Several weeks ago Nancy Roach, C3 President, asked if I wanted to attend something called Celebration on the Hill (COTH). From what I could find out this American Cancer Society (ACS) event held September 19-21 in Washington, DC sounded like a big version of a local Relay for Life.
Last Wednesday, a couple of C3 staff and I were in the office planning future C3 activities. We planned to go to COTH later in the afternoon. Someone went to the COTH website and found a streaming video link. That was when I discovered the true size of this event.
The video was not one static camera pointed at the stage but several different views including crowd shots. There must have been a dozen or more cameras feeding an onsite production truck.
We went to the site around 5 pm. It went from 7th Street to the reflecting pool on the west side of the Capitol. The Wall of Hope started here so we walked through that first. The wall consisted of banner from all 50 states along with the District of Columbia and a couple of U.S. Territories.
I found Arkansas and signed the banner from my town. I also found the banner from the place where my aunt and cousin live. Their names were on it as both are cancer survivors.
The next area had a tent for each state and territory. This was a place for people to meet each other and rest. I heard most Members of Congress stopped by these tents to talk to constituents.
Each of us made donations to get luminaries. This is the best and most emotional part of every Relay. It is a joy and a sorrow to see them in the dark when they are lit. They were lined up by state around the Reflecting Pool, sometimes two and three deep. Each one represented a person with cancer. Some simply had the name while others were elaborately decorated. Many had a sentiment about the person.
This was not just about lighting some candles. Every Member of Congress, all 535 of them, received a visit from cancer advocates. Congress get visits all the time from groups but very few have enough participants present to get a visit with every Member.
This was a huge WOW experience for Carlea Bauman, C3 Executive Director, Jim Wetekam, C3 Director of Policy Communication, and I. ACS used a huge amount of resources to pull this off. It got the three of us to thinking and dreaming about the possibilities for C3.
I hope this is the start of something big for cancer advocacy. Sometimes people affected by cancer are looked upon with pity. When we tell our government officials what we want them to do they tell us they support cancer. Then they do little to act upon this support and we do little to make cancer an issue.
It is time this changed. We must becomed informed about the issue, decide what we want, and how best to bring this to the attention of our government.
One of my goals if for cancer to become an issue on par with groups such as the AIDS and gun lobbies. A similar goal is for colon and rectal cancer to get the same level of attention breast cancer now receives. Both of these will not happen overnight and will require much work.
Talk doesn’t cook rice. We’re here to cook. Let’s start cooking.