PALTOWN's Community Leadership Program
Our community leaders are the heart and soul of our work. These patients and caregivers manage the more than 120 groups in our colorectal cancer community COLONTOWN, shape our Empowering Patient Leaders Workshops, and research to deliver the Clinical Trials Education that PALTOWN is known for. Some of our Leaders also serve as Deputy Mayors on the COLONTOWN Management Team.
2021 Community Leaders Program Sponsor
We are grateful to the Lu Family Fund for recognizing our extraordinary group of Community Leaders, all giving back through their commitment to the support and education of their “neighbors.”
COLONTOWN Community Leaders
I am a Stage IV colorectal cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2013. I’ve been part of the COLONTOWN community for more than four years. After joining, I quickly took on leadership roles. I serve on the COLONTOWN Cabinet as a Deputy Mayor, am the Community Leader for our BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL COMMUNITY and am also a Neighborhood Host for numerous groups. I have attended and helped present at all of PALTOWN’s Empowered Patient Leader Workshops.
COLONTOWN has given me a voice and a purpose that I never dreamed possible. Helping others “Find their people” is a passion.
I joined COLONTOWN because I was looking for support for myself and my husband, who had been diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer. I have enjoyed getting to meet everyone in COLONTOWN and especially liked attending my first Empowered Patient Leader Workshop this summer in Minneapolis. I’m now serving as the Deputy Mayor for our Spiritual Enclave. I’m married to Tim Basner and have 2 adult age kids, Rebecca and Jimmy. In my spare time I like to get together with friends, travel when I can and read books. I have a huge passion for helping people and helping animals. Our family volunteers for a local dog rescue helping pregnant mommas, puppies or dogs that have a medical issue that need special care. My family will tell you I love to meet people and talk to them. I look forward getting to know more people and helping out as I can.
In August of 2018, a couple of months after being diagnosed with stage 3b colorectal cancer, I started to reach out online to get additional support with my cancer diagnosis. I found COLONTOWN after hearing Charles Griffin Jr. talk about it on a podcast. After the podcast, I joined COLONTOWN and gained support from many of its groups. Charles was one of the first members who encouraged me to continue to ask for support and seek help. A few months ago I completed PALTOWN’s Empowered Patient Leaders program. In early 2021, I had been NED (No Evidence of Disease) for a few months and wanted to find a way to give back to a community that had given so much to me. I am now serving as Community Leader for COLONTOWN Junior, serving the families of pediatric colorectal cancer patients. I look forward to continuing to support COLONTOWN and its members in the future.
Dr. Leslie Cloud
I am a practicing physician and a proud volunteer in COLONTOWN. I currently serve as the Community Leader for health care providers within COLONTOWN, including the neighborhood for both physician-patients and nurse-patients, as well as the neighborhood for consulting physicians.
COLONTOWN is a resource unlike any other that I have encountered in my professional career or personal life. COLONTOWN is not just another support group—it is a transformational online community that educates and empowers its members with accurate, up to date, evidence-based information about the management of all forms of CRC. With input from leading CRC experts around the country and constant oversight from its cabinet and community leaders, COLONTOWN is a one-stop shop for education, information, emotional support, and camaraderie for the newly diagnosed, seasoned CRC veterans, and caregivers.
I am an 11-year, early-onset, stage IV colon cancer survivor. I’m a former special education teacher and own my own event planning business. In addition to my career, I have served on non profit boards as alumni chair, fundraising chair and president. I joined COLONTOWN in 2016 and took on a leadership role in 2018. In 2019, I attended an Empowered Patient Leader seminar and continue to take on more responsibilities to support new members of COLONTOWN.
I use my involvement to give back to the community for the support it has given me. Since joining COLONTOWN, I have become a better advocate for myself and enjoy empowering others.
In my spare time, I enjoy crafting, kayaking, travel, and spending time making memories with my husband, four adult children and fur babies.
I am a stage II colorectal cancer survivor diagnosed in 2016. I have been with COLONTOWN for 3 years. I am Community Leader for the AGES AND STAGES groups. In this role, I oversee these groups, making sure that they are running smoothly, help to onboard new members and am in contact with the admins if there are any questions or issues. I also admin for the 2NDAVE. (stage II group) and MOTOR CITY CREW. In these groups, I make sure all posts receive responses, fire up important discussions and post current scientific articles pertaining to these groups. I have attended 2 Empowered Patient Leader Workshops.
My goal is to make an impact on the CRC community by helping to improve screening rates, providing much needed support and connections, helping guide people to critical and potentially life-saving information they need in finding clinical trials or information on neuropathy etc. I am also currently a panel member of CRAN (Colorectal Awareness Network). This group is part of the American Cancer Society and its sole purpose is to raise the screening rate to 80%.
Helping others is my passion and I would like to share an amazing analogy that a friend, Charles, who I met at the 1st Empowered Patient Leader Workshop, shared with us at the workshop. He compared us to glowsticks. He held up a glowstick and said, after snapping the stick, a glowstick needs to be broken to shine. Just like us when we receive the cancer diagnosis, we feel broken but it also gives us an opportunity to shine by helping others and making a difference. COLONTOWN gave me support when I needed it the most and I hope that I can give that back to those who may feel lost in their diagnosis and are searching for help.
My name is Fernando Ruiz del Prado (but please call me Fer).
