Toronto artist hopes to lower age of colon cancer screenings after diagnosis

A local hip hop artist is currently fighting cancer, but has also decided to push for a lower minimum age for colonoscopies. Brandon Rowe Reports.

By Brandon Rowe and Hayley McGoldrick

When Canadian hip-hop and battle rap pioneer Bishop Brigante was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the 45-year-old recalls it as one of the scariest experiences of his life.

“It was a nightmare. I was terrified, I was sad, I was scared, I was crying. I was just holding on to dear life to my lady’s hand. I was thinking about my son and daughter, and thinking ‘No, this can’t be real’,” said Brigante.

While knowing the diagnosis would alter his life, Brigante also wonders what would have happened if he wasn’t proactive.

“What doctors usually say is, ‘Maybe you have hemorrhoids because you have blood in the stool, or maybe it’s IBS’. You get these [diagnoses] because they are easy to put it on. My lady, Melanie, said ‘No, you have to book a colonoscopy.’ So we stood our ground and we pushed and we got it,” Brigante said.

Through the colonoscopy Brigante got the news, and is now currently going through treatment to fight the cancer. Brigante has also taken on a new fight – lowering the minimum age for colonoscopies from 50 to 30 years old. The current age for an asymptomatic cancer screening is 50.

Colorectal cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and second leading cause of cancer death in men, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

“This policy is so outdated. Just off the stats alone, there are so many young people with this disease. I had to do something, and it blew up. The reason why it blew up because this is real,” said Brigante.

The petition now has more than 27,000 signatures – and was even read in the legislature by the NDP Health Critic France Gélinas.

Brigante and his partner, Melanie McVey, joined Gélinas and presented the petition at Queen’s Park, with the petition garnering thousands of signatures after just a month of existing.

“The support is just moving. To read the comments, it’s just sad to hear all these young people have lost their loved ones based off of this criteria and this policy, and we are just trying to keep pushing,” said Brigante.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, colorectal cancer with develop in an estimated one in 16 men, and 1 in 18 women. It also makes up 11 per cent of cancer deaths in Canada.

Brigante plans to continue his fight personally, as founder of clothing retailer The Ends, which honours culture and community, and currently has a “Fight Ribbon” collection where Brigante is donating proceeds of sales to various Canadian Cancer Society fundraisers.

He also plans to bring the petition to all levels of government, as well as host a fundraising event at Revue Cinema on March 22.

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