jen bretschJennifer Bretsch – Alexandria, Virginia

by Carlene Canton

Jennifer Bretsch lost her friend Shawn Felty to colon cancer when he was only 39 years old. His fight, his grace and his courage inspired her and changed her life.

Shawn was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and fought valiantly for two years. Jennifer was by his side through the surgeries and chemotherapy. She encouraged him, researched treatments, and attended many of his appointments.

Shawn passed away two years after his diagnosis. After his death, Jennifer felt compelled to find a way to continue fighting for improvements in education, awareness, screening, research and funding that would make a difference. Because Shawn had Crohn’s Disease, a condition that put him at higher risk for colorectal cancer, Jennifer wanted to work with an organization that researched risk factors as well as treatment options. With a background in national health care initiatives she knew she wanted to work with an organization that was passionate, credible and responsible.

“I did my homework” she says. “And when I looked at Fight Colorectal Cancer I saw immediately how well organized this group was and the difference it was making. I saw that the organization was an excellent steward of its financial resources. It was smart and forward looking, and it was attracting passionate advocates, patients, and survivors.” She made arrangements to take part in her first Call-on Congress in 2010.

“I was tentative,” she recalls. “I was not at all sure I was comfortable going to legislators and telling my story. But I discovered that when you’re locked arm- in- arm with other advocates taking life-saving messages to elected officials with the goal of bringing about change, it’s very powerful.  Colorectal cancer is preventable but awareness is essential. When you hear so many stories about people like Shawn who did everything they were supposed to do and still died from this disease it’s gut wrenching.”

Now 3 years later, Jennifer, 39, sits on Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Grassroots Advocacy Committee** and serves as a mentor, reaching out to others coming to Call-on Congress for the first time.

“I find myself going back to my first experience and those first emotions,” she says. “I tell the newcomers that within hours of arriving they will meet and bond with other advocates in a way they may not have ever done before. And within a very short time they will know that joining with Fight Colorectal Cancer is one of the best decisions they have ever made.”

She says that, knowing full well that many of the advocates are active patients and survivors – and she is not. And yet, she feels immensely welcomed. “All the patients and survivors that take part have someone like me in their lives and they clearly and dearly appreciate my efforts. I have made so many friends.”

“Now when I go to Call-on Congress it’s not just for Shawn,” Jennifer says. “It’s for all the people I have met along the way, like Rose and Eric Hausmann, Tom Foeller, Cindy Robinson, and the late Kate Murphy and Erica Paul. And I realize that meeting them, knowing them, is the continuing gift of having known Shawn. The satisfaction that I am making a difference is Shawn’s ongoing gift to me.”


**The Grassroots Action Committee is the catalyst of our grassroots advocate community, and helps Fight Colorectal Cancer achieve our strategic goals and objectives by empowering grassroots advocates across the country. These active volunteers serve a one-year term and help us achieve our strategic goals and objectives.

Committee members are selected via an application process and must have attended the Call-on Congress. If you are interested in learning more about the Grassroots Action Committee or serving on the Committee contact us.

Have a question or need more information about ways to get involved? You can contact any member of the Grassroots Action Committee by emailing Advocacy@FightCRC.org.



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