The principal goal of Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation is to permanently eliminate the threat of colon cancer through discovery of a cure. As long as people are dying from this disease, we will be at the front lines of the fight. To this end, we will fund cutting edge research so that the brightest minds and best institutions are empowered to cure colon cancer for good. Until then, Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation is committed to significantly improving the treatment experience for patients and caregivers, and to dramatically raise awareness about colon cancer in general. Chris4Life will utilize health and wellness as a means of integrating the mind, body and spirit in our approach. Working together we will build a culture of care and foster relationships with research institutions, advocacy groups, the health care community, and the general public. Chris4Life's four core values are Compassion, Empowerment, Perseverance, and Life.
Chris (Christine Madelyn Antonelli) – my beautiful, courageous sister! I was a little over 2 years old when Chris was born in 1949. Our family shared ethnic roots, both Italian and Lebanese (Syrian), so the concept of family was important and staying close to relatives was expected. I was too young to remember how I reacted when she was born, but there must have been the expected disturbance in my perfect world!
But I do remember being shipped off to relatives when Chris came down with a very serious kidney disease (nephrosis) and needed to spend time in the hospital. I can just imagine our parents’ fear and sadness having their world turned upside down. Even at three years old, Chris faced those days of uncertainty courageously and remained quietly accepting of the frightening changes in her life. She almost died, except for the lucky choice of a nephrologist who happened to be on the cutting edge of a new drug – prednisone. It ultimately saved her life at three years old and again during the couple recurrences of the illness during her childhood. The courage and acceptance she learned and practiced during those early years would be invaluable when she later faced an even greater challenge.
Since I was the older sister, Chris often tagged along after me, and the teachers in our local parochial school seemed to expect her to do the things I did, one of which was to choose a career in music. So off she went to college to get a degree in music with piano as her main instrument. I did the same thing, but with a violin major. So we both ended up with a career in music education. But I always remember how much Chris loved doing projects during our childhood - artwork, baking, sewing and crafts - skills and interests that I didn’t share. So our family was not surprised when Chris ended up leaving her music career and started a business in home decorating and design. Owning a franchise with Decorating Den was the perfect choice for her. She seemed like a quiet and shy person, but running this business brought out her underlying strength and steely determination. When she set a goal for herself, she let nothing stand in the way!
In her personal life, this perseverance led her and her husband, Frank, to expand their family by adopting two small children, Josie and Matthew, a brother and sister who desperately needed a family. Chris and her husband adored their two wonderful sons, Paul and Michael, but Chris had always wanted a big family and adoption was the perfect answer. So juggling family responsibilities and work became part of her life for many years.
When Frank retired from the DEA, they both looked forward to spending more time traveling, something they both loved to do, and having more time for their two small grandchildren, Jason and Anna. But life had a different plan for Chris. I remember the day in 2006 when I received her call – she was in tears and clearly terrified. A routine colonoscopy had revealed an advanced stage of colon cancer. We were all stunned with disbelief. This couldn’t be happening to her and to our family – there was no history of any type of cancer in our family, lots of heart disease, but no cancer! Where do we go from here? After this initial stage of upheaval and fear, Chris settled down to finding a way to fight this disease with her usual quiet strength and determination. No complaining for her – just a search for the best doctor and the best program to become her partner in her fight for life. This search led her to Dr. John Marshall, a top gastrointestinal oncologist, at the Lombardi Center in Washington, DC. His positive attitude and “can-do” approach was just what we were all looking for.
Chris endured two and a half years of treatment, rounds of chemotherapy and a new “cyber knife” procedure that gave her a couple of good and hopeful years. During the painful treatments and side effects Chris kept her upbeat ways and always looked forward to the future.
And I looked forward to our talks on the telephone in the mornings, our shopping trips and family gatherings, and during that time Chris was so positive and so strong that we all took our example from her.
But again life had a different plan for my sister. In early 2009, Chris started having more pain and tests revealed that this horrific disease had spread in her abdomen. Even through the pain and nausea, Chris looked for the positive signs and kept hopeful for all of us. I feel blessed that I was able to spend so much time with her during those last few months at home and at Georgetown Hospital. The nurses and physicians there loved her and fought right beside her each day. But on May 11, 2009, the day after Mother’s Day, Chris lost her long battle. Her husband and Paul and Michael were there by her side during that last long night. I will always regret not making it to the hospital in time to be with her when she left us for a better place.
She would have been the first to encourage us to form this wonderful organization, The Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation! She would want us to do everything in our power to halt this disease in its tracks and give our children a world free from this killer. Please join us in this fight!
Are you at Risk For Colorectal Cancer?
- 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined
- Colonoscopies not only discover cancer, but can also stop cancer
- 50% of Americans still do not get colonoscopy reimbursement
- Colon cancer research is still vastly under-funded