The Lance Armstrong Foundation has 29 advocates and 3 staff members in DC right now taking part in One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) -an important lobbying day for the cancer community. Our advocates are asking their elected officials to do six things: 1)Fund cancer research 2)Fund cancer prevention, early detection, and tobacco cessation programs 3)Fund nursing programs and patient navigation 4)Fund drug approval 5)Fund cancer programs for children 6)Full appropriation for the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Everyone has a story and this story from one of our amazing advocates participating in the OVAC lobbying day.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Carissa Mendez-Munder and I am from Downey, California; a small city just outside of Los Angeles.
What is your cancer story/connection to cancer?
Several of my family members and loved ones have been diagnosed with cancers. The first, my great aunt, was the most significant. As children, my cousins, brother, and I were very close to my great aunt Rosario. She was what ‘society’ would label as ‘mentally challenged;’ but we never saw her in that way. We favored our aunt because of her innocence and the fact that she was so happy and stress free. My aunt Rosario was diagnosed with colon cancer when I was 11. I loved her very much and when she was diagnosed I was too young to understand anything other than this disease was going to take her from me. When they found the cancer, it was already too late. I watched her suffer for almost two years and I watched my family struggle with her diagnosis. I remember countless doctor appointments and helping my grandmother, mother, and aunt care for her. I didn’t know what cancer was but I knew that I hated it. I decided then that I would dedicate my life to helping people with cancer and supporting them and their families through it.
Why do you want to advocate at OVAC?
I believe that although there are wonderful cancer prevention and awareness organizations, the cause is under supported by the government. Cancer is a serious problem throughout our country and the world and should be taken seriously by our representatives. Too many survivors don’t get the help that they need but with government support we can bring the issues to light and fix them.
I find it difficult to pick a single issue that I am most passionate about because they go hand in hand. I suppose cancer research would be the most significant because without research we cannot develop these ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancers. Ideally it would be wonderful to develop other ways to prevent cancers, but research in detecting and treating them are so important to our survivors. You cannot be treated until you are diagnosed and once you are diagnosed there must be a treatment available.