Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Patient to Feel “Empowered” at Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk
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Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Patient to Feel “Empowered” at Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk

Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Patient to Feel “Empowered” at Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk

Colorectal cancer rates in people under age 50 are rising

Brandon resident Tara Polk, 48, felt caught up in a whirlwind after her stage IV rectal cancer diagnosis two years ago—despite being just 46 years old and without a family history of disease.

“It was all such a blur,” Polk said. “It happened so fast. You go through the motions, and I didn’t feel like I had a lot of control over what was going on with my body.”

On February 10, Polk will have an opportunity to reflect on her life-threatening diagnosis and raise funds and awareness to help ensure others don’t face a similar challenge at the Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk, which benefits national nonprofit Colorectal Cancer Alliance (Alliance) and Tampa’s BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic.

“Doing the walk and feeling like I can help people is very empowering,” Polk said. “I just want to get the word out there about being vigilant when you have any signs and to notice when something’s not right with your body and to take action.”


A mother of two young children, Polk knew something was wrong when she couldn’t use the restroom for a week.

“It wasn’t normal for me to have this drastic change in my habits,” Polk said. “Though I didn’t have pain, after a week or so, I needed to go to the doctor.”

Polk endured several surgeries and numerous rounds of chemotherapy for a tumor that blocked nearly all of her rectum and spread to her liver. Now, her cancer has been all but eradicated. Doctors are vigilantly monitoring her health.

In the United States, approximately 10 percent of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in individuals under age 50. Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are rising quickly in the young-onset population while decreasing in those over 50.

The Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk assembles hundreds of colorectal cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and families for support and encouragement, much like Polk experienced during her diagnosis and treatment.

“This brought out the best in a lot of people and the support I received from my family and friends was really humbling,” Polk said.

Proceeds from the Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk fund the Alliance’s programs in patient and family support, prevention, and research.

In Florida, 11,310 new cases of colorectal cancer are expected in 2019, along with 5,290 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk is one of 22 Undy RunWalk events across the United States organized by the Alliance. At least 80 percent of those involved in the Undy RunWalk have some connection to colorectal cancer.

Onsite registration begins at 7 am, and the 5K begins at 8:30 am, with a one-mile fun run kicking off 10 minutes later.

The Tampa Bay Undy RunWalk is sponsored by AdventHealth Tampa.

Registration fees:

5K Adult (14 and older) - $35 Advance/$40 Race Day
5K Youth (6-13) - $30 Advance/$35 Race Day
One-mile Fun Run (all ages, Children 5 and younger are free) - $30 Advance/$35 Race Day
Patients and survivors attend for free



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