By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4)– Over the past eight years, Erika Brown has seen countless inspiring stories come from the community she started on Facebook.
“I had no network in the cancer community and there wasn’t one that was disease specific. I decided I would start something that would bring patients and providers together,” Brown said.
She started a private group called Colontown which has expanded into more than 100 separate neighborhoods for patients, family, caregivers and providers.
“This community means a pathway to life and living,” said Brown. “What we experience together is joy, as we are living defiantly to the end.
The average age of members of the community is in the mid-30s.
Tate MacDowell was 36 when he was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic rectal cancer.
“It’s hard to find someone that knows what you’re going through,” MacDowell said about Colontown.
MacDowell found a friend who was diagnosed around the same time with the same disease. They banded together and created a goal.
“At the very end of this very long hallway is this picture of the Grand Teton. The more I walked down this hallway and saw this mountain within the hallway; this is an exact metaphor for what I’m going through with my treatments,” MacDowell said.
A movie, The Mountain in the Hallway from Teton Gravity Research was made about MacDowell’s journey along with fellow patient Brian McDonnell. McDowell finally summited the mountain in August.
“It’s a lot easier to look at it now that it was to look at it when I hadn’t summited,” he said. “People seem really inspired by it and I get messages all the time going through the same thing.”
The movie is a microcosm of what the Colontown community stands for, patient empowerment and de-stigmatizing the disease.
“I get messages all the time, ‘Colontown saved my life,’” said Brown.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.