Erika Hanson Brown is the “Founding Mayor” of COLONTOWN, an online community dedicated to improving the quality of life and outcomes for people with colorectal cancer. Brown is also CEO and co-founder of PALTOWN, the non-profit organization that oversees COLONTOWN, and is building communities for patients facing other health conditions.
An 18-year survivor of stage III colon cancer, Brown is known for her high energy, fearlessness, networking skills, humor, and her loving heart. She believes patients should be well informed and should take part in decisions about their care, as partners with doctors.
Motivated by that core belief, Brown founded COLONTOWN in 2011 with the goal of empowering patients and caregivers to share information and to seek the best treatments available. Several doctors told her the endeavor was ridiculous. Yet Brown persisted! These days, oncologists refer to COLONTOWN as “The Patient Powerhouse.” Structured in private groups on Facebook, the group has more than 5,000 active “residents” from countries around the world. Through advocacy and relationships with medical professionals, COLONTOWN members are advancing the fields of colorectal cancer research and clinical practice.
“In COLONTOWN, we like to say we live with defiant joy. When a person is faced with a life-threatening illness, your priorities change. You tend to focus on the things that really matter,” Brown says. “COLONTOWN mixes medical literacy, patient heroism, courage, humor, practical guidance and emotional support.”
In addition to her roles with COLONTOWN and PALTOWN, Brown serves on the National Cancer Institute’s Colon and Rectal Cancer Task Force, and is a CRC Dream Team member for Stand Up to Cancer. Brown will be celebrating 18 years of “dancing with NED” (no evidence of disease) on Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, 2020.