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The Project is honored to announce that University of Louisville President James Ramsey is the Honorary Chair of the 7th Annual Walk Away from Colon Cancer & 5K Run.

Here is his story of how cancer - including colon cancer - has impacted his life and the lives of those around him:

Ramsey

"A little over a decade ago when I was working at UNC-CH, I worked with one of the most brilliant and insightful higher education leaders in the country, Dr. Michael Hooker.  One Friday afternoon, on Martin Luther King Day of 1999, Michael left a faculty meeting early to visit the UNC-CH hospital as he had not been feeling well – had been tired and feeling down.  We had an alumni event that night and Michael didn’t show up – a little unusual but I assumed he was not feeling well.  Our family went away for the long weekend and when I returned to campus on Tuesday I met Michael’s secretary in the parking lot and she asked if I had heard about Michael.  I had to say I had not.  He had been diagnosed on Friday with cancer and they immediately began a treatment that evening.

That was in January 1999; by April 9th they had given up on Michael’s treatment protocol and by summer of that year he passed away.

That was my first up close and personal exposure to the horrible disease of cancer.

Since becoming President of the University of Louisville, we have continued to work hard to build the James Graham Brown Cancer Center into a world class cancer program – Kentucky is a high cancer state.  The incidence of most forms of cancer in Kentucky far exceed the national average and the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997 mandates that higher education address those issues of grievous concern in our state. 

I’ve learned a lot over the last decade about cancer prevention, cancer education, cancer research and clinical care for those diagnosed with cancer through my interaction with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. 

My next up close and personal experience was one afternoon about 5 years ago when I came home and my wife said, “The doctor called today with the results of my skin biopsy” – she had melanoma.  No question that being President of the University of Louisville allowed us to receive quick treatment.  That evening I called Don Miller to give him the results and he put us in touch with Dr. Kelly McMaster and the next morning Kelly removed Jane’s cancer.  They got it early, no complications, no problems.

And then January 10, 2011.  My sister, Suzanne, had moved to Louisville four years ago, in large part to be close to our father who at that time was 90 years old.  My sister became our dad’s primary care giver for the last three years of his life.  As a result, and like many of us, Suzanne did not put herself first and take care of herself – had never had a colon screening.  It was about three weeks after Dad passed away that she was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the colon and liver.  Since the diagnosis in January 2011, she’s been through 18 48-hour chemo treatments, a radiation implant, a chemo blast, etc.  It has been tough.  She continues to have an incredible attitude and continues to fight hard, even on those days when she is so sick and weak from a very low white blood count.  She’s had two special opportunities – once to have her children and grandchildren together in Florida and then in California earlier this year where her grandson lives. 

She has been an inspiration to me and is a reminder of what a horrible disease cancer is because the treatments are so devastating.  Her disease is a reminder of the importance of education and prevention to do everything we can to diagnose cancer as soon as possible."

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