Sharing to save lives

Diann Hartman has long been one of those health nuts.

Hasn’t eaten meat for 23 years. Exercises daily, walks her dogs. Diet includes tons of leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower, even garlic. She drinks green tea, too.

So, she didn’t expect to be diagnosed with colon cancer in September.

“Absolute shock,” she said. “It was a complete shock to everyone who knows me. They know I exercise daily. I do everything you’re supposed to do.”

Hartman, public relations director for the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, did what she does best: She took action. She finished six rounds of chemotherapy over the past three months, and has another six rounds scheduled. She’ll be flying to San Diego on Sunday for surgery on Wednesday. And she’s continuing her routine of exercising and eating smart — though she laughs about that these days.

“I joked when I first had (colon cancer), ‘Eat bacon, obviously eating healthy makes no difference,’” she said. “People ask if I’m eating hamburgers now.”

Well, not yet, anyway.

But what she is doing is helping organize “Bum Run,” a three-mile fun run set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Poipu Bay Golf Course. The goal of the untimed race is to raise awareness about colon cancer and raise money for local charities.

Already, more than 100 people — including from seven different states as well as a number of Canadian provinces — have registered for the run, which will be the first one held on the beautiful fairways of the first eight holes of the golf course. It will be similar to a high school cross country race, though less competitive with the focus more on enjoying the lush green grass and sharing good times with friends, family and fellow runners and walkers.

“It’s someplace you don’t usually go, beautiful scenery,” said Hartman, who will be there to cheer others on and keep things running smoothly. “It will be awesome.”

Hartman said the decision to let the public know she was battling colon cancer wasn’t an easy one as she tends to be more of a private person. But she hopes to raise awareness for the disease, encourage people to get screened regularly and to know their family medical history.

March is also Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

If sharing her story helps save a life by motivating others to go in for a colonoscopy, that would be wonderful, she said.

“If it helps anyone else avoid this, it’s all good,” she wrote.

One co-worker, after hearing Hartman had been diagnosed with colon cancer, stopped putting off a colonoscopy and went in for the procedure. Turned out he had cancer, which was caught early and hadn’t spread.

“My diagnosis sent many people in for their colonoscopy who had been putting it off,” she said.

Hartman has continued to work through the first rounds of chemotherapy and still walks her dog every day. Her strict diet hasn’t changed, either.

She credits her health prior to the diagnosis as a reason the cancer and chemo hasn’t knocked her down.

“I’m fine. Totally fine, really. I haven’t changed my life much,” she said. “It hasn’t affected my energy levels. I haven’t taken any downhill slides. I feel great.”

A recent MRI and CAT scan found the tumor is shrinking, which should make the surgery less invasive. Radiation is unnecessary.

Hartman is encouraged, too, because colon cancer is considered one of the most curable kinds of cancer.

“That’s the good part,” she said.

According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, colon cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates about 100,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year. On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 20. There are more than 1 million colon cancer survivors in the U.S.

Early detection is critical. The CCA reports that with regular screening, colon cancer can be found early, when treatment is most effective. In many cases, screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer. And if cancer is present, earlier detection means a chance at a longer life.

Hartman said it’s important to know your family’s health history. Parents should be sure tell their children, when they’re old enough, about any diseases in the family.

“I only recently found out my grandfather had an incident of colon cancer in the ‘70s,” she wrote. “He had surgery and was fine. I always knew him to have had heart attacks so I spent 30 years focused on keeping a healthy heart. Had I known this info, though, I would have been more aware and would have been screened earlier.”

Hartman praised the staff at the Grand Hyatt for their support of both her and Saturday’s Bum Run.

As breast cancer awareness has pink as its color, colon cancer has blue, so to further the resort’s support in raising awareness about colon cancer, the resort introduced “Blue Jean Wednesday.”

Staff can wear blue jeans to work by donating $5 each time to the American Cancer Society. Many staff also wear blue ribbons on their name tags.

“My whole team has been super supportive,” she said. “The program has been well received by guests and associates alike. Associates love being able to wear nice jeans to work on occasion and guests have had nothing but positive comments about the awareness efforts.”

People wishing to support the cause but unable to attend the Bum Run can donate with a check made out to the American Cancer Society sent directly to the hotel.

Fun Run/Walk raising awareness for colon cancer.

Proceeds benefit American Cancer Society.

4 p.m. Saturday, Poipu Bay Golf Course.

Course is about 3 miles. Race will not be timed.

There will be door prizes, including stays at the Hyatt Regency Maui, St. Regis Princeville and Grand Hyatt Kauai. There will also be refreshments and live entertainment.

Race day registration is $30 for adults, $20 for ages 6-17. Save $5 and register online, deadline is today, at active.com. Registration includes Bum Run boxer shorts.

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