'Mr. December' has Minnesota roots
A St. Paul man is proudly showing off his scar to increase public awareness about colon cancer.
Eric Powell, 36, is "Mr. December" in the sixth annual Colondar project, sponsored by The Colon Club.
Powell was one of 14 cancer survivors nationwide chosen as models for the 2010 calendar project. The group traveled on an all-expenses-paid trip to Lake George, N.Y., in early June for a photo shoot in preparation for the calendar's printing.
The Colondar models are all cancer survivors younger than 50. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States among young people. The goal of the organizers of the calendar is to urge young adults to pursue colon cancer screenings at an earlier age.
"Early detection is the important thing," Powell said.
Powell's story isn't unusual. He had no family history of colon cancer, yet his health seemed to quickly decline.
"I always considered myself to be pretty active," he said. "And I don't smoke or drink or anything."
Toward the end of 2006, Powell began to tire more easily and he would spend half of his normal work shift in the bathroom. He knew something wasn't right, but always thought it was because of something he had eaten."
After numerous tests, doctors decided to schedule Powell for a colonoscopy. The eventual diagnosis was devastating to Powell, who works as a security guard in the Twin Cities.
Powell was subsequently diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and required numerous chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
In the months following his treatments, Powell joined The Colon Club, a nonprofit organization made up of colon cancer survivors.
"The Colon Club was started to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and to show that it can happen to anyone," said Molly McMaster, co-founder of The Colon Club and a 2005 Colondar model. "We want people's jaws to drop when they see the Colondar."
When Powell heard that the organization sponsors an annual calendar project, he applied to be one of the models.
"The first calendars that were done six years ago were a little racier," Powell said. "Now they've changed it up a bit and have male and female models showing their scars."
Powell said he was a little nervous when he attended the summer photo shoot, but his fears were calmed as the models began to share their stories of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
Powell said he feels that there is a reason for everything, and suggested that his participation in the calendar project is a positive result from a bad situation. If he can save just one person from going through what he went through, Powell said, it will be worth it.
The models developed strong friendships during their time together, and they continue to communicate with each other through Facebook.
Jeff Holmquist is a reporter at the New Richmond (Wis.) News, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.