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John Andretti raises awareness of colon cancer prevention at IMS

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – John Andretti recently went public with his cancer battle in hopes of using his platform within the racing community to educate others on the importance of colonoscopies, especially for those 50 and older.

The 12-time Indy 500 starter and nephew of racing legend Mario Andretti held a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to provide an update on his battle with stage four colon cancer and his #CheckIt4Andretti campaign.

“The biggest thing I’ve been pushing is the colonoscopies, obviously, because had I done it when I was 50 years old, there’s a very, very good chance I wouldn’t be sitting here. But fortunately for me I think that we’ve changed some people’s lives. I thought that I would get a few people to go, and I did. We got — I forced a few people to go because I wasn’t going to come public with it unless they did go, and they decided that it was worthwhile. One was my cousin Michael (Andretti). I figured I’d never get him to go so I would never have to go public with it, and two weeks later he’s doing it. So he fought a little bit, but he didn’t fight hard.”

The 54-year-old said while he had always received routine check-ups with his doctor, he simply put off getting a colonoscopy, which is suggested at age 50.

Andretti said he was exhibiting no symptoms, but decided to schedule the procedure when his wife was undergoing a colonoscopy. It was at that time doctors identified the cancer.

“When I do a physical, I do a full physical,” Andretti explained. “And one thing I was always lacking was a colonoscopy, and you would ask about it or whatever, and I’d forget about it. I never avoided it. It just didn’t happen. And unfortunately my wife has an issue that she has to go get them several times. And so she was in getting hers, and I decided to schedule mine.”

“I was in surgery a few days later to have a tumor removed and another cancer spot,” Andretti continued. “Unfortunately, the tumor had spread outside the colon. We thought that it was going to be OK and that we just — you know, Stage 3A and we would just do chemo and on the way you go,” he went on to say.

Andretti is currently undergoing chemotherapy, which he began in North Carolina, but will continue in Indianapolis at Indiana University Health. He is encouraged with the response so far, with the Andretti family pushing the #CheckIt4Andretti campaign across social media.

“Now the biggest part about this has been we’ve not only taken people in that are not getting colonoscopies to get them, but they’re becoming advocates of getting them done. And that’s been the bigger part of it.”

“But it sends chills through me because I never figured that people would get on board so quickly and in such volume that they have. I love people telling me that they’re going to get a colonoscopy, which I never thought that would ever be in my vocabulary,” Andretti added with a laugh.

One immediate example of how impactful Andretti’s message is and how quickly people are taking action was exhibited by Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles. In an impromptu moment during the news conference, Boles pulled out his smartphone and dialed his oncologist, Dr. Scott Pittman, to schedule his colonoscopy while on speakerphone.

“Last September, I turned 50. Turning 50 is a daunting task for those of you that haven’t been there, especially when you don’t feel like you’re 50,” Boles said. “But it’s daunting not because you turned 50 but because in the back of your mind you know you have to get a colonoscopy. My wife has been on me since September, and I’ve sort of avoided it maybe because of embarrassment or timing or whatever. When Rick called me to fill me in on where John was, you know, you start thinking about listening to people who are in a spot that they don’t want to be in but have really figured out how to use that in the right way.”

It was also announced that Marco Andretti’s #27 Honda will bear a #CheckIt4Andretti decal in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. Cars across motorsports are also jumping on board, with decals expected to land on cars in the Coca-Cola 600 and Freedom 100.