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August 2013 Advocate of the Month: Judy Lewis

This month we honor an advocate whose dedication to carrying postcards wherever she goes allowed her to make a huge impact in her neighboring state of North Carolina. Congratulations to Judy Lewis for being our August Advocate of the Month!

Here is her advocacy story:

Like many other families, the Lewis family lives with the memory of loved ones who suffered from cancer and of others who are currently fighting that battle.  To advocate on behalf of patients is one way an individual can be proactive in the fight against cancer and in my family’s case, against myeloma. 

My husband’s mother was a myeloma patient.   My husband, Jim, was diagnosed with myeloma in the fall of 2008, just weeks after my retirement before we had even begun the post-retirement to-do list.  The list is still long, it just does not seem as important as it once did.

Somewhere along my caregiver journey, I began to take on small advocacy opportunities with the International Myeloma Foundation.  These included answering calls for action to send letters to my Congressmen and encouraging others to do the same.

Last fall, our family collected more than 200 signatures for the Postcard for Parity Program. Jim and I also celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in November and were pleased to donate gifts we received in honor of our 50th year milestone.

Our family wears IMF wristbands in honor of myeloma patients, and to open up opportunities for conversation where we can talk about myeloma.  I kept an oral parity postcard in my pocket for quick reference to inform everyone about this very important issue facing myeloma patients.

In late October 2012, Jim’s beloved brother succumbed to cancer of the pancreas after a valiant battle of nearly five years.  While visiting with family and friends during that time, I had the opportunity to speak with our nephew, North Carolina Representative David R. Lewis.  We discussed oral parity for cancer patients and the possibility of his sponsoring a bill in the North Carolina House of Representatives.  I gave him a quick overview explaining that Jim is on an oral anticancer medication himself and according to the way billing is done at this time, if not for really good insurance, we would not be able to afford even the co-pay.    

The only printed information I had with me on that trip was a crumpled oral chemo parity postcard, which I pulled from my pocket and gave to David.  He indicated he would be honored to look into the possibility of sponsoring the legislation.  From that conversation, he ran with it as prime sponsor of H609, along with 45 co-sponsors! 

There is still much work to do, but I look forward to H609 being one day signed into law and am forever grateful to my nephew, Rep Lewis, for taking action on behalf of cancer patients in North Carolina.

Whether it is a wearing a wristband, making contact with legislators by writing a letter, making a telephone call or attending a meeting or even getting an oral parity postcard into the right hand, everything we do on behalf of cancer patients makes a difference.  

Last fall and winter Judy did an amazing job spreading the awareness for oral anticancer treatment access legislation across both Carolinas and has been continuing to do just that through the Myeloma ACTION Team. This month she is working with the Florence MM Support Group to meet with their Members of Congress and deliver the postcards she has collected. Thank you, Judy for starting the postcard program in South Carolina off with an amazing start last year and for getting that postcard in the right hands!

Judy’s story just goes to show you never know where your wave will land.

If you want to participate in the Postcards for Parity Program and/or be a part of the Myeloma ACTION Team contact Aimee Martin today. 

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