‘Colondar’ lets cancer survivors show off

Holly Pike draped herself in a thin, blue piece of fabric — and not much else — and showed the world her scar.

It runs from the Henderson woman’s bikini line to her naval, a 4-inch reminder of her surgery two years ago for removal of polyps that led to her colon cancer.

Now 33, Pike is posing nearly nude in a calendar with other young colon cancer survivors to raise awareness about the disease.

“I did it just to get the word out. It’s more common than people think,” she said about appearing in the 2008 “Colondar,” which features 12 men and women baring their bodies and their surgical scars.

“A lot of people get misdiagnosed because of their age,” said Pike, a freelance court reporter whose photo accompanies the month of October. “Colorectal cancer can affect people of all ages, even teens.”

Models for the calendar draped themselves in blue, the color recognized nationally by cancer associations as a way to raise awareness about colorectal cancer.

And each month’s story paints nearly the same picture — someone under age 50 noticed blood in their stool, experienced sharp abdomen pain and lacked energy prior to being diagnosed.

Pike was diagnosed with Stage II colorectal cancer. Pike said she didn’t immediately seek medical attention after she noticed blood in her stool. Instead, she searched the Internet for answers.

During her search, Pike stumbled across the Web site of The Colon Club. The New York-based nonprofit provides information about colorectal cancer and publishes the Colondar.

Pike read stories of others who had been diagnosed. Their symptoms were much like her own, and she quickly made an appointment with a physician.

“I knew going into my doctor’s appointment what my problem might be,” Pike said. “Originally, my physician told me that it was probably impacted stool, but fortunately he was cautious and ordered a colonoscopy.”

A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a physician inserts a viewing tube into the rectum to inspect the colon.

Though grateful her physician ordered the colonoscopy, Pike said too few doctors do so with patients who are younger than 50.

“Basically we hear stories all the time that this (colorectal cancer) is a 50-year-old white man’s disease. I got sick of hearing that,” said Molly McMaster, one of the founders of The Colon Club. “We are all sick of hearing that, which is a reason we have so many people willing to pose for the Colondar.”

McMaster said she and another woman, whose cousin died of the disease at age 27, started The Colon Club as an out-of-the box vehicle to encourage young adults to get screened.

For example, in addition to the Colondar, The Colon Club sells toilet paper with the message “Wipe Out Colon Cancer” printed on it.

During events to educate the public about colorectal cancer, The Colon Club also rolls out a 40 foot replica of the human colon, known as “Coco,” McMaster said. Crawl through it, she said, and you’ll get a better understanding of how the colon works.

A few years ago, McMaster skated across the country wearing in-line skates to educate people about the disease. She was just 23 when she was diagnosed with it.

“We want people’s jaws to drop. That’s the reaction we are looking for,” she said. “We want people to stop and think, ‘This could happen to me.’ ”

Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum, part of the digestive system which processes food for energy and rids the body of solid waste matter.

According to the American Cancer Society, the disease is hereditary and the risk of developing it increases if an immediate family member — parent, sibling or child — is diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 55.

Since the Colondar published in 2003, The Colon Club has received more than 300 applications from survivors to appear in the calendar.

McMaster said the nonprofit prints 10,000 calendars each year. Most are given away, she said.

Contact reporter Annette Wells at awells@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0283.

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