Together with More Progress, More Hope, More Lives!
Guest post from Komen Advocate in Science member, Rebecca Seago-Coyle
Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2013 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. as part of the Scientist Survivor Program (SSP). Along with 25 others from various organizations in the 2013 SSP, I was proudly representing Susan G. Komen as a member of Komen’s Advocates in Science. As a breast cancer survivor myself, it was one of the most powerful weeks I think I’ve ever experienced , and I learned a great deal about so many cancer topics.
As part of the AACR’s SSP, we participated in the Rally for Medical Research on Monday, April 8th to raise awareness of the critical need to make funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority. Everyone in the SSP was given VIP passes to sit in the front rows of the Rally. It was a beautiful day and it was an empowering day.
I try to stay out of politics, and if someone had told me 3 years ago that I would be participating in a Rally for Medical Research, I would have thought they were crazy. But the reality is, politics plays a key role in finding the cures. Federal funding for research continues to decline and threaten our future health. Being a young breast cancer survivor myself, I can’t just fly under the radar. My voice needs to be heard. There is always more that we can do – as survivors, as caretakers, as advocates and as researchers.
The Rally consisted of members of Congress, patients and survivors speaking and advocating in their own way to educate the public and research organizations to make our voices heard. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a 27-year ovarian cancer survivor, said no one should survive by luck – and she’s right. One of the first things I thought when I got diagnosed was that I’m so lucky. Technology is on my side – a cancer diagnosis isn’t what it used to be. Because of the research that has been accomplished over the last 30 years with breast cancer, I know my chances of survival are great. However, there are still some that aren’t so lucky – and that’s why it’s so important to stand up, let your voice be heard, and do something about finding cures for cancer and other diseases.
Breast cancer runs in my family and it hits us early in life when we should be worrying about other things, like planning our families. My grandmother passed away when she was 34, I lost my aunt when she was 34, and my cousin was 30 when she was diagnosed (and is now a 12 year survivor!).
When I was diagnosed, my team of doctors suggested I get tested for the BRCA mutation, making me the first in my family to get tested. I tested positive – I knew I would, given my family history. But learning about the mutation helped me plan my treatment to be more aggressive so I could reduce the chance of it coming back. Because of researchers who found the mutations, I was able to make important decisions for my future.
The rally also consisted of other survivors – not just cancer – who shared their stories of how they benefited from medical research. It’s so important to be a research and patient advocate. It helps bring together the researcher and the patient experience so that progress can be made.
So what does this mean now? I’m just a breast cancer survivor and advocate from Olympia, Washington, how can I make my voice heard? It means I need to get to know my representatives and make it known how important it is for them to vote for medical research, not cut it. It also means learning about different ways I can help in my community – like at the treatment center where I was treated. Together, with more progress and more hope, we can save more lives!
Here are some helpful links to get involved:
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.