“ Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and do what you can do! Surround yourself with strong, positive, sincere people.
Krista Waller is the last Colo-Rectal mAss Kicker we are featuring in March during Colo-Rectal Cancer Awareness Month. She is the President of the Colon Club’s Board of Directors. She is known throughout the colorectal cancer community as the “Colon Girl”. We have been impressed by the clever projects/campaigns the Colon Club promotes: the Captain Colon cartoon series, “Wipe Out Colorectal Cancer” toilet paper, “Flush Out” Cancer & Other Diseases, and the in between innings game, Pluck the Polyp, at her local Frontier Baseball League team, The Otters. We met Krista at a conference years ago. We managed to stay in touch and are honored to highlight her this month!
mK: Thanks for doing this Krista! We’re wondering… What is your relationship to colorectal cancer?
KW: I have no family history or loved ones affected by colorectal cancer until several years after I was already involved with The Colon Club, then my sister-in-law was diagnosed with anal cancer.
mK: How did you get involved in Colo-Rectal Cancer (CRC) advocacy?
KW: My passion to advocate and educate about CRC began about 9 years ago, when I heard a Colorectal Surgeon tell someone that CRC was preventable. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like I had found the cure for cancer and had to tell EVERYONE! So I started researching, working for the local Colorectal Surgeons and educating the public and Primary Care docs about when to refer patients for screening, colonoscopy, etc. That’s how I met The Colon Club… I rented their 40-foot long, 4-foot tall, interactive, crawl-through colon and was hooked!
Molly McMaster Morgoslepov and Hannah Vogler are the Co-Founders of The Colon Club. Molly and Hannah met through Hannah’s cousin, Amanda, who, like Molly, was dx in her early 20’s. After Amanda’s passing Molly and Hannah continued to provide support and raise awareness for the young adult audience, in crazy ways, through the Colossal Colon and the Colondar.
mK: So, What motivates you?
KW: Some days being surrounded by so many young people with disease is emotionally tough, then you add a big dose of “survivors guilt” to that and you spend the day with the blankets pulled up over your head! However, these are the very same people that motivate me to put my blue tutu on and educate others about this terrible, taboo disease. Knowing that even though CRC is promoted as a preventable cancer, because of the recommended screening at 50 yrs., this is not always true for young adults. There are no screening guidelines and rectal cancers are on the rise in young adults.
mK: Yikes! Who are your heroes?
KW: Oh wow, my heroes… there are so many that I would need an entire wall to list them. Survivors are my heroes. Anyone diagnosed and has battled, regardless of their stage, length of treatment, or recovery… they are my heroes. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many survivors that are positive, strong, beautiful (inside and out) and truly inspiring!
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
KW: I’m not a crier… I have to be pretty angry to cry and it takes a lot to make me angry! Cancer makes me ANGRY! Hearing that cancer has tortured another beautiful soul infuriates me!! My colon peeps and my two girls keep me laughing. Harley, who is a Junior at Miami University in Oxford, OH and Hadley, a 7th grader, both keep me in hysterics! They both have such a great sense of humor and support my quest to #savethecolons!
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
KW: Hmmmm… that could be so many things! I have been to Ireland. I created a cartoon character, “Captain Colon”, that was made into a costume, that my kids and I dress up in to raise awareness! Paula Ries, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, colon cancer survivor and very dear friend made him into a costume my cartoon sketches! And… I have a miniature potbelly pig, Camo!
mK: A pet pig! Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
KW: I think survivors, their families and caregivers face a variety of challenges, the first is just hearing the words, “you have cancer”. Getting diagnosed is one of the biggest challenges for young adult colorectal cancer patients, since CRC is thought to be an older persons disease. Young adults are misdiagnosed for long periods of time, which leads to later stage diagnoses. After diagnoses, they tend to deal with fertility issues, dating, trying to work and control their bowels or lack there of, chronic pain, sometimes ostomies, talking with their young children about cancer, genetic testing/screening for their young children, etc. Many of these challenges are unique to colorectal cancer patients.
mK: People need to take young adults more seriously. Changing gears… What is your guilty pleasure?
KW: Shhhhhh… we are off the record, right?!? My guilty pleasure is… READING! I could curl up in a chair somewhere for two days and read! Only closing my book to use the bathroom and eat… Oh ya, eating is another one of my guilty pleasures! I LOVE food! All of it and any of it! I will eat almost ANYTHING!
mK: We applaud you for READING! Eating sustains life, so you shouldn’t feel guilty… If you could snap your fingers and instantly have one new skill and be the best in the world at it, what would it be?
KW: Dude… I only get one new skill?!? I would probably say to cure cancer! I would have to have a cape to go with my blue tutu though, so I could fly around, sprinkle people with Poo-Pourri and cure people of cancer! Kind of like Captain Colon was dreamt up to do!
mK: “Poo-pourri”… our bathroom already smells like that, not sure if we want our kitchen smelling like that too… What do you like to do in your spare time?
KW: I LOVE spending time with family and friends! We have people over a lot, nothing fancy… just hanging out, talking and enjoying one another. I also love to hang out with my pig. She is so cute, smart and fun… it’s almost therapeutic for me, a lot like a dog, which I have too… a wiener dog, Celli!
mK: Again… You have a pet PIG! Cool! We could spend a lot of time talking about Camo… But first… What are you up to now?
KW: I think it would be easier to ask me what “I’m NOT up to”! lol! I have to be going 100 miles/hour from the time I wake up until I absolutely cannot hold my eyes open at night, or I am bored! The Colon Club is currently working on the new version of the Colondar… Colondar 2.0 for 2015, we just partnered with Michael’s Mission on our world-renowned message board, “Colon Talk” and we are always looking for new ideas to raise awareness!
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
KW: It is alright to go through the stages of “death and dying” so to speak, but after a time… pick yourself up, brush yourself off and do what you can do! Surround yourself with strong, positive, sincere people. It’s proven that a positive attitude improves your recovery and don’t be afraid to let others help you or to tell others what you need. Just because they love you, doesn’t mean they know what you need or want.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
KW: I have a Blue Colorectal Cancer Awareness star tattoo on my right, front hip area, I am VERY simple and I have a BLUE jeep wrangler (yes, I bought it because it was colorectal cancer awareness blue)!
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
KW: Thank you so much for including The Colon Club in your quest to raise awareness and connect people. We are truly grateful to support mAss Kickers (I love my t-shirt and stickers by the way) and to be featured.
Krista Waller: pot belly pig and “poo”ch owner, avid reader, colon cancer super hero, proud mom, and creative color cancer advocate. Keep an eye on the Colon Club! Check out their website to stay up to date with their unique activities! Collaboration is the KEY to fighting these horrible diseases!