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Normalizing Colon Cancer

The Bottoms Up Event Honors and Educates

“There’s no ‘cure’ for colon cancer. It’s like cutting grass, just cut it back, cut it back, cut it back until it dies.” - Lawrence Meadows

When Lawrence Meadows - pastor, co-owner of a funeral home in South Carolina, and brother of Westport resident and Today Show anchor Craig Melvin - was in his late 30’s he began experiencing abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. Due to his healthy lifestyle, he wrote it off as an ulcer and made a note to eat more fiber.

In 2016, at the behest of his doctor, he agreed to a CT scan. The scan revealed a tumor “the size of a tangerine,” and he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. He was 39.

Everyone was shocked. Craig interviewed him in a Today Show segment around that time, exclaiming, “I couldn’t get my head around it being you. No smoking, no drinking, no partying.” “Yeah,” Lawrence smiled, “Gosh I should have been drinking and smoking and all that other stuff, too!”

African Americans are twice as likely to develop early onset colon cancer as white people. Further, oncologists are noticing an uptick in early onset colon cancer - individuals younger than 45 - and expect the number to increase by “over 50% in the next 15 years,” according to Dr. Kopetz.

Lawrence, with his wife and primary caregiver, Angela, flew over 1,000 miles to Houston every two weeks for 28 rounds of chemo treatment. He suffered from fatigue, hair loss, and painful tingling in his hands and feet. 

None of the discomforts stopped him. Instead, he volunteered for experimental drugs and “criss-crossed the country” educating others about cancer at health fairs and conferences. Says Craig, “When terrible things happen you can do one of two things - let it define you and curl up into a fetal position or figure out how to use that terrible thing for good.”

Lawrence was in good health for a year and a half. When his health began failing he continued his drug trials, knowing the results would help others. “Motivation wasn’t prolonging his life,” recalls Craig. "It was about helping other patients in the future.”

In December 2020, Lawrence died, leaving behind his wife and two young children.

If you’ve known someone suffering from cancer, you can understand that the end brings a bit of relief. Both the patient and the caregiver are victims of this horrific disease and finding any type of respite is difficult, if even possible. There’s unrelenting pain, sleepless nights and stress. Fear. There is filth to clean and lungs filled with liquid needing to be drained. The caregiver becomes a nurse, medical assistant, and therapist. There’s indignity: the patient becomes wholly reliant on others.

Before his death, Lawrence made Craig promise to continue advocating for cancer patients and their caregivers. So Craig and his wife, Lindsay Czarniak, host the annual Bottoms Up Golf Invitational and Concert on behalf of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. 

This year’s concert featured performances by musicians from Hootie & the Blowfish, Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors, saxophonist and composer Branford Marsalis, and many more.

(Of note, Lawrence was not a golfer. Once Craig spotted a golf club in his bedroom and he asked why it was there. “In case someone breaks in,” shrugged Lawrence.)

This year alone, they raised $1.2 million for education, testing, and help for the often-overlooked caregivers.

“[We want people] to know how much cancer f&*king s@cks; we’re all affected by it. People don’t like to talk about colons and rectums and blood in the stool,” asserts Craig. 

Then he adds, “We want to normalize the talk to honor Lawrence’s life.”

Colorectal Cancer Alliance

CCallience.org

“We want to normalize the talk to honor Lawrence’s life.”

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