Representative McClendon currently serves on the Texas House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Transportation. She also serves as Chair of the Texas House Committee on Rules & Resolutions. The 82nd Legislative Session is her eighth term serving Texas House District 120.
April is Minority Cancer Awareness Month in Texas! Being a grateful cancer survivor made me realize that we need greater awareness and a loud call to action to about the disproportionate impact of cancer on the minority population. My legislation, House Bill 114, was enacted in 2011 to dedicate April in Texas as a month-long campaign to increase awareness among minority populations and among the public, at no expense to the public.
Cancer is sneaky, and it picks its victims differently. The Texas Cancer Registry data shows that the burden of cancer disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic groups. For instance, minorities are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, meaning treatment can be less successful. Minorities continue to have lower screening rates and less physical activity.
It is essential to listen to your body, and not ignore symptoms or delay in seeking a diagnosis. To those who have avoided or delayed screening, I urge you not to let fear stop you. It is your responsibility to use the power you have; be a good advocate and fight for your health.
The good news is, with early diagnosis and timely treatment, there is hope for recovery and a joyful life. To those who know they have cancer, please do not try to wage this battle alone. Every cancer survivor story is different, but one thing remains the same. Without the support services of knowledgeable medical staff and the love of family and friends, the survivor story may never be told.
Mortality rates show that the combined lack of early screening and access to care shortens the lives of African Americans and Hispanics needlessly. Every case of cancer affects us all — at home, in the workplace, and in our communities. Time is lost at work; the healthcare system incurs increased costs; and families can lose their moms, dads and grandparents, and sometimes even children. It is time to turn that around with greater awareness and action.
Recently, we launched April’s Minority Cancer Awareness campaign with the help and support of many fine medical organizations, when I hosted a briefing for Legislators and staff at the state capitol. Dr. Patt, one of the medical experts who spoke at the briefing and serves as Chair of the Texas Medical Association Committee on Cancer, related a compelling, real-life story about a patient who needed a double mastectomy but had no insurance and consequently delayed treatment. Dr. Patt told how she had begged and borrowed to get this patient the surgery she needed. The surgery gave the patient a renewed life, only to find that the cancer had metastasized in other parts of her body; most likely, this type of cancer will allow her to live one more year. Dr. Patt stated sadly and emphatically that an early diagnosis would have changed her patient’s outcome.
I encourage you to help us spread the word in April about Minority Cancer Awareness.
LIVESTRONG works tirelessly with decision makers to bring the concerns of cancer survivors to the forefront. Learn more about our work and get involved in our advocacy efforts today. Do you or a loved one need help dealing emotionally or financially with a cancer diagnosis? LIVESTRONG can help. Call 1-855-220-7777, go online to www.livestrong.org/gethelp or come into our offices in Austin, Texas. We are here to help you and your whole family.