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Ending Cancer By One Degree

It was once fashionable to discuss “six degrees of separation.”

The idea is, or was depending on your view, that just six people separate us from every other person on earth, regardless of wealth, health, race, social standing, etc. (See also, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.)

Similarly, most all of us are just one degree from someone who has had cancer. Whether we’re survivors or caregivers, or a friend, family member or co-worker has faced cancer, we all know someone.

That’s why the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and Stand Up To Cancer have launched the One Degree Project. On the one hand, the project reminds us that we all know somebody. On the other, it’s a call to action: Because we know someone who survived or died from cancer, we need to let our lawmakers know we want to end this thing. We can end cancer, in part, by increasing federal funding for cancer research. The One Degree Project seeks to increase medical research funding at the National Institutes of Health by $6 billion over two years, including $1 billion for the National Cancer Institute.

Federal medical research funding has been declining for years, which means work on important discoveries is being stopped in its tracks. These discoveries could lead to new treatments and cures, if only the money was there to keep the research momentum going.

Those federal dollars don’t stay in Washington, D.C., or in Bethseda, Md., where the NIH is headquartered. That money is spent in the states. NIH funding at Tennessee research institutions is more than $450 million. More than 9,000 jobs in our state are tied to that funding. It’s not just a research issue, it’s an economic one too.

I’m proud to be an ACS CAN volunteer and to be working on the One Degree Project. Next week, I’ll be in D.C. for a national kick-off of the project and to meet with my senators’ health staff members to ask that they support increasing federal funding for cancer research.

My One Degree? I have so many, myself included. The One Degree I’m talking about in Washington is a dear friend who recently finished cancer treatment and is coping with residual fatigue issues. He’s a friend and a hero, and he inspires me every day to want to do everything I can to end this cancer thing for him, for me and for everyone else.

You can join us. Tell us your #OneDegree and sign the petiton at


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