Carroll County Times

Resident holds walk for colon cancer

Since 2010, Edel Blumberg, of Reisterstown, has organized the Semi-Colon Crawl, a 5K designed to raise awareness of colon cancer. This year, despite having his colon removed just four weeks ahead of the event, Blumberg said he still plans to attend and share his story.
"I'll be there, come hell or high water," Blumberg said. "The whole point is to get people to hear what I have to say."
Blumberg was diagnosed with colon cancer twice, once in 2003 and again in 2006. After his second bout with cancer, he said he realized he had a calling to get the word out.
"I thought I've got to do more than just sit around," Blumberg said. "I thought about trying to find ways to inform others. I first thought about starting an internet blog, which grew into doing a walk for awareness."
This is the fifth Semi-Colon Crawl since 2010, the event was held twice in 2011, and the first to take place at the Owings Mills High School track. At the event Blumberg and doctors will discuss colon cancer prior to the start of the walk. Funds raised will support the Semi-Colon Club, a nonprofit started by Blumberg, to raise awareness and support organizations to aid cancer survivors. In the past, the organization has sponsored scholarships for Owings Mills High School students and the organization Hopewell Cancer Support.
Blumberg said he is interested more in informing people than raising money. Last year, more than 200 people participated in the walk.
"I would be the happiest camper if, even though we didn't make any money, we had thousands of people hearing the message," Blumberg said. "The message is what's important. It's what needs to resonate."
Blumberg was 13 when he was diagnosed with Colitis and 14 when he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, two inflammatory bowel diseases that often signify potential colon cancer.
"I hid it. I lied to people about it. I quit sports and told people it was because of the coaches; I dropped out of school because I was sick," Blumberg said. "I don't want my story, my stupid story, to become anyone else's."
Martha Raymond, patient support and outreach director with the colon cancer alliance, said colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, but the second deadliest. According to the American Cancer Society's 2013 "Cancer Facts and Figures" release, there will be an estimated 2,410 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed, and an estimated 930 people will die from colorectal cancer in Maryland this year.
Blumberg said he thinks the jump in fatalities is due to embarrassment about the disease.
"People don't like to talk about it, and it kind of gets shuffled off to the side, and that's a danger," Blumberg said. "That's why we want to get the word out."
Raymond said screenings are vital for people of average risk by age 50, since the disease can often go unnoticed.
"Truly one of the scariest things about colon cancer is that the number one symptom is no symptoms at all," Raymond said.
Raymond said when symptoms appear, they can often go unnoticed. Symptoms people should watch out for including bloating, cramps, unexplained weight loss as well as changes in bowel habits.
"Unfortunately, oftentimes those symptoms can be confused for a sense of that's just how their body is," Raymond said. "We hear it all the time. It's important to take note."
One of the biggest myths Blumberg said he finds people have about colon cancer is that it affects only men, when in reality it affects both sexes equally. Raymond said she encourages anyone with symptoms, a family history or who is older than 50 to get tested.
"If someone in your family was diagnosed, we recommend you go in for a screening 10 years prior to the date of that diagnosis," Raymond said. "So if your mom was diagnosed at 45, we recommend you get screened at 35."