Every year since Carleen Taylor established the Race for Hope in 2004, she's donned a T-shirt on race day bearing the names of people who have been lost to colorectal cancer.

Every year since Carleen Taylor established the Race for Hope in 2004, she's donned a T-shirt on race day bearing the names of people who have been lost to colorectal cancer.

She plans to do so again Nov. 6 when the annual 5K run/walk and one-mile walk to raise funds for fighting the disease starts at Upper Arlington High School, 1650 Ridgeview Road -- but she hasn't been able to add a new name that should be on the list.

The name is that of her son, Connor Taylor, a Worthington Kilbourne alumnus who died Sept. 2 at age 23, while fighting the very disease his mother has spent more than a decade crusading against.

"I haven't been able to add Connor," Taylor said. "I just didn't want to do that yet.

"All of my kids have volunteered at the Race for Hope since 2004. But even me, I was caught off guard that Connor had cancer."

Having barely had time to grieve, much less heal, Taylor and her family considered taking a break from the Peggy Bock Memorial Race for Hope -- also known as the Derriere Dash.

It's an event Taylor started and named in honor of her friend from Upper Arlington, Peggy Bock, who died from colon cancer a week after her 45th birthday.

But she's found resolve in recognizing that her work is not done, and that more people should be aware of the importance of knowing symptoms and getting screened for colorectal cancer, even for those younger than 50.

"It's been really tough to be grieving and planning this race," Taylor said. "But I have to pull myself together every morning to have this race for Connor and to help others."

Just a year ago, Taylor's son was seemingly healthy.

He volunteered at the Race for Hope and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in public health from Ohio State University. He planned to begin work this fall on a master's degree in public health from Ohio State. Then he learned he had colon cancer, and it was advancing quickly.

"It is heartbreaking," said Dr. Gail Kayne, director of undergraduate programs in the OSU College of Public Health. "This was a young man who was primed to serve and better public health.

"One of the areas he worked in was infant mortality, and another was cancer prevention. He was ready to serve and help the public. Gosh, we need more people like him."

As she's done since establishing the Race for Hope 12 years ago, Carleen Taylor will donate proceeds from this year's event to fighting colorectal cancer.

Money is raised through ticket sales, which cost $25 for the 5K run/walk, and $15 for the one-mile walk.

There's also a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle. All registration and other information about the event can be found at raceforhope.com.

But in addition to fundraising, Taylor said she will continue to use the race to help bring attention to a disease that people may be uncomfortable acknowledging and talking about.

She said she wants to widely broadcast that colon cancer is being found more often in people younger than 50, the age at which the American Cancer Society recommends most people begin undergoing regular colonoscopy screening.

"Everybody feels they're safe and don't have to worry about colon cancer until they're 50, and that's not true," Taylor said. "We have to educate people and we have to educate practitioners that colon cancer does affect people under 50.

"The over-50 population: Go get your colonoscopy," she said. "If you're not 50, you have to really, really pay attention to your body and really, really pay attention to symptoms like if you have nausea, if you're tired, if there's blood in your stool."

According to the Colon Cancer Coalition, colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths.

Information on the Colon Cancer Coalition website says the rates of colon cancer have been declining among adults age 50 and older "but they increased by more than 2 percent each year in younger adults -- as much as 4 percent for rectal cancers, and 3 percent for colon cancer. Younger adults were more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-state cancers."

The Never Too Young Coalition, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness about the young onset of colon cancer, states on its website that primary care physicians can play a critical role in decreasing the incidence and mortality of young-onset colorectal cancers "by changing their approach to evaluating and educating their younger patients."

Taylor said she'll continue to host the Race for Hope and work with various cancer-prevention groups to raise awareness about colorectal cancers because she doesn't want others to go through what she has with her friend, her son and everyone for whom she organizes the event.

"We need to get the word out," she said. "We need to just keep it out in the public eye.

"We just want to keep other people from having this happen to them."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate