Although Nora Bridge doesn’t have any type of colorectal cancer, she didn’t hesitate last week to show off her true colors in support of those who do.
And that color is blue.
Bridge, a Seymour resident, is donning blue hair extensions in honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
The extensions came courtesy of stylists from Simply Chic Beauty Salon, who set up shop at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, volunteering their time and profits for nine hours last Tuesday outside the endoscopy center.
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Each extension cost $10, and people could buy as many as they wanted. It didn’t matter if they had long, short, curly or straight hair since the extensions could be cut and styled to fit all hair types and styles.
The money raised is going to the Schneck Foundation, which enables the hospital to improve and expand patient care services, upgrade medical equipment and provide educational activities and programs involving health topics to the community.
“I found out about it when I was at the hospital getting blood work done,” Bridge said of the fundraiser. “I was leaving the hospital and saw the booth and was curious, so I went over and asked what it was about.”
After finding out the extensions were to help raise awareness for colon cancer, Bridge was sold. Shelling out her $10, she sat down in the chair and let stylist Megan Davis fix her up. She later brought her 9-year-old daughter, Breanna, back to get a blue extension, too.
“She loved the idea of helping to raise awareness,” Bridge said.
Not only did Bridge love the color, she said the cause hits close to home.
She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 17 years old. Because of that, she is at a greater risk than most people of developing colon cancer in her lifetime, she said.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the bowels and digestive tract, which can be painful and debilitating and lead to life-threatening complications, including colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates more than 136,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year.
The death rate from colorectal cancer has been going down for more than 20 years, however, due to colorectal cancer screenings, which identify polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer. If detected earlier, colorectal cancer is easier to cure, too.
“Granted it’s not in the same category as colon cancer, I still think it’s important to raise awareness,” Bridge said. “I think things like colon cancer and Crohn’s disease unfortunately get overlooked because it is often misdiagnosed.”
She said she was thankful for Simply Chic for coming up with such a creative idea to keep colorectal cancer at the forefront of people’s minds and hopes to see their efforts continue.
Kelli Jo Stuckwish, owner and operator of Simply Chic, said they have sold nearly 100 of the extensions since the event began.
“We didn’t really know what to expect because the blue isn’t as well known as the pink for breast cancer, and we didn’t advertise much,” she said. “Next year, we plan to get the word out and double what we did this year.”
Since people have continued to stop by the salon at 909 E. Tipton St. asking about the extensions, Stuckwish said they will offer them until the end of the month.
“If they want them, they can come get them,” she said.
She hopes to be able to donate around $1,000 to the hospital foundation but still needs to sell some more extensions to meet that goal.
Julia Aker of Seymour ended up getting two blue hair extensions after she saw a post on the hospital’s Facebook page about the event. She is a breast cancer survivor and lost both her mom and sister to cancer.
“I did the pink extensions last year, and I know people who have had colon cancer,” she said. “With so much emphasis on the pink for breast cancer, I wanted to help promote colon cancer awareness, as well.”
Since getting the blue extensions, Aker said she has been asked by several people why she got it and why blue.
“It’s sort of like a walking billboard,” she said. “It gives me a chance to talk about it.”
Aker said she never shies away from a conversation about cancer with others because it could be the encouragement someone needs to get a cancer screening. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society.
“I am 51 and have already had two colonoscopies due to my previous breast cancer diagnosis,” she said.
Fewer than half of people who should be screened for colorectal cancer are getting a colonoscopy or other test, according to the American Cancer Society. It recommends colonoscopies for people age 50 and older.
“You should get your first colonoscopy at the age of 50, and depending on your personal family medical history and risks, you may need to be screened even earlier,” said Sally Acton, director of cancer and palliative care services at Schneck. “People should talk to their family doctor about how often they need to be screened.”
Stuckwish said she agreed to provide the blue extensions after Kathy Hackman, who works in the endoscopy department, contacted her about it. The salon has sponsored a similar event the past two years at the cancer center in October for breast cancer awareness, selling pink hair extensions.
“It’s important for people to have that awareness of cancer and to get their screenings and tests,” Stuckwish said.
Since every type of cancer can be symbolized with a color, Stuckwish said she is working with the cancer center on an event later this year involving all types of cancer. The salon also will be doing pink extensions again in October.
Stuckwish said she enjoys being able to give back to the hospital foundation and the cancer center.
“I know that they offer screenings and testing right here, and there are different classes and programs that they offer,” she said. “I like to donate to them because it’s one way to help our community, and I know the money will be put to good use to help people.”
If you are ages 50 to 85 and would like more information to help measure your colorectal cancer risk, take the National Cancer Institute’s Colorectal Assessment at cancer.gov/colorectalcancerrisk.
Also this month, Schneck Foundation’s Community Relations Committee will present a Colon Cancer Awareness program to educate people on colon cancer, cancer prevention and the importance of early detection.
The program will be presented by Dr. G. Todd Lemmel, gastroenterologist at Schneck, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 26 in the Schneck auditorium, located just inside the visitor’s entrance at the hospital.
Free ColoCARE at-home testing kits will be available to those who participate.
To sign up for the free colorectal cancer awareness program, contact Natalie Harpe at 812-524-4247 or email email@example.com.