your life. And a lot of that has to do with money. From diagnosis to treatment to recovery, cancer can be a breathtakingly expensive ordeal. But that fact does not mean that a cancer diagnosis is an automatic ticket to the poor house. More importantly, though perhaps harder to hear, a

It’s About Forgiveness


by Belle Piazza

Awhile back it was suggested by a friend of mine that I reach out to a friend I had lost touch with many years ago to reconnect. We’d lost touch over something silly, as is often the case, and what I considered one of my closest friends at the time, was no longer a part of my life. The two of us opted to drift apart and as I tend to do, I put it all behind …

Faith or Fear?

DSC_0205 pa

by Leighann Sturgin

I had been home from the hospital for two days following my 5th major surgery. I still had a drain tube in my abdomen. I guess I was a little too active too soon. Somehow, the drain tube poked a hole through my stomach. I was bleeding internally. I knew something was wrong. Once again it was the middle of the night. My husband and sons were sound asleep. I noticed the drain bulb full of blood. …

You Have Cancer


By Tina Seymour

“You had cancer. You understand what I’m going through.”
Yes. And also, no.
No, I don’t.
If you’re talking about the big picture of cancer…the finding out…the gut check when it feels like you’ve been kicked in the ribs by a mule. The momentary silence that descends…ears ringing…floor looking a Hell of a lot closer as you grope behind you for something to hold onto so you don’t face plant on it…sinking to your knees at the …

The Cancer After Cancer

Andrew Elder

by Andrew Elder

To paraphrase Nietzsche: that which doesn’t kill you will often leave you flat broke. It’s the side-effect of cancer that often gets overlooked in movies, books and blogs. And it’s a quiet affliction. Even 5Ks or bake sales raising money for families with a cancer diagnosis don’t often say; “Hey, we’re frickin’ BROKE here!” It’s the “after-cancer”, the one that even the cancer you beat can leave behind, the cancer of financial destitution. I’ve been there, …

The Pain in My Back

Chiro Tree


by Belle Piazza

As I pulled out of my driveway I realized I’d forgotten my cell phone. That’s not going to help me in getting ahold of my chiropractor who I’d just called and left my number with on her answering machine. No time now though; I had just a little under two hours to drop off a load of toys at the 2nd hand store, return a pair of shoes I decided I’d never wear (despite how comfy …

The Pain in My Back

Chiro Tree


by Belle Piazza

As I pulled out of my driveway I realized I’d forgotten my cell phone. That’s not going to help me in getting ahold of my chiropractor who I’d just called and left my number with on her answering machine. No time now though; I had just a little under two hours to drop off a load of toys at the 2nd hand store, return a pair of shoes I decided I’d never wear (despite how comfy …

Dysfunctional Communication

todd and leighann

by Leighann Sturgin

My husband is a man of few words. Communicating is a challenge for us. Our communication is a bit dysfunctional. Mosby’s medical dictionary defines ‘Dysfunctional Communication’ as communication that results from inaccurate perceptions, faulty internal filters (personal interpretations or information), and social isolation. This in a nutshell describes my marriage. The other day my husband and I managed to have an actual conversation that wasn’t about our kids, the schedule or what’s for dinner. I shared with …

Take That Cancer!

Angie, Doug & Belle

by Belle Piazza

I walked into the dry cleaner’s to pick up my husbands clean clothes the same way I have dozens of times over the past eight years. I greeted the owner the same as I always have, petted her little dog that loves to chase it’s ball and dumped my husbands dirty clothes on their counter. We exchanged our usual greetings and then she asked me if it would be all right if she asked me a question. …

I’m Not Cancer’s Bitch!


by Leighann Sturgin

Recently, on Facebook, a sorority sister of mine posted results to a quiz called “How Bitchy are you?” She scored 82%, which put her in the “Mega-Bitch” category. This surprised no one; not even her. I don’t usually participate in those types of quizzes but I did just to see if I was right about myself. I, of course, was right. I scored 14% bitch, which put me in the “Not a bitch at all” category. But …


by Belle Piazza

“What do you think?” I asked my husband as he put my latest blog down and glanced up at me.
“You spent a lot of time writing that didn’t you?” he replied. Not what I expected nor wanted to hear. He clearly wasn’t impressed. “It’s not what you normally write. You’re dancing all over the place – every paragraph could be a blog”. He was right. I touched on many things but didn’t focus on any one. …

