Hayley Berger | January 10, 2022
In September 2021, I had the privilege of taking the Prevent Cancer Super Colon® to two communities in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in partnership with the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCMI). These stops marked our first Super Colon visits since 2019, so I was excited to take it out to the community.
This was my first time with the Super Colon, a traveling exhibit which seeks to demystify colorectal cancer screening. Before this trip, I didn’t spend much time talking to other people about the colon, the rectum or stool samples. But when people asked me questions, I never felt odd or embarrassed. While I met some people who were hesitant to walk through the Super Colon (understandably, as it can be scary to think about), many others shared their personal connections to colorectal cancer or screening:
“Oh, my friend had this.”
“My mom and dad both had polyps, so it is really something on my mind.”
“I recently had [my colonoscopy] done, so it’s good to see what they may have been seeing.”
At our first stop in Hannahville with the Hannahville Indian Community, a man drove up to ask me a non-colon related question, and, when I asked if he wanted to walk through the Super Colon, he immediately said yes. I gave him a brief tour of the exhibit, and he was inspired to make colorectal cancer screening the topic at his weekly meetup of friends. He put stacks of our flyers and other tabling materials in a bag and said, “On Wednesday, I’m going to walk in, put this bag on the table and say, ‘This is what we’re talking about today.’”
We also brought along our “Buddy Bracelets” to share. These rubber bracelets, tied to tags with screening recommendations, encourage people to remind their “buddies” to get screened for colorectal cancer. The man from Hannahville truly embodied this goal and the idea of how important it is to talk about things like colon health with our friends and family.
This type of connection was highlighted again for me in Brimley for our next stop with the Bay Mills Indian Community. At their health fair, I joined clinic staff and other community organizations sharing information about types of cancer screening, nutrition, insurance coverage and overdose information, as well as providers giving out flu and COVID-19 vaccines. While my table with the 20-foot inflatable colon behind it may have been the most noticeable, each person added to the visitor experience by showing the interconnectedness of health and encouraging more open conversations about colon health at our table.
Many people, including me, may read and hear about colorectal cancer diagnoses all the time, which can make cancer screening seem more daunting. But of the people I met with who completed a survey after their “tour” of the Super Colon, 100% said they left with more knowledge about colorectal cancer. And as people reacted to the Super Colon, I could tell how important getting this information in-person was for them, as well as how important it was for me.
It’s hard to know how to do something if you don’t fully understand what the something is that you’re supposed to do. In the case of colorectal cancer screening, it’s helpful to have a visual image and to talk about it with others, because it can make the process a little less scary and a little more understandable. Like the people I met in Hannahville and Brimley, I look forward to having more opportunities to share stories and information about colon health with others to increase access to screening and awareness or prevention. Sometimes a giant Super Colon, even if funny or scary at first, is a good start!
The Prevent Cancer Super Colon® is an interactive educational tool that travels to communities across America with the message that colorectal cancer is Preventable, Treatable, Beatable!® Learn more about the Super Colon here or check out videos of the Super Colon’s impact.