Mom on a mission to raise cancer awareness
Mother’s Day 2008, Weez Altomari pictured with her two sons, Chris (left)
and Greg (right). Greg lost his life to colon cancer in 2009.
By Kathy Fallert; photos courtesy of the Altomari Family
Most of us have lost a loved one at some point in our lives, be it a relative, a friend, or a neighbor. Annlouise “Weez” Altomari, resident of Bristle Cone, suffered one of the most difficult losses … the loss of a child. Greg Altomari passed away on February 23, 2009 at the age of 37 from cancer of the colon.
Weez Altomari became not just a mom, but a M.O.M. (Mom on a Mission) as the result of her loss. She joined the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA), a grass roots effort to raise awareness of colon cancer which is the number two killer among cancers in men and women. Altomari remarked about her difficult experience, “It’s been quite a journey. I had to do something! I just didn’t want another young adult in their 30s or 40s to not be aware of this treatable and beatable cancer.”
The Altomari family had a history of colon cancer, but it had only affected grandfathers who were in their 70s. They were blindsided when their son was diagnosed at the age of 34. Most people get their first colonoscopy at the age of 50. With family history, doctors recommend starting at the age of 40. However, 40 was not early enough to detect Greg’s condition. Altomari’s message is simple: “You are never too young to be at risk, so know what the risk factors are!”
Breast cancer awareness has increased dramatically in recent years, and Altomari is hoping the same will become true for colon cancer – a cancer which most people don’t like to talk about. Following two years of participating, Altomari is this year’s chairperson for the 6th annual Undy 5000 event sponsored by the CCA. The event will be held on Saturday, June 28 at City Park in Denver.
The Undy 5000 is a professionally timed 5k, as well as a one-mile walk/fun run where entrants are encouraged to participate in their underwear. When you register for the Undy 5000, instead of getting a t-shirt you get a colorful pair of boxers. Altomari remembered, “After Greg passed away, I had to do something with the overwhelming grief. This event gets people talking and that’s exactly what we want to help raise awareness!”
In spite of running in underwear, crazy team names and outrageous costumes, this is a very family-friendly event. Kids, strollers, and dogs on leashes are all welcome to join in the fun. Following the race is a ceremony where the colon cancer survivors are celebrated, caregivers are acknowledged, and those who passed away are remembered.
In memory of her son, Altomari takes solace in the legacy that he left behind. Greg was memorialized with four “little Gregorys.” Her grandson was named Wiley Gregory (4), two friends named their sons James Gregory (5) and Tobin Gregory (5), and family on the East Coast named their son Mac Gregory (5). Altomari said about the little Gregorys as well as her granddaughter Delaney (7), “I sincerely hope these children will never know this cancer.”
To find out more about the Colon Cancer Alliance or for additional information about the Undy 5000, visit www.undy5000.org.