KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in America. More than half of those could have been prevented with regular screening, and that is what one Kansas City area survivor wants to inspire others to do.
Johanne Blackburn is a local artist, whose studio is on her Missouri farm.
"It’s part of my life, it’s always been, I always was a creative person, I’ve had a career in art," Blackburn said.
Her life in art was upended by some concerning symptoms.
"She presented with semi-typical complaints of fairly advanced colon cancer," Dr. Todd Moore with Saint Luke's Health System said.
After Blackburn got screened for colon cancer, doctors found that she had a stage 3 tumor.
"A total surprise, the last thing I thought," Blackburn said.
Blackburn has gone through 11 rounds of chemotherapy over the past six months.
"I'm not done yet, I have to survive, so I was never kind of scared, I’m going to survive," Blackburn said. "I’ve had nine screenings and they’ve all been very good, so in a way, it’s a day in your life that can save your life."
In May 2021, the American Cancer Society released new guidelines that recommended that colorectal cancer screenings being at age 45. The society previously recommended regular colonoscopies starting at age 50.
"Recommendations for your average-risk individual is for them to have a colonoscopy or screening modality performed at age 45," Dr. Moore said.
A recent decrease in screenings because of pandemic delays is producing more urgent pleas from doctors and surgeons to get screened.
"It is a beatable disease, you want to get it detected early, that makes it more beatable," Dr. Moore said.
Blackburn won her fight, and she hopes her story can produce more victories.
"It’s a journey and you know the journey is going to change you and you’re working towards that, I hope everyone is lucky like I was," Blackburn said.