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.
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.
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.