Not Alone

2015 Models

by Leighann Dunn Sturgin

It was coming up on the 10 year anniversary of my March 2004 diagnosis. I started to wonder if there were any other young, ten year, stage IV colon cancer, Lynch Syndrome, survivors, living life after cancer. I thought the odds of finding someone just like me were pretty slim. For ten years, I felt so isolated and alone in the small, Amish country, Ohio town where I live. Initially, after my diagnosis, I sought out …

Make Lists


by Belle Piazza

As time goes on and I find myself running short on options for treatment, the question nags in the back of my mind – what should I leave behind for my children. Photo’s, letters, video recorded interviews – all great ideas, but except for the photo’s, very hard to tackle as a project. I’m a project oriented person. I love projects, organizing things and the feeling of accomplishment when a project is finished. But trying to record …

A View from the Chemo Chair

Gwen Hobbs

Gwen Hobbs

by Gwen Hobbs

When I was first diagnosed and went to meet with my oncologist, I had just a glimpse of the chemo room and the occupants of the chairs. I shuddered thinking that could be me some day. My impressions were tiny gaunt people who looked like they had been through the ringer. Little did I realize that that room would become almost like a second home. Three years later, I just started my 50th round of …

Wendy’s Story – A Mother Lost

Amber & Michael

by Wendy Touchette

The email link to your January blog post sat in my inbox for many weeks. I have struggled with what to respond, how to respond or even whether I should respond. As I finally reply, although my words may not be quite as elegant or humorous as yours are in your blog posts, I hope my words can be honest and heartfelt and maybe give you food for thought.

Although I am a mom and went through …

The Joy and the Sorrow of Cancer

Angie Laroche and Belle Piazza

Angie Laroche and Belle Piazza

by Belle Piazza

The phone call from my oncologist didn’t surprise me, but still, it was upsetting. The tumor we radiated had shrunk, but there were new tumors – most between my lung and my chest wall. An unusual presentation my oncologist told me. Clearly the chemo cocktail of Irinotecan and Erbitux wasn’t working as this was my 3rd scan in a row with growth. Time to change to one of my last resort chemo’s …

Dear Colon Cancer


by Jose Baez

Dear Colon Cancer,

For five and half years we have had a turbulent and, at times, violent relationship. You came on strong, skipping all stages and going straight to stage 4 like I was a pushover. It caught me off guard, surrendering to the overwhelming emotional strain of your demand for attention. But with help from family and friends, I started to realize how much stronger I am. With professional help from my oncologist, I fought back …

God and Cancer


by Belle Piazza

We hear it on a semi-regular basis here at The Colon Club. “If there was a God, why would he let me suffer like this?” I don’t have an answer to this question – none of us do. We all struggle to understand the why behind this disease. What strikes me though, is the selfishness of the question. Not that I haven’t asked this very question myself; I have, many times. People who have held fast to …

Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis


by Eric Johnson

My first reaction after hearing my cancer diagnosis was, “I need to figure out a good way to kill myself before I become totally debilitated and worthless.” Another strategy that I considered was to become–by design–a rather nasty, disagreeable person who nobody would miss when I was gone. Sick, I know. This was, I should point out, well before I had been staged; before I had my first, baseline CT scan. I was panicking and jumping to …

March On!

Michael COC

by Belle Piazza

March has come to be one of my favorite months, for a reason I never anticipated. March is widely recognized as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and organizations across the country celebrate it with different awareness and educational events. No doubt I will hear “but lung cancer is important too – and pancreatic, and childhood cancer’s – all cancer’s are important and deserve attention”. To this I could not agree more. But education and awareness of colorectal cancer …

Lessons Learned

by Janet Klostermann

Many of you know me as “Janklo”, the mom of Lauren, who died at age 28 of signet ring cell colon cancer. But I also have prior experience with a close family member who was diagnosed with cancer. In 1984, when I was 23 years old with a 3-week old baby (Lauren), my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now 1984 version of medical treatment is like the dark ages compared to today’s treatments. I still remember …

Fitness Against Cancer

photo of Jose

by Jose Baez

As I wipe the sweat off my face, I look around the gym and see the familiar faces of gym-goers and reflect how this routine part of my life played an important role in overcoming stage four colon cancer. In high school, I played soccer and wrestling. During my college years, I started running as a way to stay fit and found it to be a great stress reliever. Although I still loved running, my career and …

