I’m Doing Something I NEVER Thought I’d Do

In a few hours I leave for Washington, D.C.  I’ve been to D.C. numerous times for various reasons, but this time it’s not so random.  I, along with other lung cancer advocates and patients from every state, will be in D.C. for the American Lung Association’s LUNGFORCE Advocacy Day. Wednesday, March 16, the other state reps and I will take to The Hill to meet with members of Congress to ask that they considering increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health and to help expand efforts in lung cancer research and initiatives. lungforce logo

I can’t bring my mom back, but I can at least work to ensure that others don’t have to endure what our family endured. A couple of years ago I started volunteering with the local American Lung Association (ALA) in Birmingham and if it wasn’t for my friend Ashley Lylerly, who works for the ALA, I wouldn’t be going to D.C.  She was the one who submitted my name to serve as the state rep for Alabama.  I never thought that I would be doing something as serious as this…speaking to legislators about my mom.  I get to tell them about Lillie B. McCarter Conway from Independence, Louisiana. How cool is that?

Here’s the deal about lung cancer. Most times when lung cancer is discovered, it’s in very late stages. You can’t “feel” lung cancer, not in a traditional sense.  But right now there are researchers and scientists working to find ways to detect lung cancer earlier. But they can’t do that without the necessary funding and grant money.  Of course it’s more complicated than that, but the simple version is this: EVERYONE has been affected by cancer, whether it’s lung cancer or one of the other 200+ kinds of cancer that currently exists.   But on March 16, I get to speak to lawmakers about how LUNG CANCER affected my mom and our family.  The fact that she didn’t know she had lung cancer until she was Stage IV is more than just troubling, it’s sad and and unnecessary.  She was a tad better than most who are diagnosed at that stage in that she lived a longer than expected.  We have made many advancements in the lung cancer community since mom’s diagnosis in 2008 and her death in 2012.  Because of those advances in research, many lung cancer patients are living their lives and moving forward now when a few years ago that may not have been possible.   More money for research would also assist in determining why more young, non-smokers are getting lung cancer.  So many unanswered questions surround lung cancer as it relates to genetics, environment and a host of other issues.  We can only find the answers through research.  So, yeah, we need more money.

Mom - March '12

At mom’s last bday celebration, March 2012

I’m asking all of you for prayers as I travel to D.C. and as I prepare to speak to lawmakers one-on-one, Wednesday, March 16.  The best part about all of this?  Tuesday, March 15, mom would have been 72 years old.  A coincidence? I think not.  Somehow I think mom is sending me a message and letting me know that all is well.  And I know she’ll be with me.

To Vote Or Not To Vote — Your Decision Affects Your Health

Let’s make something very clear…I already voted and I was never planning on NOT voting.  However, I was very disturbed to find out that some folks are DEBATING on whether or not to vote. WHY? I know it’s ‘just the midterm’ elections but the outcome still matters right? Doesn’t matter whether it’s a local or national election. Those who choose not to vote are the same folks who get upset that the roads have too many potholes and no one is trying to fix them.

voting machine

Old school voting machine that I remember as a kid

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I grew up in a family who made voting a rite of passage. I can remember when my family planned our day around voting and nothing else mattered that day until my parents voted. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get behind that curtain and pull the lever. There was an air of mystery surrounding such an adult-related activity. What was behind that curtain where you could only see someone’s legs? What were they doing and what made folks stand in line just to get in a booth and pull levers? And, what happened after you were finished? Why did we go home and watch the ‘election returns’? I was so excited to register to vote and cast my ballot when I turned 18. My dad taught American History and Civics, so um, yeah, I was raised to vote! My mom was in college in the mid 60’s when there were sit-ins and marches and general unrest. Maybe those who don’t vote have never heard the stories about racial tension and how voting was the ONLY way to get equal rights for EVERYONE, not just minorities.

Nowadays folks are SO apathetic. Why is that? What happened that made folks so blah? To me it’s bigger than whether or not your candidate won, but about being allowed to actually vote for your choice of candidate. A democratic society is a free society. And it really should be bigger than the party with which you associate. Maybe those who don’t vote truly don’t understand that the people we choose to vote for represent us on issues that truly matter. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I want someone who will make the right decision when it comes to my health, my livelihood and my future. I’m a taxpayer and I deserve to have a say in where my money goes right?

Take some time to check out the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and you’ll find hundreds of medical research and funding opportunities relating to health issues and diseases such as dementia, drug abuse, lung cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

In short, Congress has a budget process that determines how much money is “given” to the NIH and the members of Congress pass legislation that gives the federal government authority over how to spend our tax dollars. Guess who puts the members of Congress in office?

vote!

I’m saying all of this say that your vote can change who makes decisions about issues that affect you, your family members and your friends. I know that in theory, this process is much more complicated than I am making it sound. But that’s because historically, we’ve made it more complicated than it has to be.

Short version: If you want to find a cure for any type of cancer or genetic diseases or brain disorders or cystic fibrosis or mental health or suicide or violence against women, cast your ballot and then hold your representative accountable.

Simply put, voting says you care.