Ramona Zullo, a native of Germany, is what some would deem a powerhouse. She walks three to four miles several days a week, swims regularly, bikes on weekends, and participates in several sprint triathlons and 5ks and 10ks. Keeping strong in mind and body, she lives each day to the fullest. And by the way, Ramona is currently in remission of colon cancer.
In February 2012, four months after her 50th birthday, Ramona had a routine colonoscopy. With no symptoms or history of cancer in her family, she was shocked to learn she had stage III colon cancer. After undergoing an operation to remove part of her colon, she began chemotherapy treatment. But this didn’t slow Ramona down. Two days after her fourth round of chemo, she participated in the Running through the Roses 5k race, earning her the Adult Racer of the Year award. “I never thought of myself as a victim,” Ramona stated. “Everybody can get cancer – I’m living proof of it.”
Ramona’s diagnosis was especially tough on her husband Joe and son Sean, who supported her every step of the way. Her friendship with Julie Willis, who was unsuccessfully treated for breast cancer, provided an intimate outlet for Ramona to openly share her deepest fears and concerns. “You learn a lot about yourself and others while battling cancer,” she said. “And the best that comes from it is the love and support from your family and friends.”
To raise awareness for colon cancer, Ramona’s garden includes a large blue ribbon framed with white alyssum, which symbolizes hope and strength. The ribbon is accompanied by a vibrant green sweet potato vine – a favorite of Ramona’s because of its easy maintenance and almost indestructible nature to withstand Huntsville’s summer heat. “This reminds me of the strength it takes to fight cancer,” she explained. In honor of her friend Julie and others touched by breast cancer, Ramona’s flowerbed is framed by pink pentas and nemesias. She also incorporated hydrangeas, which change from blue to pink depending on soil conditions, to resemble the colors of colon and breast cancer.
Ramona’s strength in life reverberates in her message to others: “Do not give up. Cancer is not the end – it is the end of a part of your life and then you start something new. Everything in life has a purpose and if my experience encourages others to get a colonoscopy, then some good came out of it.”