‘Together, we can win this race’

Cancer survivor Judy Caswell donates consultation space to Charlotte clinic

When Judy Caswell was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in May 2016, she couldn’t believe it.

As far as she could tell, she had no family history and had done everything she was supposed to. She ate well and was an avid long-distance runner. But through months of treatment, her anger and disbelief turned to determination. Together with her family and Novant Health team members like colorectal surgeon Robert Stevens, MD, she won her race against cancer

“It was an incredible experience,” she said.

Today, Caswell is cancer-free, and she has continued to serve Novant Health Foundation as an ardent ambassador for remarkable care. She began by making a donation and giving Stevens the Guardian Angel Award for his role in her recovery. And she didn’t stop there.

“I wanted to show my gratitude and also see how I could help another colorectal patient,” Caswell said.

Through discussions with Novant Health team members, an idea came to life: Together, they could create a new patient consultation space at the Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Cancer Clinic at Novant Health Agnes B. and Edward I. Weisiger Cancer Institute. Caswell considered the space an obvious need.

“Typically, after you’ve had an exam, then you have your consultation,” Caswell said. “There is nothing more awkward than having your husband or family member join you in the room where you were just examined. When we came up with the idea of a separate room, I jumped on board.”

With Caswell’s generosity, the space was created and designed with comfort in mind. For starters, there is no exam table in the room. Instead, there’s a whiteboard and relaxing furniture to facilitate discussion.

The space opened on Nov. 12, and Caswell cut the ribbon. She also had a chance to tour the rest of the Weisiger Cancer Institute, which she found impressive.

“When I walked in, it felt like the Ritz-Carlton to me,” Caswell said. “It had a very warm, friendly feel to it.”

The consult space exudes warmth and some personal touches for inspiration, including several pictures of Caswell from her races. She’s run 65 of them since her last surgery in 2017. Today, she runs faster than she ever has and competes in ultramarathons, and she credits her doctors for continuing to help her after her treatment.

“My doctors not only helped me learn about diet, but they also showed me the power of the mind,” Caswell said. “If I could handle cancer, what could I do without it? I was able to do this, and I feel better than I ever have.”

Recently, she has attended conferences and served on the Charlotte board of Get Your Rear in Gear, an annual 5K that raises awareness about colon cancer in local communities. It has been a welcome change for Caswell, who once went 20 years between doctor visits prior to her cancer diagnosis.

“If someone told me I would be discussing my bodily functions at a race, I would have said they’re nuts,” Caswell said with a laugh. “I never expected to be going this direction.”  

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made races complicated this year, Caswell has maintained her spirit and participated in virtual events. In the meantime, she’ll remain an advocate every step of the way.

“I’m so fortunate to have the health I do and to have the family I do,” Caswell said. “I’m fortunate I can get out and run. No matter what the weather is, I can go anytime.”

The time to act is now.

We can all play a role in winning the race against colorectal cancer. With a donation to Novant Health Foundation, you support our courageous team members so they can continue providing remarkable care for women like Judy. Make your gift today.

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