KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee man has made it his mission to raise awareness for colorectal cancer.

Michael Holtz works as a senior communications and marketing specialist for ORAU and serves as a national ambassador for Fight Colorectal Cancer, however, is also an 11-year survivor of colorectal cancer.

“I’m an 11-year survivor of colorectal cancer. I was diagnosed through a colonoscopy when I was 43. So, I want to do everything I can to make sure that people don’t have to experience what I did and have to go through cancer treatment and worry about, you know, ‘Is this something that’s going to kill me?’ And you know, I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have a recurrence and I’m still here,” Holtz said.

In 2019, 142,462 new cases of colon and rectum cancer were reported and over 50,000 people died from colorectal cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of those, 3,190 colorectal cancer cases in Tennessee.

Holtz said currently, colorectal cancer is the number two cancer killer of people under the age of 50 and is on track to be at the top of the list by 2030. He explained that people are getting diagnosed with cancer at a young age and it is time to do something about it.

“As I said in D.C. last week, as long as I have breath, I’m going to fight for more hope for people who are diagnosed, more hope for people to get screened so that they don’t have to experience cancer,” he said.

Holtz was of 200 with Fight Colorectal Cancer that visited Capitol Hill last week to meet with representatives. The organization was involved in two events: United in Blue and Call of Congress.

One of those initiatives, Holtz explained, is pressing for the Department of Defense to set up and fund a research program for colorectal cancer. The disease is the top five cancers to not have a specific research program.

Another demand is funding for the CDC’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program, he said.

“We also asked for additional funding for the CDC’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program, which provides colorectal cancer screenings to underserved, underinsured people across the country, to make sure that people who may not have access, can have access to these important,” Holtz said.

He continued, “We know that Black and Brown people, people who don’t have insurance [and] live in rural communities, often don’t have the same access that those of us who live in cities do. So, we want to make that everybody who is eligible for a colon cancer screening, gets the screening they need.”

Holtz is also involved with raising awareness for colorectal cancer here in Tennessee.

He asked for state, county and local officials to sign proclamations to declare March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Proclamations signed by Governor Bill Lee, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Oak Ridge Mayor Warren L. Gooch were on display at ORAU’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness event on Tuesday.