Was It Worth It?


by Belle Piazza

Despite Christmas being my least favorite holiday, December is always a crazy busy month for our family. This past December I owe part of the craziness and a tremendous amount of thanks, to my friend Jaynee (weisssoccermom as most of you know her). For the past several years, Jaynee has gifted to our family a weekend in her time share condo in Leavenworth – a charming little Bavarian town set in the mountains of eastern Washington. The …

David Dubin is AliveAndKickn


by Belle Piazza

I first met David Dubin at The Colondar photo shoot in June of 2011. I can’t say I remember the exact moment we met, but what I do remember is hearing voice. He has a voice that is reminiscent of Barry White with a little Nicholas Cage mixed in to lighten it up just a bit. Visualize that ladies. At the Colondar shoot it was difficult for me to hear the stories of the models – because …

Ask Humbly, Give Willingly, Accept Graciously

take what you need

by Belle Piazza

Living with cancer, especially as long as I’ve been dealing with it (6+ years now), the question of “what can I do to help?” comes up a lot. Simple question, complex answer. I can only speak for myself based on my experiences and what I appreciate the most. So here goes, my best shot at answering that oh so illusive “what can I do to help?” question.

First off, I really, really try to do things myself. …

The Red Hobbit Foot

Michael and Whiskey Michael and Whiskey

by Belle Piazza

Today was “evil chemo day” for me; a day that I dread, but I only have to go through once every three weeks. I get Erbitux, Irinotecan and I start my two-week cycle of Xeloda. It’s a long day at the chemo center and it begins a period of 3-7 days of feeling like total crap. I’d made arrangements for the kids, who are out on summer break, to spend the day at their …

Colon Cancer Stars!

Polly Polyp

by Belle Piazza
The April sponsor for the 2013 Colondar is an organization close to my heart and close to my home – Colon Cancer Stars in Seattle, Washington. Founded by former Colondar Model (April 2007) and friend of mine, Anita Mitchell and her friend and fellow stage 4 colon cancer survivor, Carmen Mitchell. Anita and Carmen met during treatment for stage 4 colon cancer in 2005 and instantly became friends. Both diagnosed in their early 40’s with stage 4 …

Pretty in Pink

Pink Princess

by Belle Piazza

It was a bit of a rush from the Vancouver office where I’d received my radiation treatment earlier that morning down to Portland where I was scheduled to meet with my oncologist and receive my Erbitux infusion. As I checked in with the receptionist, she warned me with a bit of skepticism that film crews from The Rachel Ray Show were in the office. “Why?” I asked – not realizing it was October – the month that …

Living with Chemo for Life

walk each other home
by Belle Piazza

“I’m going to run your CEA again to check on it, it’s risen quite a bit.”

“How much did it jump?” I ask my oncologist.

“It’s 70” (up from 19 at the beginning of the summer) Don’t get hung up on a number he tells me, but I know better and I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Increases in my CEA have always corresponded with growth of my cancer.

I frequently hear from …

Tell Me a Story

Heather Forest, Master Storyteller

Heather Forest, Master Storyteller

by Belle Piazza

This past weekend my friend Maria, her two boys and my two kids loaded into the mini-van and headed north on I-5 to Federal Way, Washington for a Storytelling Festival at Powell’s Garden – just south of Seattle. I first heard about this festival almost a year ago while watching CBS News Sunday Morning. A national TV show to learn about a storytelling festival practically in my own back yard – go figure. …

One Voice Against Cancer

Diana Christianson, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Belle Piazza and Jessica Wixson, LA for Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler

Diana Christian, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Belle Piazza and Jessica Wixson, LA for Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler

by Belle Piazza

The cab ride from Dulles International Airport to Capital Hill was long. I struck up a conversation with the driver who I learned was from Ethiopia. “What do you like the most about living in the United States?” I asked him. Without hesitation his response was “freedom to speak what you want to”. How true.

I had been invited to D.C. …

Fight Colorectal Cancer!

Call on Congress 2013

Call on Congress 2013

by Belle Piazza
The May sponsor for The Colondar is near and dear to my heart – Fight Colorectal Cancer. I first discovered this group through Gaelen, who many of you remember. She was very passionate about this group and their cause. Their Mission Statement reads as follows: “Fight Colorectal Cancer demands a cure for colon and rectal cancer. We educate and support patients, push for changes in policy that will increase and improve research and …

Get Your Rear in Gear!

