Advocate Spotlight: Leo and Kirstin with the 7buttsproject

Leo and Kirsten, creators of the 7buttsproject, came all the way from Florida to participate in the Boxer 500, volunteered the morning of the event, and raised more than $600 for colon cancer awareness! We sat down to chat with Leo to learn more about why they traveled so far to show their support and all about their 7buttsproject! Read on:

How did you hear about the Boxer 500?           
We heard about Boxer 500 via Instagram on our 7buttsproject page. It was posted by GPCCTF (Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force). The Omaha Running Club messaged our 7buttsproject page on Instagram and invited us to participate in the run.
You live in Florida. What compelled you to fly all the way to Nebraska to participate in this event? 
When the Omaha Running Club invited us we had to decline the offer with the thought that we are just way too far to participate in this event. We shared the GPCCTF Boxer 500 post on our page to help the cause reach more people. I was debating on trying to get out there and volunteering in hopes of being able to set up something similar here in Tampa, Florida. About a week later, Kirsten and I were discussing 7buttsproject and she said, “We should go to Omaha. We can learn from them and start something here in Tampa.” So, since she basically read my mind, I agreed and we booked a flight that day.
We later contacted Kelli to get information about volunteering and how to sign up for the run and start our team. Kelli was very helpful, she even gave us tips on hotels and things to do while we were there.
Have you personally been affected by colorectal cancer?           
I’ve had some issues on an off with my stomach and was diagnosed with GERD (gastric reflux). My mother had seven polyps removed in 2015, all benign thankfully. Kirsten’s mother has diverticulitis and had some polyps removed. Her great-grandfather had colon cancer.


How much money did your team raise for the Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force?
We raised $645. Our initial goal was $300, then we raised it to $500. It felt nice to get to $645.  
You also volunteered your time. What makes you passionate about raising awareness for colon cancer?  
The prevalence of CRC (colorectal cancer) is unnecessarily high and can be decreased by increasing public awareness and with better use of screening tools. People are generally uncomfortable exposing their bums and talking about their bowel habits.

7buttsproject was created to help get information out to the public and get people comfortable with talking about their butts. We are both registered nurses at Moffitt Cancer Center and we see the effects that cancer has on people and their loved ones. We want to spread awareness of a highly preventable cancer to as many as possible so that they can enjoy their lives and take control of their health. 

In working on this project, we also noticed that many people are uncomfortable with their entire body and not just their bums. I know that when I have gone for my yearly physical examination I feel uncomfortable being exposed. 7buttsproject works to overcome body image issues as well. We can all learn to love our bodies more and be more comfortable with talking about our health behaviors. 

How does your project work?
We educate people on the risk factors of CRC and ask them to encourage another person to get screened. After doing so, we hope they will feel empowered to post a picture of their backside and challenge 7 others to do the same. By utilizing Instagram and Facebook, we are hoping to reach the younger than 50 years old population as well. Colorectal cancer is currently affecting people younger than the recommended screening age of 50 years old. 

Also, 7buttsproject is developing a way to connect with health care providers to encourage authentic dialogue with their patients regarding colon health. We have found that many providers do not discuss healthy bowel habits with their patients and only discuss screening for CRC if they are 50+ years old.
What did you think about the event?
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Omaha. It is a beautiful city and the Boxer500 was well organized. We could see the passion on everyone’s faces and despite rain and hail in the morning, the race continued! We are so grateful for the opportunity to assist in this wonderful event.
What do you think everyone should know about colon cancer?
IT IS PREVENTABLE! And now, younger adults are being diagnosed with colon cancer. Listen to your body, don’t be shy to have your doctor check your bum. Get checked, and STOP it before it starts.
Anything else you would like to say?
Grab your friends and family and get involved in your community with health improvement/disease prevention events and projects. Every little bit helps.

And a BIG thanks to Kelli Sweet, GPCCTF, the Boxer 500 crew and volunteers, and thank you Omaha!

Mikala Harden