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Staying Positive While Facing Stage 4 Rectal Cancer, With Chere Garcia

Chere Garcia

Staying Positive While Facing Stage 4 Rectal Cancer, With Chere Garcia

Chere and her family have had one hell of a year. In May 2014 Horacio’s mother, Aurora, was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was heartbreaking news to the family. Chere took initiative to care for aurora by being present day to day, cooking for her, helping with her medications and doctors appointments and so much more. Soon the family would learn that Aurora’s cancer had spread. Knowing that they didn’t have much more time with Aurora, Chere and Horacio decided to get married so that she could be in attendance. They had a beautiful wedding in August 2014. Aurora’s health continued to decline and she passed away in October 2014. Chere cared for her until she took her last breath. In November 2014 Horacio was laid off of his job. Chere has been the sole provider ever since. As you can imagine this is very unfortunate, but they just kept pushing forward and doing the best they could. It was around this time that Chere started experiencing changes in her health. She had decreased energy levels, no appetite, and changes to her gastrointestinal system. These symptoms progressively began to worsen. Everyone around her assumed that these symptoms were stress related. Still mourning the loss of her mother in law, the pressure of providing for a family, and other day to day stressors would do that to anyone. She is always taking care of those around her, and in turn she was neglecting herself. On April 23rd 2015, our lives were changed forever. Chere went in for a colonoscopy and endoscopy. The endoscopy was normal, but the colonoscopy was not. I think everyone has known someone who has had cancer. What we never want to think about is the day that one of our loved ones is diagnosed with it. Chere had a mass in her rectum. The mass was too large to advance the scope further to evaluate the rest of the colon. She was then sent for a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis that day to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else, and scheduled an appointment with a colo-rectal surgeon the following day. The next 24 hours until her follow up appointment and waiting for the results of the CT scan were the longest hours of our lives. But finally the time arrived. The surgeon discussed that the biopsy results showed that she has rectal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of rectal cancer. The CT scan showed the rectal mass and questionable spots on the liver. He explained that these could be just cysts or metastasis of the rectal cancer. She will need to complete a PET scan for further evaluation, and will be meeting with an oncologist on Monday. The oncologist will be able to provide more answers, support, and confirm the plan of care. Since Chere is only 34 the health care providers have been very reassuring that she can be treated aggressively to fight this horrible disease. Please keep Chere and our family in your thoughts and prayers. She is so very strong for her loved ones, and now she needs to know she has an army supporting her in her fight against rectal cancer.

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Colon Cancer Alliance September Hero of the Month, Marisa Perez

Maricel Perez

Colon Cancer Alliance Hero of the Month, Maricel Perez

Depending on who you are, you may call her Marisa, “mom” or “The Colon Chick!” Marisa Perez has a passion for colon cancer prevention and an enthusiasm that can get anyone excited about screening. The mother of two has been running a colon cancer screening program for the last nine years and shows no signs of slowing down. This month, she organized a successful Screen This Too! luncheon where she stressed the importance of protecting all of your assets this October—including your colon. This dedication to prevention is just one of the many reasons we’re honored to spotlight Marisa as our Hero of the Month.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a single wrestling mom of two awesome boys (ages 20 and 15) and during the week I manage patients with chronic illnesses. I’ve been a part of this Chronic Disease Team for more than a year and have been extremely successful in keeping patients out of the hospital. For leisure time, I love to watch MMA, hike, go to the gym and spend my weekends watching my sons’ wrestling tournaments.

When did you become so passionate about colon cancer prevention?

I started working with Neal Shindel, M.D. in 2006. His passion for preventing colon cancer was contagious and after learning how preventable this disease is, I quickly became an advocate. We’ve held successful community outreach events, done a commercial for colon cancer prevention and worked with the mayor to declare our city a “Colon Cancer Free Zone” in 2009—and that’s just the start!

A few years after working with Dr. Shindel, my little cousin died from colon cancer at just 26 years old. This turned my colon cancer fever into overdrive and I’ve been spreading the word ever since.

How did you get the nickname “The Colon Chick”?