Get Your Rear in Gear

Get Your Rear in Gear

by Belle Piazza

If you get nothing more out of this blog article than what I’m about to tell you now, mission accomplished.  Right now – this very minute, go to the web-site for “Get Your Rear in Gear” and find out if there is an upcoming 5K Run in your area – and sign up yourself and your family to participate!  Not a run in your area, okay, we’ll get to that.


Our Dirty Little Secrects

Lake George
by Belle Piazza

Somehow with a cancer diagnosis the word gets out whether you want it to or not. Friends who you’ve lost touch with years ago resurface. People cautiously inquire as to your well being or lack thereof. A common question in everyone’s mind is “how could this happen to such a good person?”. And certainly I suspect the fear is there that if it can happen to me it can happen to pretty much anyone.

A friend I’d …

Third Eye Colonoscopy

By Grant Choe, Third Eye Colonoscopy and Belle Piazza, The Colon Club

Our March 2013 sponsor for The Colondar is Third Eye® colonoscopy whose slogan is “Insist on seeing more.” As I began to do this blog about the company, my first question was “what the heck do they do?” So off to their web-site I went, where they have lots of easy to read information and data about their technology.

What I learned was that, although colonoscopy is the …

Cure is a Four Letter Word


by Belle Piazza

I always know that my scan is bad when my oncologist comes into the exam room, grabs his chair, and gets right down to business. If the scan was good he’d come into the room, shake my hand and instead of talking about the scan, he’d ask me how I’m doing and talk to me like an old friend rather than a cancer patient getting their scan results. Eventually he gets to the scan, which I’ve usually …

Call on Congress 2013 – It’s Never Really “Over”

Rachel and Belle

by Belle Piazza

Late Wednesday evening, surrounded by fellow advocates on the crowded dance floor – Rodrick Samuels, our charismatic and inspirational speaker for training, conga line leader and for the moment our D.J., shouted out over the music, “Take the “L” out of “Lover”, cause this party is “OVER!”. Over. I can’t believe it’s over and time to say our final good byes to people who are as close to me as my own family, more so in some …

Giving Cancer its Due……..NOT!

You never know how strong you are...

by Belle Piazza

Giving Cancer it’s Due…….NOT!!!!!

In my last blog, which I called “Surviving the Day”, I almost didn’t publish it because I thought it was so depressing that no one would want to read it. But I did publish it and I got some wonderful feedback from those who read it (thank you all so much!). But I really hate to be a Debbie Downer. I thought I should write a follow up blog to offset how depressing …

COLON CANCER CHALLENGE FOUNDATION New York Colon Cancer Challenge – April 7, 2013

By Belle Piazza

When I first joined The Colon Club in 2008, one of the first things I did was order myself a copy of the The Colondar. I’ve had a current Colondar hanging on my kitchen wall ever since.

The Colondar is one of the main ways the The Colon Club spreads awareness and education of colorectal cancer to everyone who sees it, as well as hope and inspiration for those of us fighting the disease.

Publishing The Colondar …

Media Alert: Young colon cancer survivors available for interviews during March’s colon cancer awareness

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Feb. 14, 2013 – March is colon cancer awareness month – a time when stories featuring “butts and guts” become appropriate for the nightly newscast. The Colon Club has a database of young colorectal cancer survivors from across the U.S. available for interviews and willing to share their stories. To set up an interview with a nearby colon cancer survivor, please email or call (816) 729-7760.

Why feature colon cancer in young adults?

meaghan-volk-1-colon-cancerTraditionally, colon …

Surviving The Day


Surviving The Day

by Belle Piazza

I hear the dogs nails clicking down the tile hallway and I know it’s time to rise and shine; wake the kids and start my day. Before entering the shower, the colostomy bag comes off and is disposed of in an old Ziploc bag, which contains the smell amazingly well. Some shower with the bag on but I like to go commando – it’s the 15 minutes a day when I don’t have to …

Meet Brian Novak – Mr. January 2013

Meet Brian – a stage III colon cancer survivor, diabetic and world traveler.

Sometimes, facing a life-threatening disease can leave you paralyzed with fear. Although you’re fighting hard to save your life … through treatment and beyond it can be scary to live your life.

