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Raising Awareness while Honoring My Father's Memory

A young family all wearing blue smiles at the camera
Taryn Palmer's family on Dress In Blue Day

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

Several years ago, I lost my dad to stage IV colorectal cancer. He was a loving father, husband, son, brother, coach, and friend; and only six months before his death had even been promoted to grandfather. Diagnosed at only 45 years old, he fought valiantly for nearly four years before his fight came to an end. It was tragic and heartbreaking, and the entire process left us feeling helpless.

As we tried to find some way to reconcile our intense grief with celebrating his profound life, I discovered Dress in Blue Day, a way to increase awareness about colon cancer risk and encourage early screening. It was a way for so many of us who loved Scott Hansen to do a small part in standing up to this awful disease.

scott hansen

My family’s first experience participating in Dress in Blue Day was in 2011. We were a few months away from marking the first anniversary of my father’s passing, and I was living with my husband and young daughter nearly 1,800 miles away from all of the people who loved and missed my dad just as much as I did. A week before the event, I contacted my mom and siblings about this program I had recently discovered and asked if they would participate with me. They loved the idea and agreed to wear blue that Friday. Next I asked my in-laws, my dad’s siblings, my cousins, and even some of my friends. Soon people who had never even met my dad were agreeing to wear blue. I shared a blog post about the campaign on Facebook and asked people to e-mail or text photos to me. By the end of Friday, March 4, 2011, I had more than 50 photos of friends and family showing their love and honoring my dad with their blue shirts, fingernail polish, jackets, and hats.

Since that first Dress in Blue Day, our army of support has only grown, thanks in big part to the power of social media. These days it’s easier than ever to reach even one person who is on the fence about getting a colonoscopy or may not know the risk factors of colon cancer. Use social media to build your own army, share your message of awareness, and encourage all of the people in your life to learn about the disease, get screened, and practice cancer-prevention habits.

I never imagined a random Friday in March would somehow become one of my very favorite days of the year, but for me, Dress in Blue Day has truly become a special, almost hallowed day. It’s a day to remember and to fight back, to join in arms with my family, friends, and complete strangers as we work towards a world without colon cancer.

Taryn Palmer lives with her husband and four young daughters in Twin Falls, Idaho. She works as a registered dietitian nutritionist and is passionate about promoting health and wellness at every stage of life.

Learn more about colorectal cancer.