December 13, 2016

Empty Chairs

By Guest Blogger Martha Raymond, MA, CPN, founder and CEO of The Raymond Foundation and executive director of Michael’s Mission

Loss. Loneliness. Emptiness. The feelings are palpable.

In my dining room I treasure the antique chairs (circa 1870) that once filled my childhood home. My family home was once a Civil War Stagecoach Inn, a landmark filled with rich history. But to me, the home where I grew up was all about family, security, unwavering support and love.

Holidays Remind Us Of Lost Loved Ones

When I look at these chairs, the chairs where my Mom and Dad once sat, I reflect on all of life’s occasions where their presence, laughter and conversation is greatly missed—holidays, birthdays, Sunday dinners—milestones both large and small.

We all have experienced great loss. No one is immune to the sick, gnawing feeling that we carry in our hearts.

We go about our daily lives, cope with our own unique feelings the best we can, and, in many cases, put on a brave face in front of others. For me, the best way to cope has always been to help others understand this disease, and to advocate for prevention and screening. And so for the past 25 years, I have turned my pain into a purpose, becoming a passionate colon cancer advocate.

Trust me, I wish this passion never had to find me. I wish I had never heard the words: colon cancer. I loathe this disease and what it did to my family. But helping others has been and will continue to be my passion, and in doing this work, I keep the spirit of my Mom and Dad with me.

Medical advances are significant since my parents were diagnosed in the 1970s and 1980s. A generation ago, screening tests were not readily available for patients experiencing symptoms. The colonoscopy was in its infancy and still in clinical trials.

Take Action, Screen For Colon Cancer

Today, however, there are screening options to help eradicate colon cancer. We may not have had these resources to help prior generations, but we do now.

Please join me in this call to action: Take a moment and ask your loved ones about your family health history. Do you have colon or GI cancers in your family? Do you have GI symptoms or feel that something isn’t quite right? Trust your intuition and request a screening test. Screening is the smart choice. Do this in memory of those who didn’t have a choice.

In honor of my parents, Margaret and Patrick, I remain passionate about eradicating colon cancer.

Please join my efforts so that another family does not have an empty chair where a loved one once sat.

Published on All Things Disability with permission of The Raymond Foundation; Copyright © 2016 by The Raymond Foundation. Contact Martha Raymond at for permissions information.

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