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Cartwheels driving awareness to colon cancer cause


Courtesy photo

Heather and Lauren Squire cartwheeling in Colorado to raise awareness for early diagnosis of colon cancer and to raise money to find a cure. Follow their cause on Instagram at Cartwheels4ColonCancer and submit photos for the photo stream.

Husband and father Doug Squire of Niwot passed away in August of 2017 at the age of 46. His fight against colon cancer lasted four and a half years, more than the three years his doctor had anticipated.

There was no reason to believe Squire was anything but perfectly healthy, even when, at age 39 he began to experience what he thought were simply “stomach issues.” His wife Heather said they thought perhaps he had food allergies, such as celiac disease. So, for more than a year they made several changes to their diet. But the problems Doug was experiencing continued.

Doctor’s visits led to testing which showed he was in excellent health, except for his stomach acting up. Fast forward two years to February 2013, when Doug was 41 years old and decided to get a colonoscopy. It was an unusual request for someone his age given that traditional medicine recommends it at age 50.

Results showed a mass in his colon and the following day he underwent emergency surgery. The diagnosis was stage IV colon cancer. It was a huge blow to the young family – Doug’s oral surgery practice was taking off, Heather was working for a growing start-up business, and their daughter, Lauren, was only 10 years old at the time.

Heather said, “I was traveling globally as he was going through treatments. When I was on the road, staying healthy was important to me, so I started doing cartwheels and sending photos to him to let him know I was thinking about him. My joke was I was doing cartwheels for colon cancer. And when people would ask me why I was cartwheeling, that gave me a chance to tell them about Doug and colon cancer.”

But the prognosis seemed devastating. The form of colon cancer Doug had wouldn’t respond consistently to treatment, and the cancer spread.

“We were racing against research,” Heather said. “We tried everything, but the cancer was outrunning him.”

According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, in the United States, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed type of cancer, behind lung and breast cancer, and it’s the second most deadly form of cancer. The American Cancer Society website states a study performed by the American Medical Association revealed that the death rate for colorectal cancer for those between the ages of 24 and 54, has been increasing 1 percent per year from 2004 to 2014.

Early intervention may have made a difference for Doug, and telling people that, along with helping to raise funds for research, are Heather’s priorities now. She tells the story of a friend who at 40 years old discovered she had blood in her stools. What compelled her to undergo a colonoscopy was the knowledge she had about Doug. Doctors found pre-cancerous polyps that needed to be removed. Waiting longer to determine what was causing her problem could have led to a very different outcome.

“I want people to be more in tune with what’s going on with them,” Squire said. “Don’t excuse things away because by the time the big signals are there, it’s too late. Don’t be embarrassed, go to your doctor and ask questions. Advocating for yourself is so very important.”

For three years the couple worked with the diagnosing oncologist, but he didn’t give them much hope. Wanting to take more positive and aggressive actions, they went to UCHealth at the Anschutz Medical Campus and had a far different experience.

The Squires were extremely encouraged by the prospects of the research being conducted by their new oncologist at UCHealth, Dr. Wells Messersmith. The treatment Doug underwent there gave him more time. As a result, a few weeks before Doug passed away, the Squires established a fund specifically for the research being conducted by Dr. Messersmith, which they’ve named The Doug Squire Honorary Fund. To date, the money raised comes to nearly $40,000.

Lauren is now almost 16 years old. She’s a Niwot High School sophomore and plays on the girls’ soccer team. Heather said the school, the soccer team, and its coach have been incredibly supportive of their family, even adding blue to their traditional pink breast cancer campaign to include colon cancer awareness to their cause.

“It’s really important to us that nobody goes through what we’ve gone through,“ Squire said.

To that end, Squire would like people to follow the Instagram account she set up called Cartwheels4ColonCancer and send cartwheel pictures to [email protected] Heather hopes that if someone asks why you’re doing a cartwheel, you’ll talk with them about the importance of colon cancer awareness and research for a cure.

To learn more and to donate to the research that Dr. Wells Messersmith is conducting, visit - https://giving.cu.edu/fund/doug-squire-honorary-fund. Additional resources may be found on the Colon Cancer Alliance website at http://www.ccalliance.org.


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