February's Hero of the Month Going the Extra Mile for Colon Cancer Awareness

Briana Kirby (middle) with her father and sister, two of her biggest supporters as she completes her race.

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.

Briana Kirby: Colon cancer runs in my family. Almost 10 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 45. He fought tirelessly and eventually he won. I’m proud to say that he’s currently in remission.

In 2006, my mom, Cindy, was diagnosed with stage-IV colon cancer, just before her 47th birthday. After several surgeries and countless rounds of chemotherapy, she died last summer at the age of 52.

In honor of my mother, I’ve decided to run a half marathon, every month, for a year. While some people may think it’s crazy, I say, it’s still easier than going through chemotherapy.

Exact Sciences: What are you doing to raise awareness of this disease?

Briana: In addition to running a half marathon every month for a year, I also started a blog called Still Easier than Chemo. My mission is to help fund colon cancer research. My blog allows visitors to donate to the VCU Massey Cancer Center in Virginia - the center where my mom was treated, so it has special meaning to me.

I want to do everything I can to help. When I set out to begin this journey in August of 2012 -- my goal was to raise $10,000 within a year and we’re about half way through and already we’ve raised a little bit more than $8,400! It’s amazing.

I’ve been incredibly humbled by the support that I’ve received and truly touched by the people that have reached out to me to share their personal stories. It’s been phenomenal!

Exact Sciences: Still Easier than Chemo is the name of your blog, what does that mean?

Briana: It means, yes, running a half marathon every month may be tough, but it’s still easier than chemotherapy. Just like many other things in this world that may seem unreachable. It’s the message that you have the strength to continue—it’s not impossible, you’re stronger than you realize. You are stronger than you think.

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

Briana: It’s important because colon cancer is preventable and also one of the deadliest. I think that there is a common misconception this disease is just for elderly people-- but that’s not the case.

My parents were both in their 40s when they were diagnosed, and because it runs in my family I will need to get screened within the next few years to make sure that I don’t have precancerous or cancerous polyps.

Exact Sciences: What are your thoughts on what Exact Sciences is trying to accomplish?

Briana: I think it’s great! There is just something about being able to screen yourself at your home that I think many people will find comforting. I strongly believe in the importance of people being more aware of their own bodies.

For instance, as women - we’re taught at a young age to perform routine self-breast exams on ourselves to make sure we’re monitoring for any abnormalities. Through self-exams like that it forces us to be more conscious about our bodies  and so if something is wrong, there is more of a likelihood that it’s realized and addressed.

I think that what Exact Sciences is trying to do is incredible and will hopefully improve the number of people that get screened for colon cancer. The sooner you catch the disease; the better and the more likely that you’ll survive.

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

Briana: I think it’s the concept - don’t ever give up. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep fighting. Not just with cancer, but in life! Not only am I running for my mom, I’m running for everyone who can’t.  I value the ability to do that - and I know that not everyone can, so for those who can’t - I’m doing this for you.

If you would like to donate to Briana’s cause which helps fund colon cancer research you can do so by visiting her blog at www.stilleasierthanchemo.com.


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