Endometrial Cancer Survivor Fights for Awareness

Posted on: 09.25.2017

Colleen Johnson, 62, ran 100 miles during Hurricane Harvey remnant rains and flooding in Manchester to raise awareness for endometrial cancer.

Johnson was diagnosed with endometrial cancer two days after her 57th birthday.

“The first thing out of my mouth, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, was ‘what the cluck is endometrial cancer,’” she said, noting that she is a chicken farmer.

What the “cluck” is it?

“Basically endometrial cancer is cancer of the uterus,” Radiation Oncologist Anastasios Georgiou said.

Georgiou is on staff at the Kirkland Cancer Center.

It is a cancer that lines the lining of the womb, Georgiou notes.

As women get older and become menopausal, the lining of the womb becomes very thin and stops functioning. “The remnants may turn cancerous,” he said.

When this happens, it starts to grow abnormally.

Any woman can get endometrial cancer but it primarily occurs in older, post-menopausal women. A common symptom is post-menopausal bleeding, Georgiou said.

Key facts

According to the American Cancer Society, endometrial cancer is the most common cancer found in the female reproductive organs, in the U.S.

An estimated 10,920 women will die from cancers found in the uterine body, including uterine sarcomas, this year, according to ACS.

Going the distance

“No one is fighting for these ladies,” Johnson said. “Somebody’s got to fight for them. It might as well be me.”

In addition to being outspoken, Johnson said she can use her body and her running shoes to try to get more people to pay attention to endometrial cancer.

“I’ve done everything I can do to bring awareness to this problem,” she added.

There were heavy rains the first 36 hours of the marathon. Johnson’s original goal was to run 105 miles, but she got delayed on the first day.

At times, the water was so deep she had to walk because it was impossible to run, she said.

“I went out in that kind of weather to run this race because somebody needs to make the public aware of the fact that these ladies are dying at ever increasing numbers,” Johnson said.

Being able to bring awareness to endometrial cancer is the only thing that would push her to run 100 miles in bad weather conditions.

Most people have heard about cervical and ovarian cancer, but Johnson wants to make sure they don’t forget about endometrial.

“It is shocking how little research is being done to improve treatment or save the lives of women diagnosed with high risk uterine cancer,” Johnson said.

Georgiou admits that more research and resources have been dedicated to other cancers that are more prevalent, but there is still research being done.

“There is no way for everybody in society to agree on what is too risky and not risky,” Georgiou said. For example, “five percent to you may be intolerable where five percent to somebody else is inconsequential.”

Dr. Anastasios Georgiou, is a radiation oncologist at the Kirkland Cancer Center