I’m a freelance journalist. People tell me their stories and I write about them for a living. But during day three of Call-on Congress, I became the storyteller.
When I lost my mom in 2015 to colon cancer, I never thought her death would take me on the advocacy path. However, becoming an ambassador for Fight CRC is the best thing that has happened to me. I found a purpose for my grief, and by sharing my mom’s story, her memory lives on.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous on Hill Day! I was the only representative for Texas this year, so although I was honored, I also panicked slightly. We went through intense and informative training on day one and day two, but I was still scared I would mess up. Would I get tongue-tied? Give them the wrong information?
Fight CRC had my back. Two mentors, Maria Williams and Kristin Keesen, offered to go with me for my first two meetings. They were encouraging and answered all my questions prior to Hill Day, and the nerves subsided.
When we arrived at Capitol Hill, my teeth were chattering. Not only because it was cold and this Texan isn’t used to freezing weather, but because the enormity of it all hit me. I looked at the looming building while surrounded by passionate and loud advocates, and I knew I was ready.
For Hill Day, I wore the scarf my mom wore to every single one of her chemo sessions. It was a source of comfort for her, and for me, a reminder of why I do what I do.
Navigating the halls of the Senate and the House was an exhilarating experience. I couldn’t believe I was there, heading to my representatives’ offices, about to speak on behalf of Fight CRC and those affected by colorectal cancer everywhere.
The staffers I met with were amicable, and listened to every single word. I told them about my mom’s battle, how it motivated me to sit right there with them. I thought of the other advocates, who were doing the exact same thing I was at the same time, and courage ran through my veins. I thought about my mom, sitting on her chemo chair, wearing her scarf and smiling at me, and words spilled out of my mouth almost effortlessly.
These are the topics we discussed during the meetings, Fight CRC’s 2017 Legislative Goals:
Removing screening barriers for colorectal cancer
Increasing funding for research
Extending protections offered by the Affordable Care Act, such as pre-existing conditions
The training that was provided by Fight CRC became invaluable, because albeit my nervousness, I felt confident when talking to staffers. Maria and Kristin were a great support as well, I couldn’t have done it without them.
After my first meeting, which happened at Sen. Ted Cruz’s office, I sat down and my eyes filled with tears. I suddenly missed my mom terribly, because I knew she’d have been thrilled to be there with me. At the same time, that pain motivated me to stand up and go to the next meeting. I even tagged along with Colorado advocates and met one of their senators!
When I saw the social media posts my fellow advocates were making, with their faces shining with purpose and accomplishment and pride, I realized this is what we’re meant to do. We have all been affected by colorectal cancer in different ways, and it changed our lives.
We are sad, we are angry, we are driven, we are loud. We are survivors, caregivers, and family members who think losing people to colorectal cancer is crap. Our determination was proven over and over again during Hill Day, and I’m incredibly proud of all the advocates who talked through endless meetings. They poured their heart out, they became a voice for those who aren’t with us anymore or those who couldn’t join us.
I will be back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
We will never stop fighting!