Why I #Checkit4Andretti
My love of auto racing was sparked when Mario Andretti signed a napkin for me when I was just two-years-old. Until this year, I have never missed an Indy 500 and have sat through rain, heat, tornados, and two pregnancies to watch my favorite sport. That signature from Mario has made me a lifelong fan of the entire Andretti family, who I have always admired for their hard work, perseverance, and speed. Although I now live in Chicago, I grew up in Indianapolis, and autosports was a huge part of my upbringing. One day as I was driving “back home again” for the Do It Best Hardware Market (where I work with wonderful retailers like Pat Sullivan of Sullivan Hardware!), John and Michael Andretti were on my favorite radio station, WIBC. Their familiar voices brought me comfort, but what they were discussing was… much less comforting. John was encouraging his cousin to get a colonoscopy, and I knew something wasn’t right. It dawned on me that John had colorectal cancer, and tears welled up in my eyes. He pitched a challenge for his family members, friends, and fans to “#CheckIt4Andretti.” It took some time, but I finally convinced my husband that he and I needed to #CheckIt4Andretti. I had gotten a colonoscopy 15 years earlier, and worked all those years to convince my husband it was no big deal. However, the interrogation I got from my doctor after I awakened from my procedure this past fall made me feel like maybe this time, it was a big deal. My doctor found a lesion, and after an agonizing week, we were told that it was a cancerous tumor. I was absolutely horrified, but I made follow up appointments with oncologists, radiologists, and more, to make sure we were doing all the right things to get past this. My oncologist told me that I was so lucky to have caught my cancer early, before it spread, and that it typically responded well and should be cured with the right treatments. I was scared then, and I am nervous now, two weeks after finishing my 6-week IV chemotherapy, plus daily radiation and chemo pill regimen. However, in all likelihood my cancer is gone for good and I’ll be able to get back to the normal (well, pandemic “normal”) swing of things in no time. Without the inspiration of John’s campaign, and the attitude, bravery, and candor he always showed, I don’t know that I would have been motivated to CheckIt4Andretti, and I am so grateful to him and the entire Andretti family for encouraging us fans to take care of ourselves. I have been a lifelong fan of the entire family, and it probably saved my life. I want to double down on his mission, and will hopefully be sharing #CheckIt4Andretti with my own friends and family for many years to come.
Mary Jo Andretti Dial
As I was in full preparation mode at a work event, I heard my text alert go off as it often does right in the middle of my busiest moments, BUT this time what I read literally stopped me in my tracks…it was from John. “Just got a call from the doctor. I will be seeing an oncologist for treatment options for Stage 3 Colon Cancer.” I was numb, what did I just read? How is this possible? In the chain of subsequent text messages among our parents and my other siblings in true John form he responded, “just an unwanted speed bump which I rarely slow down for them.” As all who knew him or knew of him and followed his 3-year battle he never did slow down. With my mom and sister being breast cancer survivors, it was a given I was not missing my yearly mammogram, but never once did it cross my mind that I should have my colonoscopy early due to John’s diagnosis until he began the #CheckIt4Andretti campaign. WHY? I thought colon cancer was an old man’s disease, John was just unlucky, it is not hereditary, you have to have symptoms…I could go on and on. As his movement continued to gain momentum over the next few months, I learned more about the risks and I was at the age where it was recommended that I too go in for a colonoscopy, however my insurance company felt differently. After four long weeks of exhausting phone calls between my insurance company and my doctor’s office I threw up my white flag and gave in and paid to have mine done with the coverage I had, it was too important I have three small boys who need me and for anyone that listened to John when he spoke he always said don’t do it for you, do it for those that love you. John saved my life – at age 42 I had 5 precancerous polyps in 5 different areas of my colon and the doctor said to me, “today I get to tell you to come back in 3 years for your next colonoscopy had you waited until you were 50 if you made it to 50 this would have been a very different conversation” and right then and there is when I knew I had to join John’s fight and the #CheckIt4Andretti mission to raise awareness on the preventative nature of a colonoscopy. Now in his honor, I will continue that fight with his wife Nancy and their children to also provide those who cannot throw up the white flag like I was able and provide colonoscopies to those who are unable to afford it. Who do I check it for? I check it for John, I check it for my husband Bobby and my three boys Dylan, Kasey and Jayce and I will work hard so that you can check it too!
My doctor advises that I get a colonoscopy every five years due to a strong family history of the disease. I had postponed making the appointment due to the pandemic, a new job, an ailing father, and other commitments. I had heard of the Andretti family, and specifically, John, through a family member. I listened to the story of his diagnosis, fighting spirit, will to live, love of his family, and his death. What resonated most with me was John’s deep desire to help others save themselves from colon cancer with early screening through his #Checkit4Andretti campaign. So, I made the appointment and had the colonoscopy; I received a good report—a polyp, small diverticula, but no cancer. I’ll make another appointment in five years because, as John Andretti’s life and legacy testify, it’s important to stay the course.