Be inspired by Brian as he explains that he doesn’t let his sicknesses or health stop him from living his life. Watch as he talks about some of his amazing life experiences that have come …

The Colon Club Adds Teen Survivor, Healthcare Marketer to Board

WILTON, N.Y. – Jan. 17, 2013 – Advocating colon cancer awareness and colonoscopy screening isn’t an easy job. Luckily, two women with a passion for colon cancer and a background in marketing have joined the Board of Directors of The Colon Club to help. Danielle Ripley-Burgess, colorectal cancer survivor diagnosed in her teens, and Debbie Donovan, healthcare marketing consultant, are the two newest board members to join the non-profit group.

“These two ladies bring a tremendous amount of experience and …

Friend, Foe or Family?

Belle Piazza, Danielle Ripley Burgess, Krista Waller, Adam Benlon

by Belle Piazza

My brother e-mailed me the other day to compliment me on my latest blog entry for The Colon Club, which was nice I thought (the compliment that is). Then he suggested I blog about how a survivors family members are affected by their cancer diagnosis. It’s a good thing he couldn’t see my face when I read that e-mail – as he would have been greeted with a …

It’s That Time of Year Again

by Belle Piazza

It’s that time of year again. Christmas, sure, but what I’m talking about is applying to be a model in the 2014 Colondar; the photo shoot for which will take place in June of 2013. As a 2012 model myself, I can’t believe how long its been since I was the lucky one in front of the camera, all made up and pretty for my photo shoot. Of course The Colondar can only accommodate 12 models each …

Meet Miss December | Reagan Barnett

You can imagine our surprise when we sat down with Reagan and asked, “How did you feel when you were diagnosed with colon cancer at age 22?” and her immediate response:  “Relieved.” But for someone with colon cancer running through her family and years worth of symptoms and pain, she was happy to finally have answers. Read on to learn more about Miss December, Reagan Barnett, a great spokesperson and advocate for colorectal cancer, and especially …

Celebrating My Five Year Cancerversary

by Belle Piazza

This past weekend we celebrated my son’s 10th birthday and my five year cancerversary. Except of course that I didn’t really ‘celebrate’ my cancerversary more so than I acknowledged it. Five years ago, the day before my son’s 5th birthday, we received the call from the surgeon’s office confirming the pathology results from my colonoscopy. Yup, it’s cancer. We proceeded to celebrate Michael’s 5th birthday with friends and family and watched on as the children ate cake, …

Meet Miss November | Paige Hartmann

Yes, it’s true. This beautiful gal that’s featured as Miss November is a survivor of colon cancer… diagnosed at age 21. The Colon Club was thrilled to meet her and have her model for us in the 2012 Colondar. Read on to learn more about Paige!

paige-hartmann-21-year-old-colon-cancerThe BASICS

Name: Paige Hartmann

Diagnosis: Stage III rectal cancer in October 2009.

Age at Diagnosis: 21



Where were you when you found out you had colon cancer? 

I was …

Taking it one Day at a Time

Here at The Colon Club we have members of all ages, races, religions and walks of life. We have men, women, fathers, mothers, children, spouses, brothers and sisters. Our one common connection, sadly, is that colorectal cancer has touched our lives, directly or indirectly. When I think of who I am, “mother” is the first word that comes to my mind. I am the mother of two children, ages 10 and 12. Sure, I’m much more than that, but that’s …

Meet Ms. October | Staci Wills

Now although she does have striking resemblance to her, October’s model is not Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie. It’s Staci Wills, a brave rectal cancer survivor from Canfield, OH. Read on to learn more about this funny, charming survivor we’re proud to call one of our own at The Colon Club.


Staci-wills-stage-3-rectal-cancerName: Staci Wills

Diagnosis: Stage III rectal cancer in July 2009.

Age at Diagnosis: 32



Where were you when

Just My Cup of Pee

by Belle Piazza

So today was chemo day. Same old same old. My routine started with the lab technicians drawing a blood sample from my port. Sometimes this goes smoothly, other times the port doesn’t want to give blood and I end up having to contort my head and arms in poses reminiscent of an old fashioned T.V. antennae until we find the right position and the blood starts to flow. Today I was lucky and I didn’t have to …

Women’s Ice Hockey November 2nd thru 4th, 2012 to benefit The Colon Club!

colon_logo-colon-club-fundraiserCalling all hockey fans! This November in beautiful Lake George, NY, there will be a 3 day womens hockey tournament to raise money for The Colon Club. The games begin Friday evening, November 2nd at 5 p.m. and will run till close to midnight. Saturday morning, November 3rd, the excitement begins again at 7 a.m. and will continue till close to midnight. Sunday, November 4th is the final day, with games beginning at 7 a.m. and running till late afternoon.…

Meet Mr. September | Adam Benlon

Turning the calendar to Mr. September makes us smile anyway, but especially because we get to stare at Adam for the next month. Not only is his story of survivorship inspiring, but his jokes and humor make him extra fun. Enjoy getting to know this latest colon survivor!

