“At age 53, John Andretti was the picture of health – still fit from a career in Motorsports, swearing he would always race again and never officially retiring. He was the last person anyone expected to receive a cancer diagnosis, but in January of 2017, his colonoscopy came back positive for cancerous polyps. His diagnosis made him face the decision of either fighting the disease privately or announcing it to the public. He decided that, although this diagnosis is devastating, he would use it to bring awareness to the disease, advocating for proper screening and early detection,” reads the home page of the Checkit4Andretti Foundation. Sadly, John died in January 2020, but his family continues his legacy through the foundation and advocacy work.
In December of 2021, the clinic learned of this new foundation and it’s interest in partnering to provide screening colonoscopies to low-income, uninsured adults. After much hard work and red tape, Nancy Andretti, the wife of John, reached out and gave the clinic the green light to send eligible patients to Northeast Digestive Health and Dr. Vinay Patel in March of 2022. Dr. Amy Wilson, the clinic’s medical director was thrilled. “Having the ability to refer patients for screening colonoscopies is amazing! With cancer, especially colon cancer, if caught early, it can be treated and even cured. This is a wonderful, life-saving opportunity for our patients, she says.” Dr. Wilson and her medical assistants, DeAnna Turner and Caroline Parrott, got busy identifying those patients that were at greatest risk – those with symptoms and those with family history. During the nine months of 2022, 30 patients received free screening colonoscopies. Ten of those were donated by Northeast Digestive Health and 20 were paid for by the Checkit4Andretti Foundation. One cancer was detected and treated. “We have long desired a way for our patients to get colon cancer screenings,” Wilson said. “This just gives us another tool in our prevention toolbox.”
In 2022, the estimated number of new cases of colon and rectal cancers, collectively known as colorectal cancer, was 150,030. In 2021, the American Cancer Society lowered its recommended age for regular colorectal screenings from 50 to 45 years old. “I’d love to see it lowered to 40,” says Nancy. “John wasn’t given three years to live, but he did. During that time, he endured surgery, two rounds of chemotherapy and experimental treatment before the cancer spread to his liver and lungs. This disease is so pervasive,” she says. It is estimated that 52,580 deaths (28,400 men and 24,180 women) from this disease will occur in the United States this year. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women combined, according to the American Cancer Society.
Of course, the clinic patients who were able to receive these screenings also knew of their risk factors. When medical assistant, DeAnna Turner asked a few of the patients about their experience, these were some of the answers: “It meant the world to me to have received a free colonoscopy. It meant a lot because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it without their [Checkit4Andretti Foundation] help. And if I had waited with the number of polyps I had, I can only imagine how much worse it could have been.” The patient continued, “It makes me feel good about myself to have completed an important health screening. If it was never offered to me, I wouldn’t have done it.” Another patient said, “It meant everything to have the colonoscopy because I wanted to make sure everything was alright. It was a blessing.” and ” I thought it would be a hassle and stressful paying for it, but I did not have to worry about that. I am grateful.”
“It was a pleasure to visit the Community Care Clinic of Rowan County. Dr. Wilson and the staff are providing great care in a warm and inviting office. I was impressed with the variety of services they can provide to their patients including dental, pharmacy and general medical care. We are thrilled to partner with the Community Care Clinic to provide colonoscopies for patients in need through our partnership with Dr. Patel and Northeast Digestive Health,” said Dr. Olivia Andretti during a December 2022 visit.