Fighting Back

Joining Imperative with Passion and Opportunity at #CancerLobbyDay

WASHINGTON — September 28, 2015 — Increase. Co-sponsor. Co-sponsor.

Those are the asks we’re making tomorrow when 750 American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network advocates meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

I am proud to be among them.

This is my first ACS CAN Advocacy Leadership Summit and Lobby Day as a volunteer. In my heart, it feels like home. It’s the heady combination of being with and talking to the amazing state-based and DC-based staff and my fellow volunteers, as well as once again being part of our mission of making the fight against cancer a national priority.

I left my position as Regional Media Advocacy Director – South in August 2014 because I needed to restore some equilibrium in my life. I was living out of balance: all work, little play and no time to accomplish the things I wanted to do, like write a book. I got the book done, and was quickly drawn back to ACS CAN as a volunteer.

The One Degree Project did it for me. One Degree is a campaign that demonstrates how all of us are One Degree from cancer. All of us know someone, be they friend, family member, co-worker, etc. Together, we could make our voices heard and ask Congress to increase federal medical research funding, including funding for cancer research.

I am my own One Degree, of course, and someone very important to me had just finished his second cancer journey when the campaign launched. Getting into the fray was a way to honor his experience and our friendship.

Of course, I can and have listed numerous friends who have fought the fight. Like most of us, I have a lot of One Degrees.

In March, ACS CAN and Stand Up to Cancer joined forces for a One Degree Lobby Day. I was honored to participate. Before that event was over, I agreed to fill a volunteer vacancy as Tennessee’s State Lead Ambassador. I was back in the fight hook, line and sinker. And I’ve loved every minute of it.

Rep. John Duncan, with whom I’ve met many, many times and who is opposed to increased government spending, voted in favor of a spending authorization bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, which would increase federal medical research funding at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute. Can you say victory?

In May, I threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Tennessee Smokies Game, where a group of volunteers and I collected One Degree petition signatures. On September 1, another group of volunteers and I delivered 2,400 of those petitions to the offices of Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. The petitions were packaged, wrapped in ribbon and pulled into the courtyard of the office building in a red wagon. Members of the media were waiting for us, because I invited them. Without sounding conceited, it’s what I do. The fight against cancer is my passion, and I do it well.

Being here at the Leadership Summit and Lobby Day is the icing on the cake.

Tomorrow, my fellow Tennessee advocates and I will meet with our Senators and our Representatives and ask them to do three things:

  • Increase: Will you support a $6 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health and $1 billion of that for the National Cancer Institute over the next two years?
  • Co-Sponsor: Can we count on you to cosponsor HR 3119, our patient quality of life bill (or the Senate version once it’s introduced)?
  • Co-Sponsor: Can we count on you to sponsor S 624/HR 1220, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act? The bills would eliminate the out-of-pocket co-pay Medicare beneficiaries pay if they have a colonoscopy and a polyp is found (there is no out-of-pocket for those with a clean scope).

Important issues all, and they will save lives or improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families. If only we can break through the currently hyper-divisive political climate.

Cancer doesn’t give a rip if you’re a Republican or a Democrat.

“We have to make fighting cancer an imperative,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “This issue is bigger than any partisan politics.”

“There is immense power in what you know and in the purity of what you are trying to do,” he said.

Wish us luck. And, hey, now that you know what our asks are, reach out to your member of Congress and ask them to support our legislative priorities.



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