INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and News 8 on Wednesday spotlighted three survivors from central Indiana who are fighting to end the deadly disease.
Andrea Bauer, Kierstyn Roberts and Greg Vinson are now linked because of that fight.
“I hate that I had to meet them this way,” Bauer said.
Bauer beat the disease five years ago, but after seeing how much colorectal cancer was affecting people at younger ages, she was led to help others fight and raise more awareness as a part of the Never Too Young advisory board of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
That journey recently helped her cross paths with Vinson, a firefighter with the Indianapolis Fire Department. Although he knew first responders are more vulnerable to the disease, he got worried when he started having stomach issues.
“I still went to work, but my anxiety was getting the best of me and, in my mind, something was wrong,” he said.
A doctor insisted he was fine and out of harm’s way because of his young age. Vinson recalled what the doctor told him right before the diagnosis: “Let’s just do it. I’ll send you home, you’ll have nothing to worry about, and I’ll see you in 10 years. That’s what he said.”
When the results from the colonoscopy came back, Vinson says the doctor’s face turned white. He knew he had a long road ahead.
“We’re still only saying 50 or 45 when we got proof right here that even younger people are getting it,” Vinson said.
When it comes to survivors battling with colorectal cancer, it doesn’t get much younger than Kierstyn Roberts, a student at Indiana University. “I woke up with really bad chest pain and I was trying to ignore that fact because, you know, I’m 21 and, like, well, I’m probably just stressed out from school.”
Not only was it colon cancer, it was aggressive. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She’s been getting treatment for seven months, a time in which she has started spreading the word to help others learn more about the disease. As she taught friends, she gained inspiration from other survivors.
“I know that there’s like this 1% of people surviving but that 1% means everything to me,” Roberts said. “My story has spread far beyond the U.S. I have friends that live in other countries, and they know about my story.”
All three are pushing for change, hoping people in the medical community will give the age of colorectal cancer a second look while their growing community is encouraging young people to catch the cancer before it starts.