How Harry and Jill Connick are fighting back against colorectal cancer and redefining what it means to be 50

Even for an actor, composer and musician who has seen success across the entertainment world — from television and movies to Broadway and beyond — Harry Connick Jr.’s latest act may be his most applaudable yet. Connick, alongside his wife, Jill Goodacre Connick, has taken up the fight against colorectal cancer, becoming an advocate and spokesman for The New 50, a national campaign urging people 50+ to get screened — and to open their eyes to new noninvasive options for doing so.

For Harry, cancer has long been an unwelcome part of life. Not only did the entertainer lose his mother to ovarian cancer when he was just 13, but his wife went through her own breast cancer fight just over five years ago. Thankfully, in Jill’s case, a timely screening and early detection led to recovery and remission. For the Connicks, The New 50’s fight hit incredibly close to home — one reason they chose to throw their full support behind it. The couple, each of whom boasts a name that carries undeniable weight, have learned that though there are many causes they want to support, it’s important to choose those they strongly believe in and are willing to commit to long-term. As Harry notes, “We’ve learned that the more things we support publicly, the less the efficacy is. It’s important for me to examine my conscience and ask myself, ‘is this truly what I want to do?’”

Though no stranger to the indiscriminate nature of cancer, when Harry turned 50 and the time for a colonoscopy arrived, he was hesitant to get screened. The inconvenience and discomfort involved were off-putting, and though he knew the importance of early detection, Harry was reluctant to take the step himself. Enter: Cologuard. This non-invasive technique not only offered Harry the convenient screening solution he sought, but it inspired he and Jill to join forces with The New 50. The campaign allowed the Connicks to fight cancer on a whole new level, and the two are now traveling the country on a six-city tour, holding intimate events for adults 50+ where they speak alongside a physician and share their personal experiences.

As Harry explains, The New 50 — emphasis on new — refers to the fact that 50 means something different now than it used to; no longer does 50 conjure up notions of old age and frailty, but instead of vibrancy and an active lifestyle. This new normal gives the 50+ crowd evermore reason to take charge of their health. According to The American Cancer Society, “Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in…the United States,” and is expected to take the lives of over 50,000 Americans in 2018 alone. Despite the fact that 90 percent of colorectal cancers can be treated if detected early, approximately 35 million people are not up to date with their screening.

For the Connicks, early detection was a literal lifesaver, and they’ve made it their mission to save as many more lives as possible — and to redefine what it means to be 50 along the way.