C3 advocate Christine Niemi died early in the morning on July 18th of colon cancer. Friends who were with her say that she was sleeping peacefully and was not in any pain. She was 32.
Christine was a member of the C3 Grassroots Action Committee, leading the grassroots colorectal cancer community in pushing for change.
Her death was marked by the same grace and courage that she brought to her advocacy for others with colorectal cancer. Realizing that she needed more support, she returned home to Nebraska to be near family in June and was hospitalized shortly after.
After her death, her brother Jason wrote,
One request Christy would have is to keep fighting to make people aware of Colorectal Cancer. This became her passion over the last few years. Now it is up to us to pick up where she left off and continue making a difference.
Before her illness became worse this June, she was planning to come to Washington and spend the summer as an intern at C3 meeting with members of Congress and their staff to get colorectal cancer screening and treatment included in health reform legislation.
C3 Director of Policy Joe Arite, who was planning to work with her during her internship, said,
Christine’s desire and passion to end the pain and suffering of colorectal cancer exemplified what true advocacy is. I am a better advocate because of Christine.
In March 2007, a huge snowstorm shut down air traffic all over the midwest and east coast, but that didn’t stop Christine, who was determined to make it to Washington for Call on Congress. When all flights out of her stopover in Detroit were cancelled, she rented a car and drove more than 500 miles to Washington. You can read about her adventures Calling on Congress that year on her blog. Typically feisty and upbeat, she wrote, “The roads were good, traffic was light, and nothing was going to stop me from making this trip! I’ll tell you right now, it was completely worth it.”
Never one to mince words, Christine wrote about her life with colon cancer on her blog which she bluntly and honestly called Colon Cancer Sucks Ass. Treatment was hard for her, but she balanced chemo and tough side effects with graduate school. Studying for finals in March of 2008, she wrote,
Insomnia and fatigue alternately hit me like a Mack truck. I’m dealing with the cumulative fatigue of two and a half years of either being in treatment or recovering from major surgery.
Despite the difficulty of treatment, Christine continued studying health policy at UCLA. One of her professors, Miriam Laugesen, wrote this about her work there,
Christine was in my Fall 2008 class, American Political Institutions and Health Policy. She was quiet, but I soon got to know her and was stunned by her courage and strength when I found out what she was battling. I think she only missed one class the whole quarter. I wanted to tell her to take it easy, but I knew she wanted to take a full load; she said she had come to the program because she did not want to sit around and do nothing.
In a case study on cancer therapies she brought the material to life with her own experience lobbying on the Hill. Here was one of the quietest, most modest students I had ever met, telling the class about meeting senators and doing advocacy. I felt she was teaching me, not the other way around.
Last fall she represented C3 at the Stand Up to Cancer broadcast at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles and wrote about it — In Her Own Words: I Stood Up to Cancer.
Her friends have set up a page on the C3 website where you can share memories of Christine in the Guest Book or make a donation to the work she cared so much about.
On Tuesday, July 28th at 11:00 am, there will be a funeral service in Farmington, Wisconsin (near Somerset).
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- 255 State Hwy. 35
- Farmington, WI 54552
While in Washington that first Call on Congress trip, Christine visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. She said it was her favorite and gave her the chills. She photographed Roosevelt’s words on the wall of the Memorial and posted the picture on her blog,
In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice… the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.
That is her legacy — in a life too short, she was passionate about changing the world for the better even in times of her own great difficulty. She did it with love, and she is very much missed.