Aerobics star spreads awareness of colon cancer


MaDonna Grimes is the cover girl for health and fitness. The former Ms. Fitness America is a world dance champion with 22 top-selling videos.

MaDonna has built her brand around living well and feeling good. So when doctors diagnosed her with colorectal cancer in February, she was embarrassed. But she knew going public would save lives.

"I have to speak up and let people know. A lot of people, in fitness especially, will not ever say they have cancer," said MaDonna. "It's like saying that you have not been healthy all these years, you've been a lie."

The truth is colon cancer runs in her family. She learned her grandmother died from colorectal cancer, but her parents never talked about it.

"It's hereditary," said MaDonna.

MaDonna started noticing the signs and symptoms of colon cancer before the age of 50. And that's when colonoscopies should begin. But even at the age of 50 she had a tough time convincing doctors that she needed one.

"Because no one wanted to give me one," said MaDonna. "They were like, 'You look too young. You're in shape, you don't need it.'"

"If you have symptoms -- bleeding, constipation, irregular bowel habits, weight loss or anemia -- then you should have a colonoscopy, even if you're not 50," said Dr. Ana Garza, Glendale Memorial Hospital.

Garza says MaDonna's diligence helped her catch the tumor early, but the standard treatment for rectal cancer requires two months of chemotherapy and radiation, followed by surgery and then even more courses of chemo.

"The problem with cancer is you don't expect it and you don't know when it's going to happen," said Garza. "Sometimes patients aren't financially ready for that, they have to leave work, they don't have coverage at work, they have to get help at home."

MaDonna has a 6-year-old daughter. Now she's faced with months of treatment and recovery that could jeopardize everything this single mother has worked for. She's grateful friends and fans are reaching out to her.

"Thank God I have a huge network and I have a huge support from all over the world," said Grimes. "I'm going to be OK, I'm going to fight it, for sure."

While MaDonna does have health insurance, hundreds turned out at Crunch in Hollywood over the weekend to help her with other costs she'll incur during her treatment and recovery.

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