Forty feet long, four feet high, porcine pink on its exterior and blood-red inside, with a gaping portal at either end, the U-shaped throughway looks like 1) a grisly, forbidding Claes Oldenburg sculpture, or 2) a portion of the disemboweled body of Paul Bunyan.
In fact, it is the Colossal Colon, star attraction of a traveling exhibition that seeks to educate the masses about early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer. Depending on their particular height, visitors to the Colossal Colon Tour can crawl or walk through the oversized model of a human colon, observing representations of Crohn's disease, diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, polyps and colon cancer en route. The less intrepid can peer in through portholes for a similar, if somewhat less vivid, experience.
Based on film footage of a real human colon taken during a colonoscopy, the Colossal Colon is the brainchild of 27-year-old Molly McMaster, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in early 1999. She underwent emergency surgery to excise more than two feet of her large intestine, as well as a grapefruit-sized tumor. Since then, McMaster has dedicated herself to colorectal cancer advocacy, notably "raising awareness of the disease in younger people," as she terms it. "The route I've always taken has been the craziest, most attention-grabbing I can find -- the sillier, the better."
Designed and constructed by Adirondack Scenic Inc., builder of sets for Broadway productions, the behemoth replica of human plumbing has "a wooden base and wooden rings," McMaster explains, which were coated with "a polyurethane spray-foam and carved when it dried. Then it was painted, painted and painted again, and a hard, clear coat -- shiny, for a wet look -- was applied last."
The free tour also boasts nine interactive educational pit stops, including stations where visitors can speak with healthcare professionals about screening and treatment for colorectal cancer and hear survivors of the disease share their stories.