Pam Seijo, Grassroots Action Committee (GAC) Co-Chair
On August 19, 2000, as I was preparing for my 17th year of teaching, I finally gave into the pain and was admitted to the hospital. My colon had ruptured and I was given the grim diagnosis of aggressive stage IIIc rectal cancer. My journey in unfamiliar territory began, but out of it came knowledge of the disease, treatments, research and understanding what a person goes through when diagnosed with cancer. I’ve endured several surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, but I found I had a voice to make a difference.
Fifteen Years Later
When Colorectal Cancer becomes part of your journey in life, what do you do or how do you feel? Cry? Angry? Panic? Research? Shocked? Fight? I have felt all of these at one point in my 15 years since diagnosis, but decided early on that I would fight to survive and do what I had always done: make a difference in my life and the lives around me. I didn’t know what that would be early on because I was fighting to survive.
Two years into my diagnosis, treatments were wearing me down and the doctors and I were looking for new options. Being a former educator, I craved to be educated on this disease, so I started attending conferences to learn more and see what options I had. Unlike now, my options were very limited in 2000, the year I was diagnosed. I learned many things at these conferences, including the route I would take next in my treatment plan and what I could do to make a difference in the colorectal cancer world.
The Path to Advocacy
I never thought having colorectal cancer would lead me to the path of advocacy until I met Nancy Roach at a conference and she invited me to join her and around 11 others in D.C. to go to Capitol Hill and advocate. This was the beginning of Fight CRC, originally called C3, the Colorectal Cancer Coalition. As I prepared to go on the Hill my first time, I was terrified! What could I say or do that would have an impact? How could my voice matter?
I went to the senators’ and representative’s offices and told my story, explained our legislative “asks” and thought they would immediately support me. I didn’t get any promises that day, and I didn’t feel as successful as I had envisioned I’d feel at the end of my first Hill day. However, the advocating bug bit me and I knew this was what I could do to make a difference. I knew I needed to establish a relationship with my members of Congress to show them I wouldn’t give up fighting for change.
Advocacy Leads to Real Change
My voice combined with the voices of hundreds of other advocates have produced changes such as increases in funding for colorectal cancer research and national proclamations making March Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Additionally, I’ve witnessed the growth of Fight Colorectal Cancer like the launching of the awareness campaign One Million Strong, celebrity spokespersons, the creation of the Junior Advocate program, and over 100 advocates from 32 states at Call-on Congress, just to name a few.
As I prepare for my 10th year as an advocate with Fight CRC, you may ask why I keep coming back?
- To continue using my passionate voice and joining it with others to create change!
- Seeing changes in the eyes and hearts of Congress and offering hope to those whose lives have been touched by colorectal cancer.
- Meeting advocates from across the country with the same passion and whose lives have been touched by this disease. This friendship soon turns into a family.
- Gaining knowledge and tools to use after returning home to empower others and continue building relationships with Congress.
This year as new advocates join Call-on Congress veterans, get ready for your life to change in a positive way and gain a new family. Fifteen years ago I didn’t know where my life would take me after diagnosis, but I’m glad it took me to the Hill and introduced me to Fight CRC.