Foundation honors memory of young newlywed stricken by colon cancer

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX - You may think of colon cancer as an older person's disease, but that's not the case anymore. Research shows it’s on the rise in young adults, which is one reason why a Valley family is trying to lend a helping hand to young cancer victims.
 
“One thing about Susan is she had a laugh that could fill a room,” Justin Turley says. “It was hilarious.”

Turley is talking about his wife Susan. The two were beginning a new life after getting married back in January of 2008.

“We wanted a dog,” Turley says. “We wanted kids and the house and such.”

But the life the couple wanted took a dramatic turn. Susan was diagnosed with colon cancer in July of that same year.
 
“I didn't know what to expect and at the same time I knew she was young and healthy and it didn't look that bad,” Turley says.

Susan, who was only 25-years-old, was in Stage IV of the cancer.

“We decided to change the blog [about married life] to more of a journal for her journey through the cancer,” Turley said.

A blog she would keep until she lost her courageous fight with the disease less than five months after being diagnosed.
 
“Susan had talked about setting up a foundation to help cancer patients,” Turley said. “She just knew she wanted to help people and that's how she was.”

In memory of his late wife, Turley and her family have created the Susan Mortensen Turley Foundation.  It’s a place to support young adults with any kind of cancer.

“Who [cancer patients] needs education and outreach,” Turley said. “A place to go for information and friends who are suffering with the same problems.”

Radiation oncologist David Brachman with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center says statistics show the number of colon cancer in young adults is on the rise.

“The cause is always genetic whether it's a family syndrome or a sporadic case,” Brachman said.  "What we think we know is that there is an association with increase sedentary lifestyle and increased caloric intake. These are proven to be independent risk factors for colon cancer.”

A wake up call that colon cancer or any other cancer can strike anyone.

“Someone who was like her, who didn't get the help she needed, I think the foundation has a direct purpose now,” Turley said.

Susan also loved running and was a member of the track and cross country team at the University of Arizona. In memory of that love, the foundation is hosting the 1st Annual "Susan's Run" Saturday, March 27 at the Kiwanis Park in Tempe. Registration starts at 7 a.m. For more details, go to Susan M. Turley.