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Teeing off to build awareness

Dr. Ashamalla with Armando and participants of the Bell Mobility Golf Classic
Traditionally thought to be a disease of the elderly, Armando Porco was surprised when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was unaware that colorectal cancer in those under 50 years old was on the rise, with 1,500 young adults being diagnosed in Canada annually.

While the first few weeks after being diagnosed were scary, Armando decided he would focus on the good and use his situation to raise awareness of the importance of early testing for the disease.

I thought, if this could happen to me—I was 47, I was in good health—then it could happen to anyone," says Armando.

He began by sharing his story with his friends and acquaintances. Encouraged by the response, he expanded his vision to combine advocacy with his long-standing love of golf and started a golf tournament with his employer, Bell Canada.

Just over a year after Armando’s diagnosis, he ran the first Bell Mobility Golf Tournament in the fall of 2019. It has run annually since (minus a gap during the pandemic), and has grown exponentially, raising $180,000 overall. The event has become so popular that it now sells out every year.

Dr. Shady Ashamalla, Armando’s surgical oncologist, is grateful for the spotlight the tournament is bringing to the illness which, when detected early, can be treatable.

“Knowing your risk can save your life. I can’t stress that enough,” says Dr. Ashamalla adding, “Often colorectal cancer has no symptoms in its early stages, so screening can help us catch it before it’s progressed. Armando is doing a great job bringing awareness to the importance of testing.”

Community fundraisers, like Armando, demonstrate just how powerful it can be when a group of friends and family come together with a shared goal.

This fall, Armando will be on the links again, sharing his story and celebrating an important milestone: this September, he will be five years cancer-free, thanks to the care he received at Sunnybrook.