Top to Bottom looks to put colon cancer behind

by | Oct 24, 2013 | News

Top to Bottom campaign raises money for colon cancer research. Courtesy: Colon Cancer Canada

Top to Bottom campaign raises money for colon cancer research. Courtesy: Colon Cancer Canada

By Brian O’Neill

What once began as an online competition between two of Toronto’s top colorectal surgeons, has now expanded to 21 doctors in three cities.

It’s all part of a campaign called Top to Bottom, a five-week long event that is in its second week in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

It began last year when two doctors, Zane Cohen and Andy Smith, faced off against each other to see who could raise more money for colon cancer research.

An “un-gala”

“We had this idea last year to have a competition, to have an un-gala sort to speak. Not a dinner, completely online over a four to five week period online,” Cohen, a colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, told Humber News.

“We raised over $200,000.”

Colon Canada Cancer’s Top to Bottom campaign is now in its second year. It provides people a way to donate money to individual surgeons who have impacted their lives.

Amy Elmaleh, co-founder and executive director of Colon Cancer Canada, said the campaign saw national growth because of Smith and Cohen.

Elmaleh said the larger galas didn’t make financial sense, and that Top to Bottom is a way to highlight talented surgeons.

“We’re so fortunate at Colon Cancer Canada to have really phenomenal surgeons and gastroenterologists, and really the right people who are making a difference in colon cancer patients lives,” Elmaleh said.

“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had an opportunity to take a couple of these doctors and really honour them,’” she said.

It’s getting better, but it’s still not where it needs to be. — Amy Elmaleh

Instead of one big dinner, people who donate $250 get a $50 gift card to one of the restaurants that sponsor the campaign in their city.

Seventy-five per cent of the money each team raises stays within the city, and goes towards a special identified concern or project.

The money in Toronto goes to endow a Colon Cancer Canada scholarship at the University of Toronto through the Bernard and Ryna Langer Chair.

Cohen said Bernard Langer was one of the best surgeons in Canada, and chairman of the entire department of surgery at U of T for 10 years.

“The interests from that will go to support a young surgeon scholar, and their money will go towards colon cancer research, colorectal cancer research,” he said.

A common disease

Cohen told Humber News colon cancer is the third leading cancer and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths.

Elmaleh said that despite this, there isn’t as much awareness for colon cancer.

“We are diagnosing 23,000 Canadians every year and yet, it’s still killing so many Canadians because people aren’t comfortable talking about it.

“It’s getting better, but it’s still not where it needs to be,” Elmaleh said.

Increasing awareness

Elmaleh said that Colon Cancer Canada’s goal is get people talking.

“What we are trying to do, and that’s the underlying premise of everything we do, is trying to make it more run of the mill, a disease that people should be talking about and not think I don’t want to talk about it because where the test goes and what I have to do,”

According to Colon Cancer Canada, for every $36 that is donated for breast cancer, $1 is donated for colon cancer.

“I hope campaigns like this, that we are really trying to get to a national perspective, will change that.”

So far it has, as Top to Bottom has raised just over $230,000.

“It’s quite incredible, really. I’ve had people donating that I don’t even know who have heard of it,” Cohen said.

“You never know where the next few thousand dollars are going to come from, that’s the fun of this.”

Top to Bottom officially runs until Nov. 18.