My favorite phrase is “Life is a Journey” because pretty much encapsulates the story of my life. Born and raised in Mexico City, when I turned 24, I grabbed two bags, my skateboard and my bass and headed to Boston, MA with enough savings to pay for my first year of college. I worked many jobs to pay for my education. Fortunately upon graduation I was offered a job at WGBH 89.7 fm Boston’s NPR as a production audio engineer.
By 1994 I also started my own production business and in 1995 I landed a large corporate communications account. But in June 1996 at 33 yrs. old my life came to a complete halt because I was diagnosed with stage III Colorectal cancer. Because of my young age it took almost too long to get to proper attention to my symptoms. Finally they reacted and went under major surgery followed by nine months of chemo.
Fast forward to June of 2019 when I rang my 22nd NED cancerversary!
My COLONTOWN journey: In 2010 Erika rang my phone, told me about COLONTOWN and invited me to March to DC two years in a row. I’ve continued to be involved with this wonderful organization. In 2012 Life brought me Toronto, Canada and I moved full time in 2015. Since 2017 I’ve taken on a deeper role because of my cultural and professional background experience. I started to work as an admin for several groups and helping as marketing & communications advisor for Erika and COLONTOWN.
In 2018 I attended the first EPL [Empowered Patient Leader] workshop in Washington DC.
Currently I am Community Leader for all the international groups [True North Crew in Canada, Straya group in Australia, Villa Colon group for worldwide Spanish Speakers, and Darmastad group for German speaking community.] I also help on the Beantown group (the Boston group).
I am also assist with branding, communications, marketing, fundraising, video production and serve as workshop producer & A/V guru. I’ve helped produced the Denver, Boston and Minneapolis workshop. I spend many hours a day and plenty every week tending to all these groups and all the branding and communications needs as well as working with PALTOWN staff on ways to fundraise and raise COLONTOWN’s profile in the outside world.
But if you know Erika and COLONTOWN’s story you’ll understand why! If you don’t know either you’ll want to! My journey with PALTOWN is a labor of love.
I am a Stage IV colorectal cancer patient (MSS, BRAF-mutated) who has been connected with COLONTOWN for about five years.
After participating as a regular member, I attended a workshop in October 2018 to become an “Empowered Patient Leader” in COLONTOWN. I helped build and lead our nine neighborhoods that are focused on clinical trials. We have 1,800+ in our MSS TRIALS neighborhood, and smaller numbers in others (MSI, RAS, BRAF, HER2+, CHEK2, Anal, CAR-T, and NIH). In this role I oversee discussions about clinical trials and treatment options, and act as a liaison between members and several top CRC oncologists to help answer patients’ questions.
In the spring of 2020, I worked to facilitate the transition of COLONTOWN to a member-led model as PALTOWN expands. I am now the Director of Clinical Trials Programming for PALTOWN, coordinating our expanding portfolio of education, training, and conversation around clinical trials. I also lead PALTOWN’s Clinical Trials Navigator program, which trains community members to help fellow patients learn about clinical trials and navigate the process of making decisions and enrolling in those trials. My day job is Professor of Communication Studies and Director of the Climate Change Studies Program at The University of Montana in Missoula, MT.
I was diagnosed with Stage IV right-side colon cancer in January, 2007. Recurrence in August, 2015, which I’m still dealing with. I’m Lynch. I’ve been with COLONTOWN since 2011. Attended Call on Congress in the early days of COLONTOWN, and also attended the first Empowered Patient Workshop. I am the Administrator for Sunshine State Crew, and Community Leader for all our local crews around the United States. I love advocating, and helping others with their diagnosis.
I came to COLONTOWN in 2018 as primary caregiver for my husband, Dan. He was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer with a single lung metastasis in 2014 after being cancer free for almost five years after an initial Stage 3C dx in 2009. At that same time in 2014, he also was diagnosed with stage one primary breast cancer. He underwent a lobectomy and mastectomy in a matter of weeks. After consulting with top cancer centers on the East Coast, it was decided to treat his breast cancer with adjuvant chemo because he was HER+. This chemo caused him to develop sepsis and he stopped treatment. He survived sepsis and planned my surprise 50th birthday party from his hospital bed. Eighteen months later colon cancer came roaring back with multiple mets to the lungs. Our oncologist at Penn said chemo for life but framed it as managing a chronic disease. This really helped our mental outlook. My husband did well on first line treatment for two plus years.
Then things started getting hard and that’s when I found COLONTOWN. I was amazed by the immediate support and wealth of knowledge from this online community. I soon developed the confidence and knowledge to be a better advocate for my husband and question our oncologists. I started to navigate the world of clinical trials. Pre-COVID, I was able to meet in person other caregivers and patients in my area who were just as warm and genuine in person as they were online. It is life changing when you find people who understand. The wonderful caregivers in CAREPARTNER COVE were there for me especially in my darkest days leading to my husband’s death in December 2019.
Just before COVID altered life as we all know it, I had lunch with COLONTOWN founder Erika Hanson Brown in February 2020. She shared her vision for COLONTOWN’s future with me and I said I wanted to give back in some way. She encouraged me to take an Empowered Patient Leader training, which I did virtually in July 2020. I became a host in CAREPARTNER COVE shortly thereafter and am honored to now be Community Leader.
My husband was a great patient with a positive, hopeful outlook and really made my caregiving responsibilities easy. We continued to live our best possible lives while he underwent treatment. Our best possible lives evolved over time from traveling often to just watching a favorite TV show together. This is the best advice I can give caregivers is that you have to continue to live your best possible lives at that moment. Make memories that will last a lifetime however long that may be.