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Don’t Be Scared of Advocacy

josh-wimberly-rectal-cancer-advocate

by Advocate Josh Wimberly, Alabama

Defender, supporter, champion, reformer, advisor; these are all words that one might use to describe advocacy efforts.

Advocacy in its simplest form involves strategies to change or influence decisions.  It has connotations of confrontation and conflict, both of which may be true, but often it involves partnership, education, consciousness raising, and a relentless approach to developing a shared purpose between the advocate, the person or thing being advocated for, and the stakeholders involved in the decision-making process.

Our Focus… For Those Whom We Advocate

At Fight Colorectal Cancer, we have a stated mission to advocate for legislative priorities related to the screening, prevention, and treatment of colorectal cancer. In this effort, we find ourselves engaged on both the local and national stages with legislators and administrators who have decision-making power regarding specific policies, regulations, and awareness efforts. The work can seem slow and often times unfruitful, however, the focus is not on the victories we enjoy regarding legislators and decision makers.  The focus remains on those for whom we advocate.

You see, I am a social worker. I understand that the most important aspect of advocacy remains the person or thing being advocated for.  I am less concerned about the advocate or the stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. That is not to say that they are irrelevant, but if I lose focus on who benefits from Fight Colorectal Cancer’s advocacy efforts, then I think my work, our work, has transitioned beyond our original intent. Colorectal cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, loved ones lost, and future patients are who we represent. This is why we advocate.

Advocating on the Personal Level

I am a rectal cancer patient. My wife is a caregiver. My friends are survivors. Some of my friends have left this world at the hand of this disease. I look at all people as potential persons who may receive the diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

This view of risk may seem like an overwhelming concept, but I firmly believe that this is the foundation for true advocacy regarding our mission. We must advocate on the personal level for every individual to understand the importance of screening for colorectal cancer, and if they are diagnosed with the disease, we must continue to advocate for access to effective treatment options. Only after we have internalized this responsibility and live it out can we be effective advocates on the larger community level.  Only after we understand the importance of engaging everyone in being personal advocates for their own health can we launch into addressing the obstacles which exist on the local, state, and national level.

Be an advocate and take it upon yourself to remind everyone you know to get screened for colorectal cancer. Be an advocate and work with a local community organization to raise awareness about colorectal cancer.  Be an advocate and have your state recognize March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  Be an advocate and join us in our efforts to communicate with your congressional and senate representatives the importance of this issue. Be an advocate and join us in March for the annual Call-on-Congress event.

Most importantly, be an advocate for yourself and have your voice heard about what issues are important to you.

Be an advocate and be involved.

More…

Register for the 8th annual Call-on Congress March 16-18, 2014

Apply for a Call-on Congress Scholarship (due Jan. 6, 2014)

Check out Josh’s story…

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