That’s a funny story! I was invited to one of our OB/GYN’s 50th surprise party. For a gift, I naturally wrapped up a box of MoviPrep. He opened it and said, “What else would my colon chick give me?” It was until then that I realized how many physicians referred to me as their “Colon Chick.”  I proudly wear that title as a badge of honor!

You recently held an awesome Screen This Too! event. How was it? Oct. HOTM Pic

This lecture was a very proud moment for me. Not only have I had a cousin pass from colon cancer, but I also have a cousin that had to have a double mastectomy a few years ago. Being able to talk about breast cancer and colon cancer awareness in one lecture was something I would do again and again. The lecture was initially meant for my immediate department, which is only about 15 people, but it quickly grew. More than 50 people attended!

After the lecture, I received emails from my coworkers thanking me for putting the program together. They also stopped me in the hallway to tell me how much they learned. Additionally, the education department asked me to do another lecture for a monthly RN meeting, which will be held this month.

What do you want people to know about colon cancer?

What I stress most when speaking to people is that colon cancer is preventable and the screening prep has gotten a heck of a lot more tolerable. I’ll be in line at the supermarket and I somehow am able to talk about prevention with strangers. What’s my message? Colon cancer is preventable. I’m at the mall checking out—what’s my message? Colon cancer is preventable. I’m out at dinner with my boys—what’s my message? That we have the “power of prevention” and I could help them prevent colon cancer too!

What advice do you have for others who want to spread the word about prevention?

Striking up a conversation about getting your rear checked out is not an easy thing to do. When speaking about this disease, you have to think out of the box. Using the “Screen this Too!” undies was a great way to “Break the Ice” (that was another slogan I used and received awards for). You have to break down barriers and try to make it something that is easier to speak about. I made stickers that said “Cancer is also blue, so screen your booty too.” As silly as it may sound, things like that work!

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Psycho-Social and Emotional Support For Cancer Patients, Survivors and Caregivers, With Dr. Robert Bright MD

Dr. Robert Bright has been a member of Mayo Clinic’s staff since 2007. He is a Consultant and Vice Chair of Education in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Conversation With 4 yr. Colon Cancer Survivor Shannon Lee-Sin

IMG_1130Shannon Lee-Sin is a 4 yr. survivor of colorectal cancer. She stopped by to chat with me during Live Your Best Life 2015, the Colon Cancer Alliance conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Interview With 8 yr. Colon Cancer Survivor, “Coach” Steve Abrams

Coach Steve Abrams

“Coach Steve Abrams

A former college football player and high school football coach, Steve has had to endure and overcome many challenges associated with IBD and colon cancer.

Steve is a speaker who has the ability to share, connect and motivate his audiences. His message is this:

When you make that decision to fight, you will find you have a spirit and strength that you never knew you had. You will learn that you possess so much courage and perseverance than you ever imagined.

Those of us who are battling everyday have a common bond, we will not allow this disease to claim our quality of life, we will survive. Allow your spirits to be lifted knowing you are not alone, find encouragement and inspiration to fight the good fight and get your life back.

Latest Advances in Preparation, Screening and Recurrence Monitoring, With Dr. David Greenwald

Dr. David Greenwald is currently the Director of Clinical Gastroenterology and Endoscopy at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He is also a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  Previously, he was Fellowship Program Director in Gastroenterology at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine for nearly two decades and was an Associate Division Director of the Division of Gastroenterology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. He just completed a term as one of the Medical Directors of the Advanced Endoscopy Center. Dr. Greenwald graduated with a BA degree from Wesleyan University, and attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he earned an MD.  He did a residency in Internal Medicine followed by a Gastroenterology Fellowship, both at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. He is a past president of the New York Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and currently serves as that organization’s Education Director.  He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the American College of Gastroenterology, and previously was the Chairman of the Board of Governors. He has been active in many ASGE Committees, including having been Chairman of the ASGE’s Public and Member Outreach Committee. He was recognized by ASGE with a Master Endoscopist Award in 2006.  He is a Board Member of GIQuIC, the GI Quality Improvement Consortium.  He has been a member of the Steering Committee of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, and is now the Co-Chair of that organization’s Public Relations and Social Media Committee.  In New York, he is the co-chairman of the Quality Subcommittee for the Citywide Colorectal Cancer Control Coalition (C5).  He served for many years as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on GI Endoscopy for the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). His interests in endoscopy include new technology, reprocessing and infection control in endoscopy, training, quality in endoscopy, sedation, patient preparation, GERD, colon cancer screening and prevention, and capsule endoscopy.

