Jamie Forzato, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - More than 4,000 people walked or ran down Pennsylvania Avenue Sunday morning to bring awareness to colon cancer, a disease that is often overlooked.
D.C. has the highest rate of colon cancer in the nation.
When Caitlin O'Dwyer's doctor suggested she get a colonoscopy, she couldn't believe it.
"I'm not 50, why would I want a colonoscopy? But I trusted him and he's my doctor so I said okay," said the Reston resident.
She was diagnosed with early-stage colon cancer at 28.
"I'll tell you what, I'm going to be religious about getting them because holy cow, I got really, really lucky," she said.
Her friends and family ran with her through the nation's capital to raise money for research.
O'Dwyer's main goal was to encourage others to get the only test that can detect and prevent colon cancer. "
"It's uncomfortable and annoying to get a colonoscopy but it could save your life," she said. "It saved mine."
Not everyone is as fortunate as Caitlin.
Elise Gillette, from Chevy Chase, and Annalee Regensburg, from Alexandria, ran the 5K in memory of their younger sister, Laura.
"We lost her to colon cancer 5 years ago," said Gillette. "On her 40th birthday, she began to feel badly and in September they did a colonoscopy and found she was at stage four."
With tears in their eyes, they held a sign that said "Team Laura."
"She was the life of the family," said Regensburg. "She was a very good athlete, very vivacious, very motivating. That's how we remember her."
They added that if she was tested years before, the cancer could have been detected early.
"Most people think they can wait until their 50 or above for a colonoscopy. She would have needed one at age 26," said Regensburg. "Our cause is to get insurance companies to allow people to have a colonoscopy as a part of their regular physical. You could save many more lives."
Trish Jarvis, from Alexandria, is in treatment for stage four colon cancer. While in chemotherapy, she befriended Melody Schlight. Their families came together to form team "Bottoms Up" for the race, wearing blue tutus to support the survivors.
Trish went to several doctors who couldn't give her any answers. Eventually she decided to have a colonoscopy on her own.
"They found a polyp that was so big that they needed to do surgery immediately," said Marie, Trish's daughter. "It was the size of a grapefruit by the time they found it."
WTOP's team was led by morning drive editor Mike Jakaitis, who is 6 years colon cancer free. Read more about his story here.
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