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Pam’s Story – Securing My First State Proclamation in West Virginia

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By Advocate Pam Seijo, West Virginia

In 2004, the first year I went to D.C. to advocate for colorectal cancer, I was determined to make a difference and find my role. Little did I know that four years after a diagnosis of aggressive stage III rectal cancer, the thrill of being on Capitol Hill and meeting with my representatives and senators would set the tone for my fight and drive me to change the colorectal cancer world.

My Congressional Representative Suggested I Get a State Proclamation

After returning home from Capitol Hill, I received a call from my representative’s office, thanking me for my time and compassion, appreciative that I took the time to meet with Rep. Rahall and talk to him about colorectal cancer. The staff member calling me also suggested that I ask the governor of West Virginia for a Proclamation declaring March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

I was excited that my representative was asking ME to do this, and I wanted to make an impact, but I had no clue how to go about it, much less what I would do once the Proclamation was secured. I let several months pass before I decided to call the governor’s office and ask. The lady who answered the phone listened to my request and said, “I can’t help you, but one of the governor’s aides may be able too.”  She forwarded my call and I suddenly became so nervous. I feared they would not give me a Proclamation, after all I was only a survivor! But wow, was I wrong!

When the governor’s aide came on the line, I began to share my story. I told her that Rep. Rahall suggested that I call. The next thing I knew, she put me on hold. As I waited, in my heart, I feared I wouldn’t get the Proclamation, but still hoped for it. When she came back on the line, she reported that my governor would be honored to sign a Proclamation and they would send me a copy. Within a few days, I received the copy of the Proclamation and was excited to share it with Mountains of Hope, West Virginia’s Cancer Coalition.

That was my start in getting a State Proclamation for West Virginia. It made me feel I had played a role in making a difference. I learned that year that most of the time, the governor’s office has no idea about how colorectal cancer has impacted people in the state. It just takes one of us bringing our passion to draw attention to it.

Since 2004, I have secured a State Proclamation every year for West Virginia. I’ve learned it’s all about sharing your story, providing some statistics and making it known that a State Proclamation will not only benefit all who are already affected by colorectal cancer but also those who aren’t up-to-date on screenings – it can save lives!

Stay tuned for more as I offer advice for anyone else wanting to secure their state proclamation.

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