This post is part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are making a difference in their communities.
Anita Mitchell-Isler, Founder, Washington Colon Cancer Stars
What inspired you to start giving?
I was diagnosed with IV Colon Cancer at age 41. Because I was the third parent at my childrens school to get Colon Cancer under the recommended screening age, I felt it was very important to educate others about the symptoms, Colorectal Cancer is the 2nd leading cancer killer and for most people it was preventable with screening, but no one wanted to talk about . I did not know my family history which would have changed my out come and I did not want anyone else to die. Like my friend had, my father had and I was possibly going to. Public health was only focusing on the messaging for the 50 and older so there was a big lack of awareness for the younger people, even though this was starting to trend . The younger people also were misdiagnosed like myself causing delay and worse outcomes.
What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
It has become my passion, I saw the need and the difference I could make. I did not have to be a health educator or Doctor to make a difference. I just had to share my story and be willing to put myself out there to save others and give hope to those fighting . I give my time because people are still dying everyday from this very preventable cancer and that is not ok. We have to do a better job reaching people and providing services for all . This is one of those cancers that we could change the outcome in the 50 and above age group, if people just did what is recommend.
What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back?
Share a piece of advice will help them get started. Do something that really strikes meaning for you. I didn’t really start out thinking I would become a advocate but my first little idea about a awareness event at my children's school is now a national event . One person can make a difference. I didn’t have a college degree , but that does not matter ,when you speak and do work from your heart and in your community it works.
Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
I go to appointments with newly diagnosed patients as their advocate. I was with a lady who I was helping and it was her first chemo. She did not have anyone to go to with her. I noticed that they did not have one of the drugs I knew she was suppose to get in her order. I asked the nurse who then called the Dr. I heard her say to him, if it wasn’t for her advocate this would have been missed. he had forgotten to write for it. I knew then how important my work was. . Some people do not have family or friends who can always go to appointments. I had one women who was very scared and had read my story online, after she meet with me she reached back out and said she was able to sleep all thru the night for the first time since diagnosis after talking with me. Knowing just listening and being able to relate to her had helped given her hope and comfort, even if I could not change her out come was encouraging. I also had people share they got screened because of me and they had precancerous polyps that could have taken there life.