Mariah Forster Olson, an ACS CAN Ambassador Constituent Team Lead (ACT Lead), traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to share her story as a childhood cancer survivor and to advocate on behalf of other patients and survivors during the 2019 Childhood Cancer Action Days.
Hundreds of Cancer Advocates Head to Capitol Hill; Urge Congress to Prioritize Cancer Fight
This week marks one of my favorite times of year: ACS CAN’s annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. Nearly 700 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam are in Washington, D.C. to ask their Members of Congress to make cancer a top priority.
The event, which runs nearly three full days, starts Monday morning when advocates will get a chance to hear from the directors of three leading cancer research centers – Augusto Ochoa, PhD, from the Louisiana State University Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center; Michelle LeBeau, PhD, from the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Beverly Mitchell, PhD, from the Stanford Cancer Institute – about the impact of inadequate federal funding on promising research projects.
Tuesday, ACS CAN advocates will begin the day with a special rally led by Division I college basketball coaches. The coaches – Ron Hunter of Georgia State University, Mike Martin of Brown University, and Jim Harrick, retired coach from UCLA – are members Coaches vs. Cancer, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The coaches will rally the crowd before they head to Capitol Hill for more than 460 meetings in the Senate and House offices.
As our advocates head to their legislative meetings in their signature blue ACS CAN shirts, they’ll be armed with three specific asks:
- Increase funding for cancer research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) through the appropriations process and by passing 21st Century Cures legislation
- Advance legislation to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors by expanding access to palliative care services and coordinated care
- Support legislation that will close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine colonoscopy
The busy day will culminate with our “Lights of HOPE” ceremony where more than 24,000 lights will be on display at the U.S Capitol Reflecting Pool spelling “1.7 M” and “HOPE” to represent the nearly 1.7 million Americans who are expected to be newly diagnosed with cancer this year. Over the course of the evening, the lights will change to spell “FUND” and “CURES” as we call on Congress to support lifesaving polices to help eliminate death and suffering from cancer.
Our summit will conclude with a keynote address by actor and thyroid cancer survivor Hill Harper who will share his personal cancer story and his advocacy work as part of the President’s Cancer Panel.
I’m looking forward to spending time with the people who are at the heart of this organization over the next few days. I’ll be sure to update the blog with photos from the event.