Fight Colorectal Cancer advocates from around the country took the fight against the disease to Capitol Hill Wednesday to ask lawmakers for their support for legislation that will fund cancer research and screening programs.
Advocates held more than 85 meetings on Capitol Hill, capping two days of training sessions during Fight Colorectal Cancer’s 6th annual Call-on Congress Conference, held March 5 – 7. Sessions held by cancer experts, researchers and Fight Colorectal Cancer staff armed advocates with statistics, talking points and information about key legislation to combat colorectal cancer. More than 60 advocates, who traveled from 22 states, participated in the conference and were encouraged to share their personal stories of battling the disease.
Liz Dennis, a survivor of stage III colorectal cancer, traveled to Washington, DC, from Arizona to share her personal story about colorectal cancer, and to ask her lawmakers to commit to funding for screening programs and research so that fewer people have the same experience. “I never want to go through that battle again,” she said. “And I have lost too many friends to this disease. I am here because I am determined to see a cure for colorectal cancer in my lifetime.”
Fight Colorectal Cancer also spotlighted advocates who have advanced progress and stood on the front lines of the fight against the disease.
Surrounded by cancer patients, survivors and family members, Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) was recognized as Fight Colorectal Cancer’s 2012 Congressional Champion. Fight Colorectal Cancer Board Chair Nancy Roach, President Carlea Bauman and Pennsylvania’s 15th district resident Mary Diacont presented Rep. Dent with the award. Mary lost her daughter to colorectal cancer when she was just 18 years old.
Rep. Dent has championed two key pieces of colorectal cancer legislation, including the Fight Colorectal Cancer Stamp Act (H.R. 893) and the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2012 (H.R. 4120).
“Fight Colorectal Cancer is grateful to have an ally in Rep. Dent who recognizes that a strong public-private partnership is critical to combat this preventable disease, which kills 50,000 Americans every year,” said Fight Colorectal Cancer President Carlea Bauman.
Fight Colorectal Cancer also awarded cancer survivor Pam Seijo, of West Virginia, with the Volunteer Advocate Award to honor her commitment as a mentor and an advocate. Pam, an 11-year survivor, has attended every Call-on Congress since the inaugural event in 2007. She has also served as the chair of Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Grassroots Action Committee and has mentored countless patients and family members into becoming passionate advocates for the cause. She has been involved in colorectal cancer advocacy for so long that she and her elected officials are on a first-name basis.
Pat Steer from central New York was awarded the Andrew Giusti Memorial Award. The award is given out annually in memory of Andy Giusti, a former Board member, scientist and colorectal cancer patient to honor advocates who work in the research environment “for activism on behalf of colorectal cancer patients and for focusing, like Andy did, on pushing for great science that will translate to patient benefit as quickly as possible.” Pat, a stage IV survivor, was a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program in 2011 (CDMRP). The CDMRP funds research for colorectal cancer, among other cancers.
Fight Colorectal Cancer’s annual Call-on Congress Conference brings together renowned cancer researchers, experts and federal agencies to discuss emerging research and treatment and the political landscape for colorectal cancer legislation.
As the conference ends, advocates said the training sessions and seminars have given them tools to return home, inspired and empowered to continue fighting colorectal cancer.