I Hate Breast Cancer Goes to Washington…

On May 7, 2013,  I participated in Lobby Day, part of the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s (NBBC) Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 leadership summit. Shirley Mertz, President of  MBCN, served as the Team Leader of the Illionois delegation which also included Ilana Cohen and Tamara Hamlish.
Shirley, who is also the Field Coordinator of the Illinois Breast Cancer Coalition, set up 10 appointments for us on the Hill. She explained the  language in the new House bill is identical to what appeared in the bill in the 112th Congress (H.R.3067).  “My goal is  to visit the offices of those Illinois representatives who are new to the House of Representatives,” she told us.  “They most likely have not heard of NBCC or its work to sustain funding for the DOD Breast Cancer Program or Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. In addition to some of the new members, we’re hoping Representatives Rush, Gutierrez, Quigley, Roskam, Davis and Schakowsky will renew their support.”
Shirley gave us the schedule:


9:30     13                 1740/LHOB          RODNEY DAVIS

10:00   11                 1224/LHOB          BILL FOSTER 

10:30   12                 1722/LHOB          WILLIAM ENYART 

11:00   10                  317/CHOB           BRAD SCHNEIDER

Noon    Senate          711/Hart              DICK DURBIN 

1:00      2                    2419/RHOB         ROBIN KELLY

1:30      17                  1009/LHOB         CHERI BUSTOS

2:00      Senate           524/Hart             MARK KIRK 

2:00      18                   328/CHOB          AARON SCHOCK

2:30      8                     104/CHOB           TAMMY DUCKWORTH

All of the state delegations convened that morning at the Reserve Officers Association Building. From there, after some coffee and last minute instructions, we headed off to our first appointment at the Longworth House Office Building (LHOB). Subsequent calls would take us to the Rayburn House Office Building (RHOB) and the Cannon House Office Building (CHOB) as well as the Hart Senate Office Building.  Illana, Tamara, Shirley and I made the first call together–we then paired off for most of the remaining ones.

A cold rain drizzled down for most of the day, the perfect weather for  staying  home, drinking hot chocolate and watching  “I Love Lucy” reruns. By the time we returned to the ROA Building for a brief lunch, my shoes were soaked and my energy was waning. As ever, Shirley remained cheerful and enthusiastic.

She did all of the heavy lifting during the appointments. She explained that we had two main priorities:


Rep. Schneider with Shirley Mertz. He had an excellent grasp of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer issues.

Rep. Schneider met with us personally.  As expected, in all other cases we met with legislative aides. In her elevator pitch, Shirley explained that the “End of Breast Cancer Act” is one component of the larger Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 initiative. The legislation is dedicated to the prevention of breast cancer, especially the prevention of metastasis which is responsible for 90% of breast cancer deaths.

“I’m sure your constituents would applaud  legislation that  supports research to create a vaccine against breast cancer as well as research to find the causes of metastasis which kills women and men,” Shirley said.

Most of the people we met with nodded sympathetically and jotted a quick note or two on legal pads.

I explained my reasons for being there. “I”m doing this for young people like yourself,” I told the aides. “My mom died of metastatic inflammatory breast cancer at age 53. I’m 47 and I have been living with metastatic breast cancer for three years. I want something better for the next generation.”

Metastatic breast cancer probably seems like a distant abstraction to many of the young staffers we met with–something that probably happens to old people. “My mom died a few weeks after my high school graduation,” I told them. “She didn’t see me graduate from college. She never held her grandchildren. Can you help us make a difference?”

I hope our message reached them. A few, apparently, will require some follow-up phone calls and emails. So far, only Daniel Lipinski and Aaron Schock have co-signed the bill. As of this writing, Reps.  Tammy Duckworth, Brad Schneider, Rodney Davis, Bill Foster and Robin Kelly haven’t signed on to House Bill 1830, Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act.

You can bet I will be asking them what they’re waiting for.

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2 thoughts on “I Hate Breast Cancer Goes to Washington…

  1. katherinembc says:

    The Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria shared these great photos: http://brecan.org/uncategorized/lobby-day

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this, Katherine. Keeping “public” tabs on the representatives’ responses to the NBCC visitors seems worthwhile, needed –

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