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Colon Cancer Survivor Discusses Importance of Screening for Young People

In honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Teen Cancer America would like to highlight one of our amazing young adult advocates, Allison Rosen. At the early age of 32, Allison was diagnosed with stage 2C colorectal cancer. Allison was your typical young adult prior to her diagnosis. She was in the workforce, has a love for animals, spending time with friends and open to an all-around good time. In the seven years since her diagnosis, Rosen has undergone radiation and chemotherapy, four surgeries and septic shock. Her hair has fallen out twice but is growing back again. She now lives with an ostomy pouch and has experienced osteoporosis and kidney disease.

Allison’s story is inspiring for many reasons.  Her engagement with the AYA cancer community offered her the support she needed as she learned to cope with her diagnosis. It was through this that she realized that she herself could be of service and give back by supporting and encouraging others.  “When I talk about my cancer journey, there’s no anxiety, no fear because it’s my story and nothing can go wrong when it’s my story.” Being a strong advocate and raising awareness for early screening and prevention for Colorectal Cancer is also something that Allison is quite focused on.

We are fortunate to have Allison and her  passionate and influential experience as a part of our Teen Cancer America Young Adult Advisory Committee.

GETTING INVOLVED IN AN ADOLESCENT AND YOUNG ADULT COMMUNITY

“That was my ‘aha’ moment. Maybe they didn’t have the exact cancer diagnosis, but they could all relate to the fatigue, the pain, the fertility issues, just everything,” she said. “I cried a little bit because I thought, ‘Oh my God, I feel like I’m home.”

WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE WILL LEARN?

Advocacy is two-pronged for Rosen: education and spreading awareness to the general public but also getting health care providers and future doctors to understand that anyone can develop colon or colorectal cancer.

“(For future doctors), they will understand that if someone young comes in with symptoms that they shouldn’t ignore it,” she said. “The community doesn’t necessarily know that you can get it younger, and they don’t realize the importance of getting their colonoscopy at 50.”

CALL TO ACTION

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has yet to lower the screening age for colon cancers to 45, even though the American Cancer Society has recommended it. Insurance companies and health care institutions won’t recognize the need for the younger screening age until the national agency changes it, Rosen said.

“The two days you have to do clear liquids and prep for a colonoscopy is so much better than going through cancer treatment — hands down,” she said.

“There are statistics that predict by 2020, 80 percent more people under the age of 50 will develop colorectal cancer,” she said. “If it can happen to me, and I’m young, and you have access to a screening at age 50, you have to go get it.

Allison’s goal now is to get back to the best quality of life possible and figure out what her new normal is now. Through all that Allison has experienced the past few years has helped her realize a new mission in life; to help others and spread awareness about young adult cancers. Allison is involved in many organizations both locally in Texas and on a national level. Her passion for volunteering turned into a more personal mission, and every day that she can help someone endure the struggle of his or her own cancer journey gives Allison a wonderful sense of accomplishment.