BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A Western New York man who turned his cancer diagnosis into a mission to help others has died.
Kevin Hays, husband to Hilary and father to Abigail, Benjamin and Charlotte died Monday.
“He was goofy, he was the kind of guy who always wanted to make you laugh or smile," Hays' cousin Marty Pasternak said. "Remember this is not an old man’s disease, Kevin was diagnosed at 28, not 58."
Hays was diagnosed with stage two colorectal cancer at the age of 28. He took his diagnosis and turned that into a mission to help others.
"It's easy to be the tough guy and say I'll be fine, I'll deal with it. But I'm case and point that you should take this seriously. Talk to your doctor, and get screened. If not for yourself for your family," Hays said in a March 2019 interview with WKBW.
Hays went on to create Buffalo Colon Corps, a non-profit organization to educate everyone, especially young people, on the importance of early detection.
"His voice is not with us anymore, but his message is still loud and clear," Pasternak said.
“He was just such a strong advocate to get that education out there,” Cancer prevention specialist at Roswell Park Dr. Kate Glaser said.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there have been 104,270 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2021. They estimate that 52,980 people have died from the disease.
“It is one of the more preventable forms of cancer if people get screened and get polyps removed," Glaser said. “Chronic pain, in terms of stomach pain, and also rectal bleeding, those are signs that someone needs to get screened.”
In October 2019 he was awarded the "Herd of Hope Hero Award" from Roswell Park. He was nominated by his aunt who told WKBW "Kevin is an inspiration to everyone he meets. It's hard to quantify the impact he's had on this community."
In March 2021 WKBW caught up with Kevin, who was in his seventh year living with colorectal cancer. He said his cancer returned and he was stage 4. He continued to stress the importance of early detection.
In August 2021 Hays' cousin Martin Pasternak ran the entire distance of the Erie Canal in an effort to raise awareness of colorectal cancer and support the Buffalo Colon Corps.
According to the family, in lieu of flowers they request donations to Buffalo Colon Corps.