Publisher’s Note: The Force for Health® Network teamed up with one of our memebr groups, ButtCheck, for some special interviews from the 2023 Cologuard Classic Night of Champions, honoring loves ones, caregivers and advocates of Colon Cancer.
Meet Caroline Michelle (aka Caroline Motycka), survivor, widow and advocate as she shares her story, and honors her late husband, Mike Mancini, with her reflections and advice. #ColonCancerAwareness #CologuardClassic #Buttcheck #ForceforHealthHeroes
Who are you and what brings you out tonight?
My name’s Carol Motycka,(Caroline Michelle) and I’m here with the advocacy group Fight Colorectal Cancer for the 2023 already. Cologuard Classic. And I am here as a survivor, a stage four survivor, and I’m also here as a care partner to my late husband, Mike Mancini, who passed away March 4th, 2022.
Tell us your story…
Sure. My story is a little different. I was 42 years old and I was very healthy. I hiked and ran daily, and one day I had a sore shoulder and I ended up in the er. After a lot of different exams, I was very fortunate that my physicians were determined to figure out what was going on. And they investigated. My sore shoulder led to a stage four colorectal cancer diagnosis. Unbeknownst to all of us, what we thought was a sore shoulder was actually differentiated pain from a liver that was full of tumors. And then I was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. I was diagnosed on April 9th, 2016, so almost seven years ago.
So I treated, you know, in, in typical, standard of care, I had six rounds of chemo, to try and reduce the tumor burden. And then I had tumor debulking, from my liver and my colon. I had some to do some cleanup, and went through chemo to make sure that my liver was clear, but I ended up having liver failure as a result of all the chemo and the toxicity that it caused.
And so in 2018, I underwent a living donor liver transplant. So now, I have a brand new liver going on five years and am doing well. All is going well. I’m actually a genetic cancer carrier. I found out through some investigation of my own and through some DNA and genetic testing that I have a sma, for genetic disposition to, early polyps, which is something called juvenile polyposis syndrome.
It’s a marker in your genes that causes growth of polyps. And as we all know, in colons, those polyps can turn into cancer. And since I didn’t know that that was a thing and that I had that gene, mine actually did grow and did turn into cancers.
I was really fortunate though because, we were able to identify that I did have a genetic disposition to cancer. And so, I was high risk and so was my family. And I have four adult children. They’re all boys. And we were able, through my diagnosis, to really look at their DNA and see if they had the gene markers that were the same.
The two of them had the genetic disposition that I have. They, had colonoscopies at 18 and at 21. And my 18 year old had three precancerous polyps that were able to be removed because we knew there was a family history and we were able to screen and we were able to beat it. And so my kids, through my diagnosis, won’t ever have cancer ever.
I was 42 when I was diagnosed, but I’m an early onset and I probably carried my cancer for 10 years before it actually became a, a stage four situation.
Wow…amazing story. Le’t shift to your late husband, Mike…tell us about him.
So I met Mike in 2019 at an event through the advocacy group (Fight Colorectal Cancer) called Call On Congress. I met him there. He was diagnosed in 2017 with late stage colorectal cancer as well. He was also in the prime of his life. He was a fitness instructor. He was a physical fitness trainer and, all things that were counterintuitive to colorectal cancer or to any kind of cancer. He was very healthy and and fit. And one day he became very ill at work and was taken to the emergency room. And after four different misdiagnosis, he was given the diagnosis of stage four colorectal cancer, as well. He fought valiently for four and a half years.
He fought for himself and he fought for others. Along the way, he was a hero in so many fashions because he didn’t care about himself as much as he cared about spreading the word of awareness and making sure that everybody knew that we needed to screen. And, that’s how we prevent cancer.
So knowing your family historyand if you are at risk, and then screening for it… that’s how we, meanin my sons, beat colorectal cancer. And so, you know, he always said that one that if he made a difference in one person’s life, that’s ultimately what, what mattered. And it was okay in the end.
So, you know, we walked him up the red carpet on March 4th, 2022. On Saturday, here at the Cologuard Classic, we’ll all stand together and we’ll honor him here. And, we miss him dearly, but we know that he’s in a better place. So we fight on for him. We carry the torch for him.
We remember that he was supposed to come out to the Cologuard Classic last year, but couldn’t make it, right?
Yes, we had booked our tickets. We were planning on attending. Mike was very excited. He was an avid golfer, and he was excited because his world of golfing, that he loved so much and was so passionate about, met his world of advocacy. And it was another thing that he was so passionate about. So it was such a blessing for him to get to participate in golf with Jerry Kelly in 2021.
And then he was so looking forward to coming back last year, but unfortunately his cancer, progressed very rapidly in the end and we weren’t able to make it. So I golfed today with Jerry in his honor. So it was very exciting.
What is your key message for us all?
I think the most important thing is no matter who you are, no matter what your sex is, no matter what your color is, no matter what any of those things are, if you are human, you have a colon, and if you have a colon, you can get colorectal cancer.
So I think the most important message on top of everything else is know it. We have to investigate. We have to ask questions, and then we have to follow up with screening that’s appropriate. Things such as Cologuard and colonoscopies are things that can prevent cancer.
And, and we can detect cancer at an early stage so that we know that in the end we can beat it. And so knowing it and screening it, that’s how we beat it…that’s the overall message that we want to get out here at the Cologuard.
And I think that the message, you know, for Mike is something that was really important to him was that we always encourage people to “Do it Like Mike” because Mike shared those sentiments with everybody, no matter who they were, no matter what conversation we were a part of, he was always reminding everybody that it was important to ask those questions and get screened, save lives.
Just Do it like Mike.