RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)–Sunday marks two years since beloved actor Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer. Known for movies, including Black Panther, when Boseman died at just 43, it helped raise awareness of colon cancer and its growing prevalence in younger people. It’s a message a Raleigh woman is also working to share after she was diagnosed with the same illness.

Brooks Bell considers herself a colonoscopy enthusiast. At first those words may sound a little strange together; most people aren’t exactly excited about a colonoscopy, but Bell knows they can save lives, like hers.

Bell was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2019. She was just 38.

“I was too young to get a screening colonoscopy, but I was experiencing blood in my stool for a couple of months, and I actually saw 3 doctors,” recalled Bell. “The first 2 told me I had a hemorrhoid and I had to keep pushing and called a gastroenterologist myself.”

That doctor ordered a colonoscopy which resulted in a diagnosis of stage 3 colon cancer. Bell had surgery and chemotherapy.

“My odds of survival were 87%. I caught it pretty early, but that 13%  is  you know terrifying, because you feel you are unlucky enough to get cancer in the first place, you feel like you are unlucky enough to have it come back,” Bell said. 

A cutting edge blood test called Signatera provides peace of mind as Bell’s doctors monitor her to make sure her cancer doesn’t return. “They’re basically looking for pieces of my cancer in the rest of my blood,” Bell explained. “It made me really feel confident that if it shows up negative saying,‘We don’t find any molecules of your cancer cells in your body and your blood,’ then I’m truly cancer free.” 

She wants to make sure others also have a chance to stay or become cancer free. As more young and middle aged adults are diagnosed with colon cancer, the American Cancer Society now recommends screening colonoscopies starting at age 45.

“How can we change perception around colon cancer and its threat for young people and people of color,” Bell said. “How do we increase access to colonoscopies; how do we change the stigma around colonoscopies; how do we we reduce cost?”

While she may not have all the answers, Bell sits on the board of several health organizations, and she’s doing her part to encourage people to advocate for their own health, and of course, to get a colonoscopy.