Advanced Treatment Options, With Tomislav Dragovich, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Tomislav [Tom] Dragovich is a Division Chief of Medical Oncology and Hematology at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, AZ (MD Anderson Partner Institution) and an Adj. Professor at the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In addition to this he is a Medical Director for Clinical Research at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. Prior to this position he was a Clinical Director of Clinical Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Dr Dragovich was a principal investigator on numerous multidisciplinary clinical trials with a focus on colorectal and other gastrointestinal malignancies. He served as a member of ASCO Colorectal Cancer Scientific Committee (2003-2004) and is currently chairing Pancreatic Cancer Research Team, an international consortium of pancreatic cancer researchers. His research interest focuses on novel treatment approaches for patients with colorectal and other gastrointestinal malignancies.

Conversation With Nutritional Oncologist Terri Taylor, RD, CSO

Terri Taylor is a registered dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She is a graduate of Arizona State University and Presbyterian Hospital Dallas dietetic internship. Terri is the nutrition educator for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Honor Health. Her practice includes individual nutrition counseling, nutrition and cooking classes and community speaking engagements. Her passion is translating the science of nutrition into practical, everyday habits for cancer prevention and survivorship.

Semicolon: Memoir of a Colon Cancer Survivor, With Mark Arsenault


Semicolon: Memoir of a Colon Cancer Survivor, With Mark Arsenault

Mark Arsenault is a six-year survivor of colon cancer. He was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer in July, 2009. He underwent chemo and radiation therapy, followed by surgery (anterior resection) in November, 2009, another round of chemo followed by “takedown” surgery in April, 2010. He wrote a blog about his experiences through his journey. His book, titled “Semicolon; Memoir of a Colon Cancer Survivor,” details his experience with colon cancer. Proceeds from the book, benefit The Colon Cancer Alliance.

Mark is also a former smoker. He has worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was featured in this story on the CDC website. Mark also appeared in this CDC Anti-Smoking TV commercial:

Purchase Mark’s Book:


Writing Children’s Books While Battling Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer, With Sherri Graves Smith

Sherri Graves Smith

Writing Children’s Books While Battling Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer, With Sherri Graves Smith

Sherri Graves Smith is the author of three children’s books series. In 2014 Sherri introduced a new series called “Lil’ Sherri” in which the author, as a six-year-old, narrates age-appropriate books about life lessons. Her first series, “Game Day Rules,” consists of more than 40 books licensed by colleges and professional teams in which the official team mascot teaches good sportsmanship. She also has a line of alphabet and counting books with team mascots. More information on Sherri and her books can be found on

Prior to becoming an author of children’s books, Sherri joined The Coca-Cola Company’s Legal Division as an attorney in November 2000. After taking an assignment as Assistant Division Counsel for Coca-Cola Ltd. in Toronto, Canada, Sherri was being considered for a three-year position in Vienna, Austria. Her career came to an abrupt halt after a routine visit to the doctor revealed that Sherri had cancer. In November 2007, at the age of 36, Sherri was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and immediately began an aggressive course of treatments that included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Presently, Sherri is continuing in her battle against cancer, which was diagnosed as a chronic condition in 2010. While on daily chemotherapy, she refocused her love of children to writing children’s books.

Prior to her illness, Sherri volunteered at homeless shelters and schools tutoring children to read. In addition to tutoring, she was an active participant in urban Atlanta schools and taught law courses in order to encourage youth to seek careers in the law.

In January 2014, Sherri was named the 2013 Author of the Year by her publisher, Mascot Books ( She was recognized for her superior achievements in storytelling and writing and a demonstrated passion for literature. Mascot Books donated $1000 in her name to the Atlanta Cancer Care Foundation.

Listen to Sherri Tell Her Story:


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