Eden Prairie’s Jeff Smedsrud said until his diagnosis in 2003, colon cancer “was never on his radar.”
He had promised his wife that when he reached his 40s, he would get a routine check up after not seeing a doctor in 15-plus years.
That decision helped save his life.
During his appointment, he told his doctor that he sometimes had stomach issues. The doctor noted that his red blood cell counts seemed a little off and believed Smedsrud had internal bleeding that he wasn’t aware of.
After an endoscopy and colonoscopy, Smedsrud was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer at age 44.
“Like many people with colon cancer, I had no symptoms ... that I was ever concerned about,” he recalled.
Smedsrud had surgery to remove about 14 inches of his colon a few days later and waited to find out if the cancer had spread. He learned it hadn’t and he’s “still happy to be here,” he said.
After he was diagnosed with cancer, he accomplished a personal goal to run a marathon on all seven continents before the age of 50. Between 2005 and 2008, he ran races in locations such as Antarctica, the Great Wall of China, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Buenos Aires in Argentina.
“The most memorable was Antarctica and the most difficult was the Great Wall of China,” he said. “It was up and down steps for most of the 26 miles in really hot weather.”
Smedsrud also worked with Kristin Lindquist to start the Edina-based Colon Cancer Coalition’s first Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in Minneapolis in 2005. He currently serves as the chair of the coalition’s board.
“It changes your lifestyle because it makes you realize it can happen to anybody and that we all have a responsibility to our children and those we care about to get screened at the appropriate time; to be aware of things that are happening with our body and not just shrug it off,” he said of getting colon cancer.
5K, BIKE RIDE
The coalition’s 12th annual Get Your Rear in Gear 5K and second annual Tour de Tush Bike Ride are coming to Eden Prairie on Aug. 14 at Staring Lake Park. This is the first time both events are being hosted in Eden Prairie. It’s also the first time the bike ride is coming to Minnesota and that both events are being held together. The Tour de Tush debuted last year in Allentown, Pa., said Erin Peterson, coalition communications director.
“Biking is becoming such a big part of the Twin Cities community that it made sense to bring the two events together,” she explained.
According to Peterson, Eden Prairie was chosen because of Staring Lake’s scenic setting. The coalition was also looking for a location that could host both events at the same time. One of the coalition’s staff members who lives in Eden Prairie suggested it and the coalition’s timing company is familiar with the area.
Peterson said the purpose of the events is to raise awareness and encourage screening for colon cancer, the country’s No. 2 cancer killer. The coalition estimates as many as 4,000 could congregate near Staring Lake for the two events.
“The Twin Cities event is one of nearly 50 special events planned in 2016, events planned in cities across the country to educate and raise funds for colon cancer screening and prevention. It is because of the support of the Twin Cities community 12 years ago that the organization is able to have such a wide impact on this disease,” according to a news release.
Smedsrud said he was really lucky and has thought about how difficult things would be for his wife and children had he not survived. That’s been his motivation to help spread awareness of colon cancer. Colon cancer can strike people in their 40s or even younger, he said.
“You have to do what you can to follow the rules to prevent it; get screened and take care of yourself and be aware of your body,” he said.
The 5K will be a timed run while the Tour de Tush will have an 8-mile or 25-mile ride that participants can go on. Helmets are required for everyone participating in the bike ride, Peterson said.
Shuttle buses will be available from the parking lots at Flying Cloud Fields, 15219 Pioneer Trail. Other activities during the event will include a kids’ fun run, food trucks and recognition of survivors and caregivers, according to Peterson.
Peterson said online registration will remain open through Sunday morning and on-site registration will also be available. Packet pick up is available at the Eden Prairie Center mall’s center court from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 11 and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 12 and 13. For more information about the event, visit coloncancercoalition.org/twincities.