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  • Erika Hanson Brown, Colorado

    When Erika Hanson Brown was going through colon cancer eight years ago, she often felt alone in navigating her treatment and staying connected with others, especially locally in Denver where she lives. Six months into treatment, she decided to ditch her “passive patient” mentality and became a committed advocate to her fight with cancer, networking with others who had a similar diagnosis, researching resources and seeking second opinions.

    That mentality led Erika to found ColonTown, a patient advocacy network that connects patients at a local, disease-specific level to ultimately create a “village of resources” for colon cancer patients. ColonTown is unique because it creates a community not only for those going through colon cancer, but also for those who successfully have gone through treatment, encouraging them to stay involved in the community, continuously learning and serving.

    How does it work? Everyone diagnosed with colon cancer becomes a “colonist” in ColonTown. People begin to assume roles in the community and hold community meetings, either online or in person.

    “Most people feel like they have a wonderful support network of family and friends, but what’s lacking is a local connection to someone going through colon cancer specifically,” said Erika. “Colonists know the specific language of colon cancer, they may know about new treatments, and they know the personal journey that only colon cancer survivors go through.”

    Most importantly, ColonTown creates continuity; “It’s like a circle,” said Erika. “In addition to helping those going through treatment, ColonTown addresses the drop-off point when people are done with cancer. They suddenly stop seeing the supportive community they had while going through treatment and are left feeling high and dry. This is a critically important point because while colon cancer survivors no longer receive routine treatment, they must receive routine imaging to catch any recurrences early.”

    ColonTown seeks to mobilize these survivors, and make sure they stay current when those resources start to disappear.

    “When I was going through colon cancer, I was just lucky,” said Erika. “I want people to be more than that – to be smart and have the resources to advocate for themselves.

    To learn more about ColonTown or become a Colonist, visit www.facebook.com/colontown.

    Watch Erika talk about her message to Congress:

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