Colon cancer patient raises money for U of M research

MINNEAPOLIS - A successful local executive is taking on a fight she never dreamed she would face.

Diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, a former UnitedHealthcare COO is now on a mission to find a cure.

Like any hard-working professional, Danna Mezin may have faced challenges in her career, but they are small compared to the one she is facing now.

"One day I was walking up to the mailbox and found I had to sit down between my house and getting to the mailbox at the end of the driveway," said Mezin.

Fatigue being her only clue, Mezin got a shocking diagnosis. He had stage IV colon cancer at age 52. Said Mezin, "It has really been a roller coaster."

A year and a half later, she's handling this challenge, with words prominently displayed on her website, guts and grace.

Knowing her time is limited, Mezin and her husband, Dick Koats, created Mezin-Koats Colon Cancer Research to provide start-up money to fund colon cancer research projects at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center.

Researcher Tim Starr is trying to find genes that when mutated cause colon cancer. He said, "Her money can help me get preliminary data that I can leverage to get the big money."

Mezin -Koats Colon Cancer Research provided Starr the $25,000 he needed to start his research.

Through grassroots fundraising, including bake sales and even gumball machines, Mezin-Koats has raised so much more.

"The fact that we're over $140,000 and not even at our one year anniversary, we're so incredibly proud of that," said Mezin.

That means more money to help get other research projects started, research that could lead to treatments or even a cure.

But Mezin reminds us all that there's a 90% five-year survival rate when colon cancer is caught early.

She said, "Had I gotten my colonoscopy when I was 50, would there have been a different outcome? I'll never know the answer to that question. But I hope other people don't second guess themselves like I've had to second guess myself."

The Inaugural Guts and Grace Gala on March 7th, 2015 for Mezin-Koats Colon Cancer Research is sold out. But you can still make a donation here.


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