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, NH — April 1, 2013, The New Hampshire State Board of Gymnastics, a division of USA Gymnastics (NH-USAG) Region 6, recently launched a public service campaign to raise awareness and encourage people to get screened for Colorectal (Colon) Cancer – the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America. Region 6 includes USAG delegates from New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Maine. Annually, each state designates a specific cancer to honor. NH-USAG Board Chair Haven Milton and Vice Chair Jennifer Pelland went to work and polled gymnastics organizations throughout New Hampshire to determine which cancer to support. The selection came as a result of learning about Claire Ellis, the mother of a gymnast from Gymnastics at Brentwood Commons, was diagnosed with Colorectal (Colon) Cancer. “It was merely a coincidence that we selected colon cancer and March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month,” said Pelland. “We decided to support this specific disease because it is hitting so close to home affecting one of our own gymnastics families.” Stratham resident Claire Ellis, mother of four, was diagnosed in January 2012 with stage three Colon Cancer. At first, doctors thought it was a urinary tract infection and treated as such. After an initial surgery to treat the colon, the physicians discovered that the cancer had metastasized and more scans revealed a second tumor which was removed this past October. During a follow up scan in December, doctors found more tumors in Claire’s stomach cavities. She is currently undergoing chemo treatments that could continue for up to three years. “The community has been a tremendous help providing food, transportation, house cleaning, yard work you name it, we are so grateful,” said Claire. “We are glad NHUSAG is helping to bring to light to this cancer that is overlooked often because it is thought to be of older patients and not healthy young women,” she added. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. It is the third most common cancer in the United States, behind only lung and prostate cancers in men and lung and breast cancers in women. Misdiagnoses like Claire’s are becoming more common as a disease historically associated with people older than 50 is increasingly affecting a younger population.
While overall rates of colorectal cancer have been dropping since the 1980s, cases in people under age 50 have been slowly, but steadily rising, research has found. The biggest increases come among people in their forties. According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, it is estimated that in 2013, 50,830 people will die of colon cancer. “A great deal of publicity goes to other cancers,” added Haven. “We wanted to draw more attention to this equally dreadful cancer that can be easily treated with early detection.” The NH-USAG public service campaign will be visible at all NH-USAG State Championships, occurring between now and April 7, 2013. All of the 550+ gymnasts competing will be pinned with a special blue ribbon; meet signage will bear the symbol of Colon Cancer Alliance (http://www.ccalliance.org/); all the teams will be carrying blue and white lights during opening ceremonies; and during each session a representative from Gymnastics at Brentwood Commons will be sharing Claire Ellis's story. Additionally, NH-USAG has jump started a fundraising effort with a donation of $750; its goal is to raise $3,000 throughout all the State Championships meet to be donated to the Colon Cancer Alliance in honor of Claire Ellis. “Imagine, if every family came and donated two dollars to the campaign, we’d be half way to our goal,” added Pelland. Further support will be seen at the Level 8 Region 6 Championships, held on April 27th and 28th at Burlington High School, Burlington MA. All NH level 8 gymnastics competing will wear a specially designed leotard in a blue color scheme—the color of colorectal cancer—completed with a traditional ribbon to recognize cancer. For more information on how you can help, please contact Jennifer Pelland at Atlantic Gymnastics Training Center 603-433-0404 or go online to the Colon Cancer Alliance for more information on prevention and resources or to donate: http://www.ccalliance.org/donate/index.html ### Photo caption: Claire Ellis with her family- husband Thomas and her children: Michael (7 years old), Hannah (9 years old), Katie (12 years old), and Roger (10 years old) Photo provided by Portraits in Cancer Awareness