When most people survive cancer, they just want to put the disease and its gruelling treatment behind them.
Not Surrey’s Deb Imada.
That’s because her cancer was in her behind. And now she’s made it her mission to put colorectal cancer in the forefront of people’s minds.
She’s doing that by organizing the second annual Bumspiel for Colorectal Cancer, to be held at the Royal City Curling Club in New Westminster on Saturday (March 31).
The event is a fundraiser for the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. But more importantly, Imada hopes it will raise awareness about the disease and how to survive it.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian men and women combined. Of the approximately 22,000 Canadians diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year, 8,900 will die from it. Those are grim numbers considering the disease is curable 90 per cent of the time – if it’s caught early.
It’s that last part that hangs most people up, says Imada. It’s not easy to talk about your backside, and “people are so fearful about getting a colonoscopy.”
In fact, cancer was the furthest thing from Imada’s mind when she went to her doctor to get checked out for a possible recurrence of the hemorrhoids that had plagued her after her son was born four years earlier. Her family had no history of colorectal cancer, she’d never had a problem with benign polyps, she was active, and she was only 43 years old – seven years younger than the primary risk group.
But when her doctor said she felt a lump during her examination, Imada’s world turned upside down.
Four months of tests, two surgeons and five days of radiation treatment later, the tumour was removed.
“The waiting is the hardest part,” says Imada. “The whole time I felt like a ticking time bomb.”
But her battle didn’t end there. Six months of chemotherapy stretched to eight. She suffered numerous side effects, including painful numbness in her fingers and the bottoms of her feet. She says there were days she was so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, she couldn’t get out of bed.
Regular screenings to ensure she remained clear of cancer are emotionally agonizing.
“It’s like the doctors say, ‘we’ve cured you but the chances of recurrence are highest in the first two years’,” she says.
Every colonoscopy or CT scan, she hopes and prays for a clean report. She’ll continue to be screened for the rest of her life. It’s like a fellow patient once told her, “We’re out of the woods, but we’re not yet out of the forest.”
During her battle with colorectal cancer, a colleague at work was also diagnosed with the disease and eventually died from it. That’s when she made a promise to him, and to herself, to help spread the word about the disease and the importance of early detection through regular screening.
“It makes me mad when someone dies from this because it’s so curable,” Imada says.
A recreational curler at the Royal City Curling Club before she was diagnosed, Imada came up with the idea of a “bumspiel” because her son had shown interest in the sport while watching the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The clever play on words helped as well, she says.
It’s a non-competitive event that Imada promises will be just as much fun for beginners as hardcore stonethrowers. It’s even attracted a team of four doctors from the Netherlands who specialize in colorectal cancer and found out about the bumspiel while searching the Internet. There will be door prizes as well as an award for the top fundraiser.