GUEST COLUMN: Miracles happen when we conquer the Giant

The Giant’s Head Grind was started in May of 2014 to elevate awareness of colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer; it’s not a subject that comes up very frequently at dinner parties unless of course you are a visitor in our home.

In 2013, after an 11-month battle, our 29-year-old son Chris lost his life to colon cancer.

He was by many accounts an unlikely candidate, otherwise healthy and fit, an avid runner and cyclist, triathlete, two-time Ironman finisher, and the list goes on.

Yet despite all of this, one a rainy day in 2012 at Vancouver General Hospital we were hearing a doctor saying, “Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer,” and wondering how this could have happened.

We have come to learn this news is being delivered to far too many families every year in Canada and throughout North America as colorectal cancers are the second and third leading cause of death from cancer in men and women respectively.

Moreover, while the incidents of this form of cancer are showing signs of declining in individuals over 50 years of age, they are increasing in those that are younger; a fact that is both alarming and concerning.

Through the efforts of Summerland Rotary, the District of Summerland, a committed group of volunteers and spurred on by those of us who knew and loved Chris, the Giant’s Head Grind was started in May of 2014 to elevate awareness of this deadly disease.

Now in its fourth year, the event continues to attract over 400 individuals of all ages who walk, run and cycle their way from Peach Orchard Park on Lake Okanagan to the top of Giant’s Head Mountain.

Together with dedicated volunteers and sponsors, who help to make the race a reality, we are literally “kicking butt,” raising awareness and raising funds.

We have also forged a relationship with the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and are pleased to be welcoming their Founder and CEO Barry Stein, himself a survivor, to this year’s event.

Diagnosed in his early 30s, he ultimately sought treatment in the United States which saved his life, but he vowed to bring about change in Canada.

His focus is threefold: Awareness, Advocacy and Education around a disease that is preventable, treatable and beatable.

Their most recent initiative, “Never Too Young,” puts a focus on the issue of increased incidents in young people highlighting the need for better access to screening and treatments.

Healthy and active lifestyles are a cornerstone to cancer prevention, which is why a portion of the funds raised at the Giant’s Head Grind are also being used to improve the trails on Giant’s Head Mountain.

Leading the way on this initiative is the District of Summerland who together with Summerland Rotary are developing a mountain master plan followed by a phased implementation of the recommendations.

In addition, recent funding from Rotary International and the provincial Liberals are helping to further augment this work.

Collectively our goals will help to ensure the long term health of our mountain while providing a spectacular location for outdoor recreation that residents and visitors can enjoy for years to come.

A lot has been accomplished in a few short years but there is so much more to be done. The Giant’s Head Grind is an event that has been embraced and supported by the community, something we are most grateful for.

Whether you participate, volunteer, sponsor or cheer on those that are making the climb, your support of this cause that touches so many lives, is tremendously appreciated.

Miracles Do Happen When We Conquer the Giant …. When We Conquer the Giant Together!

The Fourth Annual Giant’s Head Grind – Christopher Walker Memorial Race will be held Saturday, May 20. For more information go to giantsheadgrind.ca

Ellen Walker-Matthews is the founder of the Giant’s Head Grind.

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