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July's Hero of the Month: AliveAndKickn Founder David Dubin

This month we are pleased to honor David Dubin as our hero of the month. Dave is a three time cancer survivor and the founder of AliveAndKickn, a foundation dedicated to increasing awareness and prevention of colorectal cancer.

Dave was first diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 29 and has since been diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome. Now as a three time cancer survivor, Dave combines his enthusiasm and passion for soccer with his desire to raise awareness for colon cancer and plans AliveAndKickathons: 24-hour soccer fundraisers.

Exact Sciences: Thank you again for participating in our Hero of the Month column. Could you please start off by explaining your personal connection with colon cancer?

Dave Dubin: My personal connection to colon cancer goes back three generations. My grandfather had colon cancer. He was first diagnosed in his 60s and ultimately lived with an ostomy well into his eighties. My father had colon cancer. He was first diagnosed in his 40s,and he is still alive at 80. My older brother had colon cancer at 37 and is now 50.  I had colon cancer at 29 and then again at 40.

I have three boys, ages 17, 13 and 9. Although my boys have no symptoms, they will start undergoing screening and genetic testing this year, beginning with the oldest. These are the personal family connections. My involvement with the community has grown since 2007, and continues to grow exponentially.  

Exact Sciences: In your opinion, why is it important for people to be educated about the disease and the prevention methods? 

David: Education is empowerment. The more you know, the better you can prepare and deal with it appropriately. This goes for diseases like colon cancer and anything else in life quite frankly.

Many of the conversations at medical conferences and on the Internet are now starting to focus on the younger colon cancer patient. Stereotypically, colon cancer is an "older man’s" disease, yet it also affects women and those under age 50. If knowledge about colon cancer, common symptoms and family history are more commonplace, the potential to recognize something sooner rather than later is much more likely.

While prevention is better, colon cancer caught early is also much more "fixable." Virtually every story of the person diagnosed under the age of 40 entails an initial misdiagnosis because of age.  

Exact Sciences: AliveandKickn does a lot of work to help raise awareness and funds for colorectal cancer research. Can you share with us one or two current initiatives that you are most excited about? 

David:As a sales person, it's my nature to look at what I perceive to be a problem and try to help fix it, with whatever means I have at my disposal. I looked at the awareness level of colon cancer and genetic colon cancer, and felt it was severely lacking. It was then I decided to put my skills to work to spread awareness.

I have been a soccer player since the age of 5 and continue to be active in the sport. My participation in soccer even led to the name of my foundation, AliveAndKickn. As a foundation, we are using soccer as our means of awareness and fundraising, which sets us apart from just about everybody in the foundation world, colon cancer or otherwise.  This helps us reach people under the age of 50, women as well as men and people of many different ethnicities.

By partnering with professional soccer, we actually help each other. In the United States, soccer is considered a lower-tier sport, even though participation on the youth level makes it one of the most popular sports. Colon cancer is somewhat similar. It is very prevalent but doesn’t get that much attention. Based on the number of people affected, I believe colon cancer warrants more awareness.

AliveAndKickn aims to put the spotlight on colon cancer and soccer. When we do AliveAndKickathon fundraising soccer events, we keep much of the money local by partnering with an area hospital already doing work for colon cancer, and everyone wins.

Besides my soccer ability, I also have the ability to tell a story. As a professional voice-over actor (yes, there is such a thing), I can tell my story, or other people's stories, in such a fashion that they are powerful and meaningful, not boring or depressing, whether on or off camera. I joke that as Mr. January in the 2012 Colondar, the calendar of under-50 survivors of colon cancer, I'm the 12th most attractive survivor in 2012.

There's a line between making people uncomfortable and making people comfortable. If the goal is to bring more people into the fold, you want to provide a comfortable setting.  So I tell the stories and create the conversations that others may not be able to.

dubin-bracelet

Exact Sciences: Where do you see research/treatments of this disease in five years? What do you hope will happen or change? 

Genetics is a big topic. I think people believe that with more genetic testing and with more people undergoing genetic testing we will find more trends and treatments. I believe the younger generations want to know the reasons why, and because of that, there will be more research. I believe there will be more non-patients offering to have genetic testing done to try to be more informed.

From this information, hopefully more will be done on the prevention side, and, of course, the early detection side. I also hope that from genetic testing, more effective, targeted treatments can be created and implemented.    

Exact Sciences: Lastly, what is one thing that you would like people to take away from your story? 

If I thought the amount of awareness and funding for colon cancer was sufficient, I wouldn't do this. Based on the number of people affected by colon cancer, more of both is warranted. I want to make sure colon cancer has a "seat at the table" when it comes to discussions about cancer and other diseases.    

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Topics: Hero of the Month

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