This month's Hero of the Month is stage IV colon cancer survivor, WunderGlo Foundation founder and Wunder Project founder Gloria Borges. Gloria was kind enough to sit down for an interview with Exact Sciences.
Exact Sciences: Thank you again for participating in our Hero of the Month column. Let’s begin by learning a little more about your personal connection to colon cancer.
Gloria Borges: At 28 years old, I was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. My physician told me I would not live out the remainder of the year. Unlike most patients with colon cancer, mine did not spread to my liver but went to my abdominal cavity. The amount of disease was so incredible that I was tearfully told I would never practice law or play basketball again. I refused to accept that was my fate. Being a competitive person, I was automatically charged to fight this and ultimately “embarrass” my disease.
Now, it will be two and a half years since my diagnosis. I have had 51 rounds of chemo, 10 rounds of radiation therapy, and three surgeries. I believe changing my diet and my attitude helped me keep fighting the disease and manage the stress. I am extremely fortunate that my body is strong and can get through the treatment.
What are you doing to raise awareness of this disease?
In 2011, I started a foundation called The WunderGlo Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to support research and treatment by hosting fundraising events; promote (at the fundraisers as well as on our website) living a healthy lifestyle by eating right, exercising and staying positive; and finally to connect with patients and answer their questions and concerns as well as serve as a support system for them.
From the foundation, I later launched The Wunder Project. All of the money raised will go to research to support finding a cure for colon cancer. The goal of the project is to raise $250 million in the next two years.
With the foundation and project, people will hopefully become aware of who we are and raise awareness about colon cancer. What’s more, our donors, sponsors and followers will know we are doing more than just raising awareness – we’re working to omit the disease. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of funding research within the industry. I have no doubt that we will find a cure. So far, The WunderGlo Foundation has held events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Durham, NC to spread awareness and raise money for research.
Exact Sciences: WonderGlo.com is the name of your blog. What does that mean?
Gloria Borges: WunderGlo was taken out of an “allusion” for the term wunderkind – referring to a child prodigy, or someone very successful in their field despite being young. Now, “Glo” is the young person who is successful in her field and is now all about beating cancer. Therefore, throughout my journey of defeating my cancer I am referred to as “WunderGlo.” I also chose this name as a way to honor my oncologist; he’s a pretty funny guy!
I started the blog in October, 2010 as a way to keep my friends and family up-to-date on my treatment process, how I’m doing, and the progress I’m making. Aside from my family, the blog has also benefited other readers. For example, I heard from four friends who are all women between the ages of 28 and 32 who had noticed something was different about their bodies and their GI health.
Because of my motivating words and personal experiences shared through my blog, they urged their doctors to do a colonoscopy. Each woman found pre-cancerous polyps. Sharing my story with others in such great depth has helped these woman and others.
In your opinion, why is it important for people to be educated about the disease and the prevention methods?
You need to be aware of your body and changes in your body, especially when it comes to GI health. Your GI function is a reflection of your overall health from the effectiveness of your liver and kidneys.
Becoming aware of changes or problems is essential, especially if you have a genetic history of polyps and colon cancer. If you notice something abnormal and catch pre-cancerous polyps at an early stage, it is the ultimate way to beat this disease.
What are your thoughts on what Exact Sciences is trying to accomplish?
It sounds like it could be fantastic. If you can know before a colonoscopy if you have pre-cancerous polyps, it would be a huge breakthrough for people. Even if they do not test positive for pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps, this test could give them the opportunity to know that as well.
Lastly, what is one thing that you would like people to take away from your story?
The most important thing I want people to know is to approach life with a positive attitude and to believe in yourself and your physician. Nobody has a guaranteed time on earth. Life isn’t just or unjust. If we approach life with gratitude and we have what we have, then life is going to be more satisfying and joyful.
The past two and a half years have been the most fun I have ever had. I see life so differently now and enjoy the beauty of it.