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Heroes on the Hill

I’ve alluded to a few of the Congressmen who champion the fight against colorectal cancer in previous posts.

But today, I wanted to share a few of their stories and tell why they get behind a cure with us.

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Congressman Donald Payne Jr. and advocates from New Jersey

Congressman Donald Payne Jr.

Emotions flooded the room as we sat with Donald Payne Jr. during an interview at the Call-on Congress. A little over one year ago, Donald’s father, Congressman Donald Payne Sr., passed away after a short battle with colorectal cancer at age 77.

Explaining his father’s battle did not come easy; I know anyone who’s lost someone to this disease can relate.

His father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and battled for only a few months. He underwent surgery. Every treatment they tried to alleviate the cancer failed. He succumbed to the disease on March 6, 2012.

Shaking his head, a weary Congressman Payne told us,

“There is really no reason he should be gone, he would still be here if he would have been screened. We lost a great man and a leader in this nation.”

Not only did losing his father open his eyes to the importance of screening; it also made him aware of his family history.  Doctors removed 13 polyps during his recent colonoscopy, thankfully none were pre-cancerous.

“Screening is key. Had I not done that when I did, who knows what my situation could have been down the road.”

The fact that colorectal cancer is preventable fuels Payne to use his story and his leadership role to encourage screening.

To men he says:  “Be a man. Get tested.”

Among his fellow members of Congress he’s distributed colorectal cancer pins and introduced a resolution on the floor a week before the one-year anniversary of his father’s passing to bring awareness to the disease.

His promise? He will do anything he can to let as many people know that colorectal cancer is preventable and curable.

His hope? More men and women get screened and avoid succumbing to the disease.

All to honor of his father’s legacy.

Want to get in touch with him? Visit Congressman Donald Payne Jr.‘s website.

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Congressman Charlie Dent welcomes Fight Colorectal Cancer advocates to the Hill.

Congressman Charlie Dent

Congressmen Charlie Dent introduced House bill H.R. 1070 – Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening. Entering a room packed with Fight Colorectal Cancer advocates at the 2013 Call-on Congress, his gratitude quickly became a main agenda.

“I want to thank you for your advocacy on The Hill today.”

While it may seem like he’s the one we should have been thanking – his personal tie to colorectal cancer made him grateful we advocated on the Hill that day.

In February 2010 Dent’s brother-in-law, David, passed away from colorectal cancer at age 46 leaving Dent’s sister and their young daughters behind.

“It was tragic and it could have been detected. He was never aware of his family history and sadly, we learned the hard way.”

Despite the sorrow that motivated Dent to get involved in the fight against colorectal cancer, he encouraged our advocates with hope.

“The good news is that we can treat it if we catch it early. If everyone did what they were supposed to, we could probably cut down colorectal cancer deaths by 70-90%. That’s a huge amount of people who could be saved.

And what are we supposed to do?  Well, as Dent put it, “I gave myself a 50th birthday present.”

Not only does Dent recognize that colonoscopy saves lives, but he showed how screening saves money. An “error in the law” (as he put it) creates a disincentive for some on Medicare to undergo screening.

The bill Dent introduced eliminates the coinsurance charge if a doctor removes polyps during colonoscopy and encourages Medicare beneficiaries (2/3 of those being diagnosed with colorectal cancer) to receive proper screening at no charge.

Dent, as well as Dr. Thomas Deas – a gastroenterologist from Ft. Worth also present – explained the cost savings involved in covering colonoscopy screening and coinsurance.

“Screening for colorectal cancer is around $600-$800 every 10 years, with polyp removal costing around $80. That doesn’t even compare to the $30,000 that cancer treatment costs in the first year, with an upwards of $300,000 for advanced cancer treatment.”

Changing the law through bills like H.R. 1070 will clearly create a cost savings in the end.

We cannot thank Congressman Dent enough for becoming an advocate for colorectal cancer screening!

Want to get in touch with him? Visit Congressman Charlie Dent‘s website.

 

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Congressman McGovern with Massachusetts advocates

Congressman Jim McGovern

Just sitting in Congressman Jim McGovern’s office lets you know he’s a down-to-earth guy. Posters, pennants, plaques, pictures – he’s approachable in every way.

Especially when he talks about why he’s involved fighting colorectal cancer.

His wife’s best friend from college was young and healthy. Nobody suspected that she, an aerobics instructor with young boys, had stage IV colorectal cancer. Not even her primary care physician – although she did have a family history.

“We all thought, ‘How did this happen?’ … It never occurred to her, nor did anyone say, to get checked earlier.”

His family’s friend sadly passed away just a year-and-a-half after her diagnosis. Her battle with the disease, and his family’s involvement in cancer prevention, is McGovern’s motivation to take action on the Hill to promote awareness and screening.

We awarded Congressman McGovern with the 2013 Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Congressional Champion Award when we visited his office during the Call-on Congress. As a hero on the Hill for colorectal cancer, he has:

  • co-sponsored a bill to remove barriers from Medicare patients’ colonoscopy screenings
  • co-authored a 2012 “Dear Colleague” letter urging Congress to wear blue during our 2012 Call-on Congress
  • led a 2012 sign-on letter to House appropriators in support for the CDC’s colorectal cancer program funding
  • led introduction in 2009 with Rep. Kay Granger (a past recipient of the Congressional Champion Award) of the Colorectal Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Treatment Act
  • spoke at 2011 press conference in support of colorectal cancer screening

Quite the resume for one of the most vocal colorectal cancer advocates on the Hill who, for the record, has undergone a colonoscopy himself.

It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. The preparation isn’t terribly fun. The procedure is nothing.”

Not as bad at all is right. We couldn’t be more thankful for this wonderful health advocate on the Hill.

Want to get in touch with him? Visit Congressman Jim McGovern‘s website.

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Colorectal Cancer Impacts Everyone

Many of our advocates came away from the Call-on Congress telling stories of other representatives and staff members who shared their experiences with colorectal cancer.

Apparently it’s hitting close to home for many.

Colorectal cancer doesn’t discriminate. It touches families from all walks of life – from country stars to professional athletes and even those serving our country through politics.

We’re thankful for our Heroes on the Hill using their leadership to fight colorectal cancer.

We’re hopeful that through advocacy, we will encourage even more to get behind a cure.

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