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One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) Annual Lobby Day 2011

Congratulations and THANK YOU to our June Advocates of the Month: Jan Sealover, and her caregiver Arthur Poms from Rockville, Maryland and Geri Smith-Benjamin from Arlington, Virginia.

On May 24, 2011 the group joined other non-profit advocates from across the country for this year’s One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) Lobby Day.

They took their passion for the cause and their drive for a cure to the nation’s capitol to fight for legislation important to them and the myeloma community. With support from the IMF Advocacy team and OVAC, they met with the staff of their Senators and Representatives to request sustained funding for medical research at the NIH and NCI, funding for the CDC cancer programs, and funding for the FDA.

Jan, a two-year multiple myeloma survivor, and her caregiver Art along with two others from Maryland met with the staff of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Representative Christopher Van Hollen, (D-MD), and Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD). Jan willingly shared the touching story of her mother who passed away from multiple myeloma only after 8 months. She explained in each meeting that because of the research that’s been done since her mother’s diagnosis and new treatments available, she continues to do well since her own diagnosis.

Geri, a four-year multiple myeloma survivor, along with nine others from Virginia met with the staff of Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The group was fortunate to meet with Representative James Moran (D-VA) and share their concerns about funding cuts. Rep. Moran assured the group that he is a huge supporter of cancer research and the medical research at the Department of Defense.

One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) is a collaboration of national non-profit organizations representing millions of Americans with cancer. It is one of the leading cancer coalitions in the nation’s capitol and delivers a unified message to Congress on the need for increased cancer-related appropriations. The IMF has been a member since 2001.

We asked both patient advocates to share her thoughts about the day… 

Jan – “OVAC Lobby Day was a great experience. After hearing professional lobbying experts speak to us the day before on “how to get your message across,” we visited both Senate and House of Representatives’ offices on either side of the Capitol. Joined by a dermatologist and an oncology nurse, we strategized on how to blend statistics, personal stories and an “ask” for continued support for funding of cancer research and prevention programs in five key areas including NIH, CDC, FDA, Patient Navigator programs and Pediatric Cancer. The staffers we met with were courteous and knowledgeable, but the pressure of budget cutting was palpable in the air. Although the day was tiring, we all went home feeling we had made a difference by getting them to hear our “One Voice Against Cancer”.

Geri - “OVAC Lobby Day was an energizing experience for me. I got to know a wonderful group of upbeat people who were cancer patients like me, as well as long term survivors, caregivers and even a doctor. I also got to know the health lobbyists who work everyday to make sure Senators and Congressman don't forget the real life impact that cancer research has on the individual lives of ordinary people and our families.
Those who had been to the Hill before, provided me with ’insider tidbits' when it came time to tell legislative aides about my personal experience with multiple myeloma. The best thing about the day for me was the way we easily came together to support one another no matter what specific cancer we were battling in our private lives. A good lesson for politicians to think about.”

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