On January 1, 2019, my cousin, Shannon, asked me to join her and her friends for a New Year’s Day brunch. I didn’t want to go; New Year’s is the hardest holiday to get through since losing Matt; its yet another reminder of time passing without him here, as if I needed it. Despite my reluctance, I agreed to go.
On the drive to brunch, I shared with Shannon how tired I was of feeling like a conversational “buzz kill” when I share that I lost my husband to cancer. The conversation always goes there; it is my reality. Immediately, eyes fill with sadness, the tone changes and people are often left without words. Matt hated telling people he had cancer. “People just look at me different, with sadness in their eyes,” he would say. I never understood what he meant until I became a widow. Shannon is that person for me who holds space, important space. She listened to me in the car that morning and let me express myself, but quickly reminded me that it was time to own my story. She reminded me of the importance in sharing my work with Live Moore and colon cancer advocacy and that it is something worth talking about. And, while it might make for
awkward small talk, it leads to real and valuable connections. She mirrored the light she saw in me, despite my doubt and brokenness; the same way Matt did. Her belief gave me the ability to regain my courage and take back my purpose. I could never have predicted what would come next.
We arrived to brunch, sat down and I introduced myself to Shannon’s friends, a family of three; a woman, her daughter and boyfriend. We talked, ate and got to know each other. “Nikki, what do you do?” There it was, the question that would open the “buzz kill” floodgates. But, something was different this time. After I spoke of losing Matt, honoring his legacy in Live Moore and working to raise colon cancer awareness, the man shared with me how he had lost two siblings to colon cancer, been diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome and had his colon completely removed to eliminate the possibility of cancer. I was shocked. Here were two strangers bonding over our shared experiences. There were no awkward silences or sad eyes. Instead, the couple looked at each other and looked at me with hopeful eyes. They didn’t want to just listen to my story, they wanted to help, and help they did! Meeting this couple certainly did open some floodgates, but there was nothing “buzz kill” about what happened next.
Within two weeks we were filming a story for KVOA News Channel 4, had public service announcements going for the Get Your Rear In Gear 5k race to increase colon cancer awareness and screening within the Tucson, Arizona area and had
ads running in the local paper. The race doubled in size, growing from an already impressive 300 participants to over 700. It was amazing! And that was just the beginning. The race was the kick-off for the Cologuard Classic professional golf tournament.
The tournament was a whirlwind! I was a part of so many incredible things. Everything from press conferences, to walking the course (within the ropes) with professional golfer Jerry Kelly and baseball hall of famer John Smoltz and Billy Andrade to sharing our Live Moore story with the PGA Tour to sitting in the Golf Channel booth and meeting celebrities like singer Craig Campbell and going on stage with him, to meeting musical duo LOCASH and seeing Jerry Kelly dancing on stage in a Live Moore ‘Believe’ shirt. I connected with amazing men, women and children all impacted by colon cancer in some way. I got to speak with Kevin Conroy, CEO of Exact Sciences, founder of Cologuard and Exact Sciences President Mark Stenhouse. So many amazing connections and friendships were forged during this experience!
Every night I would get home from an event and sit in awe of what had happened that day. I could never have imagined how impactful the Cologuard Classic would be to me personally. The synchronicity that occurred throughout each day confirmed how much Matt was with me. My time spent with other amazing advocates and people working to end colon cancer confirmed for me that I am on the right path. This experience was healing to my soul. I laughed, cried, danced, sang happy birthday with chipmunks (yes, you read that correctly), connected with amazing people doing big things and I got to share, and own, our story in a light that I hope will inspire others and encourage people to talk about colon cancer in a way that motivates them to actively engage in screening.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for including our family, our story and Live Moore in all aspects of this event! Thank you Cologuard, PGA Tour and the Tucson Conquistadors! Thank you to the Colon Cancer Coalition, Fight CRC and the Colon Cancer Alliance for coming together for this event to increase colon cancer awareness and screening! Thank you to the Kelly family for your passion and dedication in bringing colon cancer awareness to others, and the genuine kindness you shared with me over the entire week! I will never forget this experience and how it has impacted sharing Matt Moore’s legacy, my advocacy and, most importantly, how it touched my soul!
*photo credit to Chris Mooney for photo with Nikki Moore & John Smoltz