One Voice Against Cancer: Maria's Perspective

by Maria Williams, advocate

Maria, an advocate from Washington state who advocates on behalf of her friend Belle

I look over my list of meetings on my schedule for the day with OVAC, One Voice Against Cancer, while listening to our morning “pep” talk.  My meetings are set at just the right intervals, no running back and forth between the house and senate sides of the Hill. The names on the schedule are ones I recognize from meetings over that past couple of years, this brings me a sense of comfort and relief, hoping these folks will remember me.

I know I will be meeting with legislative staff from previous trips. I’m feeling more confident than I have in the past, this being my third trip to the Hill. I just need to remember that I have a story to tell and they are here to listen.


In my first meeting with a health fellow from Sen. Patty Murray’s office, there is a glimmer of hope. She remembers me from my earlier visit in March. She remembers my story and how it tugged at her heart strings. I give her a short update as to how my best friend is doing and how appreciative I am of the Senator’s support of NIH funding. This means more to me than she could possibly know. I remember to get out all of OVAC’s asks before I leave, but this meeting was really more personal than I had anticipated.


Advocates headed to their meetings on the Hill.

In Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office, after sitting down and beginning to talk with her legislative aides, my jaw drops to the floor as the Senator herself walks into the room. I had no expectation that I would be meeting with her. She talks about issues with the upcoming session and the other side of the aisle. I bring her back to topic and share my story. It seems this is a topic that is personal and close to her heart as well. She shares with me her father’s struggle with lung and throat cancer. She turns to me before we leave and says “I wish your friend the best.” As I leave this meeting I’m floating on air; not because she promised anything, but because she heard my story and took the time to listen.


My last meeting of the day was with Rep. Jaime Herrera-Buetler’s office. Jessica is the health aid I’ve met with in the past and I’m happy she remembers me. Before I can start the “asks” for OVAC she looks at me squarely and says “Jaime wants a letter a little later in the year and will include all your ‘asks’ from Fight CRC in her upcoming budget proposal.”  That was the second time that day my jaw dropped. The rest of the meeting was a blur, but extremely productive. This was a great victory considering this representative’s past non-committal stance.

Who would have thought three years ago when I made my first trip to the Hill, I would become so enthusiastic about advocating.  It’s the little victories and my story being heard that makes all the difference in the world.


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