Adam-benlon-colon-cancer-survivorThe BASICS

Name: Adam Benlon

Diagnosis: Stage IIIc colon cancer on  August 18, 2009

Age at Diagnosis: 29



Where were you when you found out you had colon

A Jarring Ride Back to Reality

I have been blessed as a survivor. All the people I have met through various colorectal cancer groups are survivors, and many are what I call “thrivers.” Colorectal cancer has hit them hard, but they just keep going. The survivors I have met are just that – survivors. Most of my friends through these groups are either getting on with their life, are learning to live a new “normal” life, or are years past their diagnosis.

I can read. I …

Musings on my patient/caregiver relationship

by Staci Wills

From the day I was diagnosed until the day I rang the closing bell on chemo, I tried my best to avoid hearing the statistics, small percentages, possible side effects associated with my cancer, but I also avoided other colorectal cancer patients.  That sounds harsh, but I didn’t want to hear what could, might, or would happen to me.  I didn’t want to hear what the statistics said about Stage III rectal cancer.  I didn’t want to …

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

by Belle Piazza

As I left the house the other day to get my nails done, I told my husband I’d probably come back with no hair. I’m going to do it I told him, I really am. And I figured I better get my nails done first so I had some identifying feminine mark on my body. Two rounds of Irinotecan several months earlier had done its damage. Since then, my hair has continued to thin. And thin and …

Meet Miss August | Melissa Bates

Woo hoo! We are so excited to introduce you to this beautiful young woman, Miss August! Not only is she so cuper cute, but she’s also got one of the biggest hearts you’ll find. Read on to learn a little bit more about Miss August, Melissa Bates.



Name: Melissa Bates

Diagnosis: Stage III rectal cancer on October 2, 2008

Age at Diagnosis: 20



Where were you when you found out you

Losing One of Our Own

by Belle Piazza

July 17th, 2012, we lost one of the great ones. We lost one of our own. We lost Pat Steer, aka ‘Gaelen’.

I first joined The Colon Club in February 2008, Pat joined a few months later in June 2008. I got in the habit of reading her posts whether the topic applied to me or not because I knew whatever she had to say, it would be interesting, intelligent and okay, sometimes a bit controversial. Early …

Cancerversary – When Is It?

by Staci Wills

This week marks my three-year cancerversary – I think? Do you celebrate your cancerversary based on the day you were diagnosed or the day you finished chemo? Three years, in relation to my age (35), is a very short time. Three years goes by so quickly. Major life changes happen in just three years. I remember that when I was 10, I thought I would never be a teenager. At 13, I thought 16 would never arrive. …

Finding My Voice – Part 3 of 3 – Finding My Inner Voice

Read part 1 of 3 here

Read part 2 of 3 here

By Belle Piazza


As a Colondar Model I was able to meet and connect with people who would later offer me various opportunities to become involved in raising awareness.  Some offers I have jumped at, others I have politely declined.  I’ve learned that for me to be effective, I need to feel passionate about what I’m doing – AND to have fun with it.  If it seems …

Finding My Voice – Part 2 of 3 – Call on Congress

Read Part 1 of 3


Every March, National Colo-rectal Cancer Awareness Month, I write a letter to the editor at our small local newspaper discussing colo-rectal cancer and the importance of colonoscopies. Every year it gets published. I live in a small town and most all letters to the editor get published, including the ones that preach about the apocalypse, complain about potholes and advocate for the rights of sea lions. But still, I consider it an accomplishment. I’ve …

Finding My Voice – Part 1 of 3

Part 1 of 3 – Becoming an Advocate

It was fall in the Pacific Northwest, my absolute favorite time of year. Fall of 2007 was an especially bright one; lots of sunshine, vibrant fall colors and that cool crispness in the air. I got my kids safely on the school bus and headed down to CVS Pharmacy in Vancouver to run an errand I’d been particularly dreading.

As I drove south on 503 there were a dozen or so places …