First let me start with a little background so you can better appreciate what I was doing inWashington,D.C. the last few days.
One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC), a collaboration of national non-profit organizations representing millions of Americans, delivers a unified message to Congress and the White House on the need for increased cancer-related appropriations.
One Voice Against Cancer is an effective lobbying coalition on cancer funding that has enabled the community to enhance policymakers’ awareness of the need for substantial increases in essential cancer programs.
OVAC hosts an annual Lobby Day (in 2012 it was July 10) where volunteer representatives of the member organizations come to Washington, DC for training on the legislative issue and advocacy methods and then spend a full day meeting with legislators to share the human face of cancer in America. The personal stories of these trained advocates underscores the need for continue government involvement in the war against cancer.
OVAC’s united front enhances each organization’s ability to attain the funding levels necessary to win the war on cancer and to equip those facing cancer with the tools they need to fight this deadly disease. One Voice Against Cancer commits its participating members to cooperative efforts that increase understanding of the need for both cancer research and application programs. At the same time, One Voice Against Cancer empowers its volunteers and those touched by cancer to deliver this message creatively and powerfully to policymakers.
Other OVAC advocacy campaigns have included advertising in Capitol Hill publications, coalition meetings with lawmakers, and briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the government supported cancer research and programs that OVAC supports.
Now that you have a better understanding of what OVAC is let me explain to you why I agreed to be one of the 29 LIVESTRONG delegates meeting with my home state ofNew Jersey.
I am a cancer survivor. Other than the health and happiness of my family and friends Fighting cancer and helping survivors/caregivers is my #1 priority. As most of you know, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer June 2, 2006. Since that date I have been dedicated to learning all I can about cancer and also how we in America prioritize and fight cancer.
Fight Cancer. Now those are two words I hear a lot and it means many different things to many people. To me it means I help people get the services they need to fight cancer, it means I ensure all Americas (and those around the world) get the proper treatments and advancements that cancer be offered, it means I ensure that our elected officials understand what cancer patients, survivors and caregivers are facing and that they support the funding required to make progress.
There are so many different ways I can explain what Fight Cancer means to me, but these sum it up best. Thus, it was an easy decision for me to say YES to the Lance Armstrong Foundation when they asked me to be their delegate from the state of New Jersey.
I was part of OVAC last year and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt being an advocate and lobbying in Congress and Senate offices was where I was meant to be. There was never a chance I would turn down the opportunity this year. I took off of work to ensure we get what we were looking for. All of us came to Washington, D.C to ensure cancer research, prevention and awareness funding is prioritized and protected by our elected officials.
I believe it is important to explain what I mean when I say “ensure cancer research, prevention and awareness funding is prioritized and protected by our elected officials.”
The 2012 OVAC appropriations requests that we made follows.
- Prioritize and protect funding for cancer research, prevention and awareness at the National Institute of Health (NIH), National Cancer institute (NCI) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)
- Support funding for programs that help cancer patients navigate the health care system, train nurses and streamline the translation of cancer research from early stage discovery to clinical application.
- Become an active member in the House Cancer Caucus and the Senate Cancer Coalition.
I had the honor of working with some very talented OVAC members; Eric and Rose Hausmann – Fight Colorectal Cancer (Sayerville), Lorraine Schwinn – American Cancer Society (Manahawkin) and Suzy Steinhart – Men’s Health (West Orange.)
I was humbled to lead three of our meetings yesterday with Senator Robert Menendez’s Legislative Correspondent Sarah Reinprecht, Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Legislative Assistant Kyle Brown, PH.D. and with Congressman Jon Runyan. I also attended and supported my OVAC colleagues in two other meetings with Congressman Bill Pascrell’s Legislative Assistant and Congressman Frank Pallone’s Health Policy Fellow Leeza Kondos.
The five of us worked great together and we had a nice flow in the conversation in each meetings.
All of the meetings when with a similar flow. We all introduced ourselves to open. Then I briefly highlighted what OVAC was and then went into discussing the facts and our priorities which are the three I listed above. We then moved into telling our stories to help put a face to cancer and the priorities we were asking for and near the end of each meeting we would get an answer from them on where they stand.
Rose and I shared our cancer stories and why we believe it is important for the funding. Rose is a stage 4 cancer patient (her words – which we extremely powerful in all our meetings) and has exhausted all avenues for a cure of her cancer. She needs a medical advancement fast and she shared that in each of our 5 meetings. We both tied our situations back to research funding.
I am happy to say all 5 meetings when very well. We do have support, but we will need to follow up and ensure our priorities do not get dropped between now and the budget being finalized.
We received positive support from both Senator Menendez and Lautenberg’s teams. No matter what your political stance these two Senators are real leaders in the cancer fight and for that we here in NJ are very lucky to have their support as it is hard to get this level of support for cancer priorities.
Congressman Runyan also shows his support and he is currently ensuring he has already joined the House Cancer Caucus. His name was not on the list we received but he believes (as does his Legislative Assistant) he is already signed on. The good news here is Congressman Runyan will be on the House Cancer Caucus and with his experience of being on other committees he will add leadership that is not only willing to support cancer funding but also help by working with his peers to help influence then to sign on. The Congressman also made it clear that he cannot commit to something he cannot control like “ensuring funding gets passed” but he did say his office does support our request to protect the funding we already have.
Both Congressman Pallone and Pascrell’s teams also share their support. For Congressman Pallone’s team meeting Eric from our side did an outstanding job in sharing his frustration (in a professional manner) that the Congressman or his team has never contacted Eric or his wife Rose after 3 of their other meetings. Also Eric stated that at no time did he every really get communication on the Congressman’s stance on cancer funding which made it more frustrating not to hear back.
By sharing this frustration Congressman Frank Pallone’s Health Policy Fellow Leeza Kondos showed a lot of compassion by detailing the Congressman’s official support on cancer funding and Leeza took it further by printing out the Congressman’s recent speech on the House floor to gain support for cancer funding. She also took down Eric and Rose’s address and email and said they will hear from the Congressman directly. It just goes to show you that if you take the time, act professional and share your frustration you can get answers.
The 2012 OVAC lobby day was a big success for theNew Jerseydelegates. I have made 4 new friends which share my passion to Fight Cancer and I look forward to working with them and following up with the Senator’s and Congressmen in the next few weeks and months to ensure cancer research, prevention and awareness are made a priority for the next budget.
Thank you to the Lance Armstrong Foundation for selecting me as a delegate. I was both humbled and honored to be asked and I can say that I certainly did my best to represent such a great organization.