Molly McMaster, creator of the Colossal Colon®, was diagnosed with colon cancer on February 19, 1999 – her 23rd birthday. Although she had symptoms for six months, her doctor never even considered that she could have colorectal cancer because of her age. Molly was finally diagnosed with stage II colon cancer after emergency surgery that removed 25 inches of her large intestine and a tumor the size of two fists.
In the summer of 2000, less than a year after finishing chemotherapy, Molly inline skated from New York to Colorado, where she lived when she first had symptoms. During “Rolling to Recovery,” she raised over $60,000, educated a lot of people, and found a new friend.
Molly and Amanda Sherwood Roberts began their friendship online while Molly was skating across the country, corresponding for almost a year and a half before meeting in person. Both young women were the first person who the other one knew of who had been diagnosed with colon cancer at such a young age. In the summer of 2001, Amanda nominated Molly to carry the 2002 Olympic Torch, and Molly was chosen.
In November of that same year, the two girls finally met in person for the first time. Molly flew to Amanda’s hometown of Little Rock, AR because Amanda was already very sick and not expected to live long. A week after meeting, they appeared with Katie Couric on the “Today” show to tell the world that anyone can get colorectal cancer at any age. During that appearance, Katie Couric told Molly that if she came up with a new crazy project for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, the “Today” show would cover it.
A few weeks later, on January 1, 2002, just two days after Molly ran with the Olympic Torch in her honor, Amanda died at the age of 27. After losing her friend, Molly’s anger and sadness turned into inspiration, and with much thought, she came up with the idea of building a huge colon – to educate the public in memory of Amanda.
When Molly had the idea to build the Colossal Colon®, she approached Adirondack Scenic, Inc. to discuss construction ideas. From Molly’s initial thoughts, Adirondack Scenic created the entire concept of the Colossal Colon®, starting with an initial sketch. From that sketch, many more blueprints were created, and soon the actual construction began.
“Coco,” as the Colossal Colon® is affectionately known, is a 40-foot long, 4-foot tall crawl-through model of the human colon, complete with examples of healthy colon tissue, various diseases of the colon, polyps, and various stages of colorectal cancer. Adirondack Scenic artists created each feature from real colonoscopy photographs to ensure that everything is completely realistic, the entire Colossal Colon® is hand-carved and hand-painted. Adirondack Scenic is also to thank for Coco’s beautiful artistry, as well as many of the special features of the Colossal Colon®, including the overhead windows, the way it breaks down, and the cushy flooring inside.
It took about five weeks to raise the sponsorship money for the Colossal Colon® and to complete the construction process. Coco’s first day on display was March 6, 2002 at Aviation Mall in Queensbury, NY. On March 20, 2002, Katie Couric kept her word and hosted the Colossal Colon® on the “Today” show in the middle of Rockefeller Center Plaza in New York City.
As of the end of 2005, the Colossal Colon® has visited 74 cities in 34 states and Canada, logged about 200,000 visitors, and had over 300 news stories written and broadcast about it.