Asked to speak a bit about herself, Lara-Lea Avery pondered for a second and then responded.
"Well, I'm a 35-year-old mom to a five-year-old boy. His name is Riley, and I keep busy looking after him and doing things with him, taking him out," she smiled. "I like being outside, doing gardening, going for family walks with my son and husband and bike rides."
Avery is also the spokeswoman for the upcoming Kick Butt Walk or Run for Colorectal Cancer event taking place at Kildonan Park on Sept. 8. A survivor of colorectal cancer herself, she has undergone 68 rounds of chemotherapy treatment and 28 rounds of radiation treatment since her diagnosis in the fall of 2006. Though her story may be unusual — the majority of people diagnosed are over the age of 50 — she is a testament colorectal cancer can happen to anybody at any age.
"For two months I had symptoms, stomach cramping, and like most people in the world I thought, 'oh you know, this will go away, I'll feel better,' " said Avery, who was pregnant at the time. The pregnancy itself, she said, caused difficulty in getting a proper diagnosis, with many symptoms such as constipation attributed to the pregnancy and not to the tumour that was later found blocking her colon.
"When I found out, I mean it's never nice to know there is a cancerous tumour in your colon, it's scary, but on the same note when I was in that much excruciating pain I was really relieved they finally knew what was wrong with me."
Avery had two surgeries, while still pregnant, to remove the tumour. "I'm blessed to have my son and the fact that he made it through the two surgeries — he pushed on and I was able to have him. He is the joy, the light of my life," she said with a smile. She has been off chemotherapy now since January following surgery on her liver last summer.
"I think a real key thing for people to know is we just all really need to be in tune with our own bodies in order to know if something is not right," said Avery. "If something seems to be out of the normal, not your normal, and seems to be persistent over a few weeks, go and seek advice from a medical professional."
As of late, Avery has been busy heading up the silent auction for the fifth-annual Kick Butt Walk or Run for Colorectal Cancer. The event was started by Sid Chapnick, co-chairman of Kick Butt, when he happened to be at his first-ever CancerCare Manitoba colorectal cancer support group and mentioned he had been a runner in several marathons and commented how there was no walk or run for colorectal cancer of which he knew.
Hence, the Kick Butt Walk or Run for Colorectal Cancer was born to bring about more awareness about the disease.
Chapnick is excited about this year's walk, and spoke fondly of Avery.
"Lara-Lea has been our spokesperson for the last four years, sharing her own personal story. That in itself has made the biggest difference to our success in my mind," he said.
This year's three- to five-kilometre walk or run also includes a silent auction and prizes for best "butt cover."
"Participants come out and wear boxer shorts, pyjama bottoms, bathing suit bottoms, they get creative — it's a way to create awareness about colorectal cancer in a fun way," said Avery. All proceeds raised from the walk or run will be donated to the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation to raise awareness and advocate for the needs of people living with colorectal cancer.
"One hundred per cent of the proceeds stay in Manitoba for patients and families" said Avery. "We would love to have people come out for the event — if you know somebody who has colorectal cancer, a friend or a family member, if you know somebody who has passed away from colorectal cancer, or if you have battled the disease and survived. We're all survivors really, if you are fighting this disease, because we're surviving day by day."
For more information about how to get involved in the Kick Butt Walk or Run for Colorectal Cancer, please visit kickbuttrun.com.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin at firstname.lastname@example.org