Relentless champions. It reads poetically—an exciting phrase that has rallied our community the past few months. Yet as people affected by cancer know all too well, the road to relentlessness is never easy. It comes with disappointments. Unexpected news. Gut-wrenching circumstances beyond our control. To be relentless is, well, hard. And this year, Call-on Congress experienced it on a whole new level. 

If COVID-19 wasn’t enough, the tech challenges that come with any virtual event certainly tried to keep us down today. Yet you know what? In the end, Call-on Congress proved to be just as resilient as our relentless champions. Once the cameras began rolling and the feeds streaming, we were off. Like our beautiful social media graphics say, we’re just getting started. Nothing can stop this community. 

A Virtual, Humanizing Day

As the streams began, many of us put on the new gear Fight CRC express-mailed to our front doors. We huddled around phones, laptops and TV screens to hear some of the sharpest minds and most dedicated individuals share about what they’re doing to fight colorectal cancer. I don’t know about you, but it was all the more endearing, and very humanizing, to watch our panelists present from home.

You mean cancer researchers and people who work for organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) also have kitchens, living rooms and slow internet problems? (We love you Lisa Richardson!) You mean they are people like me who are also either quarantined or practicing social distancing? Nice! 

I know today didn’t go as originally planned but wow, what a gift. Humanizing researchers and those working to fight colorectal cancer will have positive, long-lasting implications. We’re advocating so people like our panelists have the funding they need to do their jobs. For their labs and offices to stay open. Without their institutions’ leadership, the research slows and, ultimately, patients suffer. I’m honored that the panelists kept their schedules clear and joined us today. Fighting this disease will take everyone stepping in, and stepping up, to do their part. That was loud and clear. 

Why We Need to Email Congress Tomorrow

Speaking of disease, I’m glad we addressed the elephant in the room—the coronavirus and its impact on our advocacy efforts. I felt like Fight CRC’s advocacy team put it beautifully—the appropriations process is still happening. While many are focused on this pandemic right now (and rightfully so), it doesn’t mean colorectal cancer has stopped.

People are still getting diagnosed today. People are still dying today. This is a preventable disease, and our advocacy must keep going.

The experience of Fight CRC’s leaders (Molly even worked on the Hill) helped steer our course for tomorrow: email blasts. Why?

  • Members of Congress and their staffers are still working, but from home.
  • In-person visits and calls are likely not going to get through right now.
  • Email can build a respectful, mindful, relationship with a member of Congress during this time.
  • Email will make our 2020 asks clear and show we still expect to see their support.

So friends, fellow relentless champions, this is where we head next. Tomorrow, push those Take Action Now buttons and send those emails. The goal is for our community to collectively send 5,000 emails.

Why?

In the midst of everything else going on, we can’t let our lawmakers forget about colorectal cancer. If we don’t send these emails… nobody will. 

Day One in Review

All in all, what a brilliant day. Another perk to Virtual Call-on Congress? The presentations are already loaded up and ready to be viewed online. If you didn’t catch them live (or if your household pulled you away from the screen), tune in now! You’re in for a treat. 

Panel One: We are in This Together! The Latest From the Big Players 

  • Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH – Director, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Donna Kimbark, PhD – Program Manager, Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (DoD PRCRP)
  • Meg Mooney, MD, MBA – Associate Director of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP), Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • ‘Lola Fashiyon-Aje, MD, MPH Acting Deputy Director, Division of Oncology 3, Office of Oncologic Diseases, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Moderator: Danielle Leach, MPA – Chief of Community and Government Relations, National Brain Tumor Society

Part Two: Our Legislative Priorities:  A Deep Dive

  • Molly McDonnell – Director of Advocacy, Fight CRC

Part Three: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Fight CRC: Tackling Early-Age Onset CRC

  • Matt Young, PhD – Program Officer, Division of Cancer Biology, National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Phil Daschner, MS – Program Director, Division of Cancer Biology, National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Moderator: Andrea Dwyer – Director of Health Promotion, Fight CRC, a joint appointment with the University of Colorado Cancer Center

Share Your Story – Virtually!

Another cool feature of this year’s Call-on Congress is the virtual Share Your Story, which is taking place all night! Log onto social media to meet other relentless champions, and don’t forget to share your own story. 

Why are you in this fight? What connects you to this cause? What’s your story? If you haven’t posted on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram yet, do it now! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ConC2020 and tag @fightcrc. 

Hope Reigns 

Well friends, we made it through Day One of Call-on Congress. I expected nothing less from the relentless champions of hope. Admittedly, this event has never looked like this before. But, we are relentless! We won’t stop. We can’t stop. Our fighting spirit is growing, coming from all over the map, and we will carry on. We’re just getting started.

P.S. Thank you to the sponsors of Call-on Congress for their continued support (especially in light of our switch to a virtual event!): Exact Sciences, Genentech, Merck, Genentech, NoShave November, Foundation Medicine, Quicken Loans, Turtle Beach, EpiPro Colon, and The Majeski Foundation.

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