His wife having succumbed to colon cancer, Darryl Sittler knows firsthand the importance of early detection in fighting the disease. That experience made the hockey hall of famer an eager recruit for Colon Cancer Canada’s public education campaign, which features other celebrities such as Anne Murray and Pamela Wallin.
The advocacy role is a good fit for the St. Jacobs native, who has supported the cause since losing his wife Wendy in 2002.
“Wendy, her message was that if she could prevent one person from not having to go through what she went through, then it would be worthwhile,” said Sittler in an interview.
When Wendy was diagnosed at 50 with colon cancer neither she nor Darryl knew much about the disease. They were both, however, startled by information that depicted the colon cancer as both potentially fatal and highly curable.
“We found out quite quickly that colon cancer was the number two killer of cancers in both men and women, that it’s 90 per cent preventable with early detection. Right away I said, ‘how can it be 90 per cent curable and the number two killer of cancer?” said Sittler.
The key is early detection.
“People weren’t getting tested, or the message wasn’t getting out.”
This year alone, some 21,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with colon cancer. Even more startling is the fact that almost 50 per cent of those diagnosed will die even though colon cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer – it’s very treatable if caught early.
Still, many people fail to get tested.
“I’ve had two colonoscopies. If you know somebody who has colon cancer, the colonoscopy part of it is nothing compared to the disease – and the treatments for the disease, surgeries and chemotherapy and all those things.”
While some people wait to turn 50 before getting a colonoscopy, those with a family history of the disease are encouraged to go much sooner. The earlier the better, said Sittler.
“Be proactive in your life; you only get one life, and it’s up to you to make those calls – other people can’t make them for you,” said the former Toronto Maple Leaf great, who, in addition to speaking on behalf of Colon Cancer Canada, was also instrumental in setting up the Wendy Bear campaign in memory of his late wife. Anyone interested in supporting Colon Cancer Canada can order a teddy bear online, the proceeds of which are used to support people living with colon cancer.
For more information, visit www.coloncancercanada.ca.