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Cancer Survivors, Advocates Meet with Officials in Washington

Farmington Hills resident Richard Jaeger represented the 9th Congressional District at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Summit and Lobby Day.

Last week, cancer advocates and survivors met in Washington, D.C. for the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Summit and Lobby Day. The meetings, which run for four days, include visits to Senators and Representative (or their aides), a review of the prior fiscal year, and planning for the new year, as well as breakout sessions, special events and speakers.

The 9th Congressional District was represented by Farmington Hills resident and a 15-year cancer survivor, Richard Jaeger. It was his seventh trip to Washington representing the district, and he was recognized as one of 96 who have attended the last four year summits, out of a total of 2,400 people for the four years.

The theme of the meeting was “Making Cancer a National Priority”, and three major requests were made to both Michigan Senators and all representatives.

Continue research funding

First was to, at the very least, continue the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at current levels.

“Finding a cure or treatment takes time, often up to 15 years or more before a treatment is finally tested and approved," Jaeger said to Rep. Peters.

Cutting back on research would cause cancellation of research projects and perhaps one that might be the answer to a form of cancer, Jaeger continued. Currently, there are two National Cancer Institute-recognized cancer centers in Michigan, University of Michigan (UM) Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Barbara Ann Karmonos Cancer Institute.

NIH funding to those two centers as well as other research facilities in the state amounted to $655,453,661 and supported 11,744 jobs in Michigan, plus myriad ancillary jobs and businesses around the centers. UM is in the process of opening a 1 million square foot research facility, consisting of 28 building and treatment clinics in Ann Arbor, and an office campus hotel and restaurant facility for those coming to UM for treatment from around the country. These facilities are being privately funded and will provide additional economic benefits.

Funding for cancer screenings

Second, continued funding for the Center for Disease Control programs must be continued, advocates said. Programs for mammograms and colorectal screenings, among others, have always been under-funded with only approximately 20 percent of those eligible being able to receive mammograms, for example. The programs are handled as matching funds, with the states getting $3 for every $1 they budget.

In Michigan, 57,790 people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, including over 7,000 new cases of breast cancer and over 9,000 cases of prostate cancer. Over 20,000 Michigan residents will die from cancer. Early diagnoses and prevention are the key to reducing deaths by 50 percent, ACS/CAN statistics indicate.

Third, support was requested for two House bills and one Senate bill on "quality of life" or palliative care. This is a new ACS/CAN initiative and actually would cover all chronic diseases, including cancer. It is intended to bring into focus, as a team effort rather than separate efforts, all the resources that are currently available to assist in the physical and psychological effects of cancer. This goes beyond end of life care, including social workers, doctors, psychologists and nurses working as a team.

Jaeger commented, “Even though it’s been 15 years since I was diagnosed with bladder and breast cancer, I still have after effects of chemotherapy and radiation and always will though they are relatively minor – short term memory loss, lack of feeling in my fingers and feet and difficulty with my balance – this legislation will help train people to work together and help cancer survivors handle the side effects and after effects of treatments as well as the disease itself.”

Social time for advocates

Not all the events and meeting were of a serious nature. The annual dinner dance on Friday night featured a rock band that played a great number of Motown tunes, which had the dinner guests on their feet a good deal of the time. It was a time to relax from a busy schedule and mingle with people across the country. Following the dinner dance was an emotional walk to the Capitol Building Reflecting pool where 7,000 Lights of Hope were set up surrounding the pool and spelling out the words “Hope” and “Cure” – each light in honor of a survivor or memory of a friend or loved one who lost their battle with cancer.

Planning for the 2013 and 2014 Summits is already well under way, as the logistics of transporting , housing and feeding over 600 people (including staff) is at the least a daunting chore.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Inc. is a non-profit advocacy corporation and sister organization to the American Cancer Society Inc.

“We complement the operations of ACS by doing those things that ACS is not permitted to do by law or regulation," Christ Hansen, President of ACS/CAN, commented. Together the two organizations provide research, education, resources for those undergoing treatment and after and advocacy on the state, federal and local level to make cancer a national priority.

Source: Press release

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