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Young Colon Cancer Survivor Spreads Message of Awareness

August 13, 2019

Danielle Ripley-Burgess knows firsthand about March’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. As a 2-time colorectal cancer survivor, she’s passionate about sharing her story – often telling poop jokes as a way to inform others about the condition.

“I share my story to try to prevent it from happening to others,” she says. “I do try to see my experience as a gift God’s given me to share hope.”

Diagnosed as a teenager in 2001, Danielle swapped her worries about algebra and high school theater for concerns about chemotherapy and radiation. After beating her stage 3 diagnosis, she graduated from college and started promoting awareness and acceptance of this disease. She is the director of communications for the nonprofit advocacy organization Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) and a member of the board of directors for The Colon Club.

"I majored in public relations so I could one day work for a big cancer nonprofit. The fact that I work for a colon cancer-focused nonprofit has surpassed my hopes and dreams. It's helped give me purpose and make sense of a rare diagnosis of colorectal cancer as a teen," Danielle says.

She was featured as Miss October in the 2009 edition of The Colondar, a calendar designed to raise awareness by focusing on individual cancer patients and their stories. "It was then I realized I'm not alone," says Danielle. "I was diagnosed with my second occurrence just months after my calendar photo shoot at age 25, and I realized cancer would always be a part of my life." Danielle went on to beat that diagnosis, too.

Turning 30 in style

She celebrated her 30th birthday by coordinating the arrival of The Colossal Colon to Kansas City. The larger-than-life, 40-foot tunnel resembles a human intestine and provoked a variety of responses. "The kids loved it," she says. "At the very least, it raised quite a bit of awareness." Danielle credits "CoCo," as she and many others call the display, for bringing many young cancer survivors together and helping build awareness.

Danielle, her husband, Mike, and daughter, Mae, live in Lee's Summit, Missouri. In addition to her work for Fight CRC and The Colon Club, Danielle has written a devotional book and has a blog about cancer survivorship.

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