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.
National Cancer Moonshot Summit Offers Historic Opportunity
The National Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. last week presented a historic opportunity for the top minds in science, medicine, patient advocacy and business to come together and start the serious work of accelerating progress in the fight against cancer.
I was honored to attend the summit along with American Cancer Society and ACS CAN CEO Gary Reedy, Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley and former ACS CAN Board Chairman Rob Youle. The event was emotional and motivational from the start. Comedienne Carol Burnette began the day sharing how she lost her daughter to lung cancer at the age of 38 and what the Moonshot means to her. She then introduced Vice President Joe Biden who spoke passionately and personally about his dedication to accelerating progress in the fight against cancer. He disclosed some of the challenges he and his son, Beau, faced while trying to find clinical trials and coordinating care across different medical facilities. The Vice President also made clear the importance of ensuring cancer care is affordable. He committed himself to marshaling all the forces of the federal government to help facilitate, coordinate and accelerate the pace of progress in fighting cancer and called on all those attending—including those at dozens of similar summits around the country—to commit to doing all they can in support of the Moonshot.
After the Vice President’s remarks, attendees got to work brainstorming ways to embark on this monumental effort. Break-out sessions were held on a variety of topics. Gary Reedy led a vibrant discussion on prevention and former ACS board president, Dr. Ed Partridge, captivated listeners regarding disparities in cancer care along the Gulf Coast. Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia of MIT spoke about the exciting developments in nanotechnology while Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall from Pfizer spoke about understanding cancer at the cellular level.
But it wasn’t just research and technology that dominated the discussions. Patient advocates and survivors also played an important role by sharing their personal experience from diagnosis to life after cancer. Among those attending the summit were ACS CAN volunteers Georgeann Blough, an ovarian cancer survivor from West Virginia, and Thelma Jones, a breast cancer survivor from Washington, D.C.
“My very first feeling on my way over in the cab was, ‘Am I really able to help in any way? Can I really make a difference with all these super qualified people?’” said Blough.
Yet as she arrived and the summit began she found common ground and motivation, “Walking into the room I could feel the energy! I learned so many things that were encouraging to me. After listening to Vice President Biden tell everyone we need to work together and collaborate I became even more focused on the journey we all have in common and that the cancer moonshot is really attainable,” said Blough.
Jones was similarly inspired by the event.
“The Cancer Moonshot Summit was an amazing experience and an opportunity to hear great ideas, network with others, learn a new way of thinking about the cancer challenge and share my voice around issues of concern about cancer,” said Jones. “This enabled me to have greater hope for a cure and feel empowered.”
At the end of the day there was tremendous energy in the room as people looked around and realized that we really can change the game and make more progress in fighting this disease. The summit was a wonderful opportunity to keep up the moonshot momentum and bring all facets of this fight together for the single purpose of accelerating progress.
ACS CAN will continue its work pushing Congress to fund the Moonshot while ACS has committed to doubling its research spending by 2021. Together everyone—researchers, doctors, survivors, advocates and lawmakers—needs to work together to make sure the promise of Moonshot becomes a reality.