Choosing to Make a Difference: Call on Congress 2012

Pat Steer photo

Pat Steer

We are glad to welcome advocate Pat Steer to the Fight Colorectal Cancer Research and Treatment News.  She’s been living with stage IV rectal cancer since 2004.  A writer, she’s blogs about her life with cancer, training her beloved dogs, and her passion for good food at Life Out Loud.

Since my cancer diagnosis in 2004, my life has been full of choice and decisions. Cancer forces you to prioritize. Some days, it has seemed like cancer and treatment were calling all the shots in my schedule, changing my plans, and forcing decisions I didn’t want to have to make.

But I’ve made a few choices in the last eight years where I didn’t let cancer force my hand. I train and show dogs, and that’s very important to me. Early on, I decided to make attending my favorite dog shows a priority. I kept up my now-25-year tradition of camping with friends at a local show circuit. I entered a special event dog show held on New Year’s weekend, 2005 – three shows in 48 hours that wore me out, but was so worth the effort.  I covered Westminster in 2008 through 2010 for my column.

All of those decisions meant that sometimes I prioritized dog shows in spite of my treatment schedule. My oncologist, who once told me “I want you to live your life,” carefully moved my treatments around to accommodate the things I really wanted to do. After all, what good is surviving cancer if you can’t do the things you love?

At the same time, sometimes dogs shows and cancer just couldn’t fit together into the same time period. I’ve missed the chance to go to the national English Cocker Spaniel specialty twice now – once, because I was having liver resection and then again in 2011 due to intense treatment for a recurrence. Yes, I can prioritize, but cancer emergencies sure can mess up dog show plans.

There’s one other activity that I’ve made a choice to participate in each year: Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Call-On Congress.

Sometimes I’ve been on treatment or recovering from surgery. That meant I had to participate from afar by calling my congressmen and senators and visiting their local offices. But in 2010, I was able to attend Call-On Congress in person. I promised myself after that experience that as long as I was healthy enough to participate in person, I’d make attending Call-On Congress my first priority every year. And I’ve kept that promise to myself, that choice to make a difference, even when it meant giving up another trip, even if it meant skipping a dog show.

Why is making a trip to D.C. to meet with congresspeople and senators such a big deal?

Three reasons:

  1. I gain great energy from meeting other survivors
  2. I get a chance to stand close to the electricity of government in action.
  3. Call-On Congress made me realize the power of the personal touch.

Every survivor has the opportunity to put an unforgettable face on colorectal cancer. In person, we can take this disease out of the dark, make it more understood, make it real in a way that emails and phone calls can’t duplicate. Our faces and our presence at Call-On Congress turns colorectal cancer into a living, breathing issue to the men and women who decide where the money goes in the Federal budget.

I want my congresspeople and senators, and those legislators I meet in the halls of the Congressional office buildings, to remember my face when they’re voting on funding for colorectal cancer screening programs and research. I want them to look at those line items in the budgets, and see the short woman in glasses who wore a FightCRC t-shirt under her business blazer, who smiled and directly explained why their support was so valued and so needed. I want to put a face on that number.

And the only way to put a face on colorectal cancer is to do it in person.

The deadline to register for Call-On Congress is this Sunday, February 5, 2012. Will you join me and the advocates from the other 50 states in putting a face on colorectal cancer? Will you choose to make a difference in 2012?


  1. Kathryn Blume says

    I’m excited to finally be healthy enough to attend Call on Congress, and to get a chance to meet Pat, who has shared a lot of wonderful information about CRC with me through the last 2 1/2 years since my diagnosis. Thanks for the article – I agree about how important this is!

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