Raising awareness to fight colon cancer

Wesley Chapel resident Michelle Giacomino understands the pain that colon cancer can cause.

“Two-and-a-half-years ago my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer just before her 50th birthday,” Giacomino said. “She was the epitome of health otherwise.”

Susan Middleton had many family members and friends turn out to a walk in Fort Myers to raise awareness about colon cancer. She died in 2013, but her daughter, Michelle Giacomino, is bringing Get Your Rear in Gear to Tampa for the first time on Sept. 20. (Courtesy of Michelle Giacomino)

Susan Middleton had many family members and friends turn out to a walk in Fort Myers to raise awareness about colon cancer. She died in 2013, but her daughter, Michelle Giacomino, is bringing Get Your Rear in Gear to Tampa for the first time on Sept. 20.
(Courtesy of Michelle Giacomino)

After a 15-month battle, Giacomino’s mother, Susan Middleton, lost her fight with colon cancer.

Before she died, Middleton joined the family in a Get Your Rear in Gear event in Fort Myers. Her team of family members raised the most money at that event to help fight colon cancer.

To honor her mother, Giacomino decided to spearhead the effort to bring the Get Your Rear in Gear event to Tampa. This year, the 5-kilometer walk and run will be on the morning of Sept. 20 at Al Lopez Park in Tampa.

Giacomino, 33, said she wants to help prevent colon cancer by raising awareness about early detection. She also wants to support people who are coping with the disease and those who, like herself, have lost a loved one.

Giacomino and her husband Justin moved from Pittsburgh five years ago to live closer to her parents. Then her mom, a seemingly healthy woman, started experiencing abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with colon cancer shortly before she turned 50, the recommended age for colon screenings.

The death of her mother was not only a tremendous blow to Giacomino, but also to her three boys — Giovanni, 6; Luca, 3; and Dominic, 2 — who lost a tremendous grandmother.

As of last week, about 100 people had registered for her version of Get Your Rear in Gear, but she expects the number to climb in the days leading up to the event.

Get Your Rear in Gear Tampa is one of 40 scheduled across the nation planned by local volunteers, with help from the Colon Cancer Coalition. It increases awareness of the nation’s No. 2 cancer killer, and raises funds to prevent colon cancer.

Besides the walk and run, the event also features a celebration for survivors, support for caregivers, and a remembrance of those who have died.

Funds raised in Tampa will stay in the area to help with prevention, early detection and treatment, as well as projects to support healthy living.

Florida Cancer Specialists and Tampa General Hospital are among the local sponsors.

If you go …
WHAT: Get Your Rear in Gear Tampa 5-kilometer walk/run to prevent colon cancer
WHERE: Al Lopez Park, 4810 N. Himes Ave., Tampa
WHEN: Sept. 20, with registration at 7 a.m., and runs beginning at 8 a.m.
COST:
5K Run/Walk Adult: $25 until Sept. 18, $35 on race day
5K Run/Walk Youth: 12 and younger, $15 until Sept. 18, $20 on race day
Kids Fun Run: 10 and younger, $15 until Sept. 18, $20 on race day
INFO: ColonCancerCoalition.org

Some facts about colorectal cancer
• Is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death.
• Affects men and women equally, and people of all races and nationalities. Anyone can get colorectal cancer.
• Affects about 1-in-19 people during their lifetime.
• Usually develops slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years.
• Has a 90 percent five-year survival rate for those diagnosed in first two stages, but just a 12 percent five-year survival rate for those diagnosed in fourth stage.

Published September 17, 2014

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