Marlene Ceragno, co owner of Eye Contact Vision Center of North Bergen, said last week that doctors encourage people 50 and over to get a colonoscopy, but many people still don’t. Her husband, Bob, said younger people assume they don’t have to even when they suffer symptoms. Sometimes doctors attribute colon cancer symptoms to something else.
Symptoms can include lower adnominal pain or retinal discomfort. Sometimes, these are mistaken for symptoms of a bleeding ulcer.
For Bob, this is a personal issue. In May of 2015, after having a colonoscopy, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Because of early detection, he is now a colorectal cancer survivor and activist.
Because of his personal experience, he created an annual event during the month of March (CRC Awareness Month) to draw attention to the nation's second leading cause of death of men and women combined -- colorectal cancer.
Save lives; don’t shave
Some people shy away from colonocopies because of their history. Preparing used to be a nightmare. You had to drink a bad-tasting liquid that has since been replaced by pills. Some people were put under anesthesia.
“You eat lightly for a day or so before the test,” Bob said.
Since his recovery, his store has become something of a colon cancer combat headquarters where anyone can find out almost anything they need about the disease.
“We always have literature here,” Marlene said.
Bob started working at the store in 1999 and later bought the business. He lives in Fort Lee but is part of the local community that includes North Bergen. He is also part of the West New York Chamber of Commerce, some of whom also took part in “No Shave November,” a fundraiser put on by the North Bergen police. This year it also included firefighters from the North Hudson Regional Fire Department, as well as others including members of the West New York Rotary Club.
Because North Bergen regulations require their officers to remain clean shaven, the officers needed permission from Chief Robert J. Dowd to grow facial hair the entire month of November as a way to raise money and awareness for Colorectal Cancer. Then, they shaved on Nov. 30.
While many officers who came to the store on Nov. 30 had hefty growths, others said they tried to grow something and gave up when the beards scratched them. All, however, contributed $50 to the fund, resulting in a total of more than $5,000 -- more than double what was raised at the same event last year.
A total of 91 police officers took part this year, up from just shy of 60 last year.
As part of the fundraising ritual, Jagged Edge Spa and Salon, which has a salon across the street, sent its barber over to help shave off the beards.
“No shave November” is a national program that started about nine years ago with the goal of allowing police to raise funds for local charities.
“These officers really heard the message, and this could help save lives,” Bob said.
Mike Jaeger, who has served as assessor for a number of towns, most recently Guttenberg, is also a member of the West New York Rotary. He stopped by to show support.
As pink is the color that represents the fight against breast cancer, blue is the symbolic color of this fight. Everywhere in the store has something blue from the t-shirts to the literature.
Costantino Apostolakos, president of the police union, said this was a combined effort by police and superiors, crediting Chief Dowd with allowing officers to take part.
While there is still a lot of research needed, deaths from colon cancer are preventable, Bob said, if people get tested and catch it early.
Public Safety Commissioner Allen Pascual also took part with his salt-and-pepper colored beard.
He said the police wanted to support a local business doing good work.
“Most of the police buy their glasses at this store, so it was natural for them to team up with the store for No Shave November,” he said. “Men tend not to get checked.”
The funds raised will go to an organization called Fight Colorectal Cancer. Founded in 2005 by survivors and family members who believed in making a difference, the group has become a leading national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., known for its advocacy.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.