Suzanne Lindley is a C3 advocate from Canton, TX. She attended the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s (LAF) Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum in Cedar Rapids, IA, on August 27th and 28th along with Joe Arite, C3’s Policy and Grassroots Manager. Suzanne is an eight-year survivor of stage IV colorectal cancer. She wrote this message the day after she returned home.
The opinions expressed below are Suzanne’s and not necessarily those of C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition.
It has been 72 hours since I left home for the LAF Presidential Cancer Forum in Iowa. Only 72 hours and in that time 4500 people have died because of this disease. Two of those who lost their lives were friends of mine. Another 10,686 heard the three words “you have cancer” and their lives will never again be the same.
Representing C3 for this event was a great privilege and it was a wonderful honor to attend with Joe Arite, Policy and Grassroots Manager. He is energetic, enthusiastic, and very passionate about our mission.
We started our Monday at a “meet and greet” breakfast with the other attendees before the Democratic session. Following breakfast we were ushered into the auditorium where Joe and I had the honor of meeting the Governor of Iowa, Chet Culver (and yes, I asked if he has had a colonoscopy). Our seats were only a few rows from the front.
New York Senator Hillary Clinton was first to speak. She talked about her personal connection to cancer with not only her mother-in-law’s death but also the death of her best friend. She stated that the country needs to unleash the potential of researchers to accomplish big things, like cure cancer. She declared that, as President, she would “wage war on cancer!”
New York Senator Hillary Clinton
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards was also well spoken and, of course, has his own very personal war with the disease. I have long been a fan of Elizabeth Edwards and had the opportunity to meet her last year at the LAF Summit so I was very pleased to hear what her husband had to say. His war on cancer is personal.
Lance Armstrong and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico spoke next. He remarks focused on prevention, healthier lifestyles, junk food in school, mandatory physical education and smoking bans. I heard from several of my fellow C3 advocates that they were uncomfortable about his answer to a question about his personal connection to cancer. He replied that he was fortunate that since he led a healthy lifestyle he did not have cancer in his life. I think that making such a statement to Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor and arguably one of our country’s greatest athletes, was probably not his strongest moment.
The final Democratic speaker was Representative Dennis Kucinich (OH-10). He was lively and direct and there was absolutely no vagueness to his plan – but no definite answer on a cancer budget, either. He feels that America should no longer have for-profit medicine. Money would be paid into a national plan and in essence form one large pot, ensuring access for everyone.
After the forum, Joe and I planned to meet for dinner. Back at the hotel, I met another attendee of the forum. I told him I was with C3 and that I am living with colon cancer. He was also a survivor but told me that he was covering the forum for work. He then introduced himself – it was journalist Jonathan Alter, editor for Newsweek and an NBC News contributor! He took both Joe and me out to dinner and we ended up having a lively conversation. When we saw him on Tuesday he told us he had just finished telling Chris Matthews (of MSNBC’s “Hardball” and NBC’s “Chris Matthews Show”) about us and some of the issues we had brought to his attention regarding colorectal cancer and health care coverage of colonoscopies.
Suzanne Lindley with Newsweek editor, Jonathan Alter
Tuesday started out with the same “meet and greet” breakfast. We had a chance to speak with Senator Grassley (R-IA) for a while (yes, he has had a colonoscopy).
from left, C3 Policy & Grassroots Manager, Joe Arite, Senator Grassley (R-IA), and Suzanne Lindley
At the forum, the first Republican presidential candidate to speak was Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. His father survived colon cancer and he, himself, has survived melanoma. He restated his campaign pledge to end cancer deaths within 10 years and vowed a “substantial increase” in federal money for research. He believes funding must be increased to fight this war against cancer and voted for the 6.7% increase for NIH.
The second (and last) to speak was the Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. He was well spoken, poignant, and funny and was able to clearly state his position on cancer. He, too, has a personal story with his cancer as his wife was diagnosed with a spinal tumor early in their marriage. He made a point of letting the audience know that she was alive because of research.
At lunch we waited for a turn to speak to Senator Brownback. I told him I was glad that his dad’s cancer had been discovered early. He replied that it really hadn’t been; the tumor was the size of a grapefruit – it just hadn’t spread. I told him that mine had – that it was already in my liver when I was diagnosed. When I asked if he’d gotten a colonoscopy, he complained about how much he didn’t like getting them, so I very quietly wiggled my wig and explained that the alternative was much worse.
After lunch, it was time to go home. As I boarded my flight, I saw a sea of yellow wristbands (the cancer advocacy symbol popularized by Lance Armstrong).
The next day, I woke up, made breakfast and then headed to chemo. I marveled at how much can change in just a few hours. From Texas to Iowa and back home again. 4500 lives and counting….4500 families and friends missing loved ones from a disease that should have a cure. The war is on.
C3 Advocate extraordinaire, Suzanne Lindley