“It’s cancerous.” Those were my mother’s words on November 17, 2008. She had been hospitalized earlier that fall for unexplained internal bleeding and had just received the results of the follow-up tests. The doctors found a tumor in her stomach, and it was cancerous. I was devastated. Only days earlier, my best friend had laid her mother to rest; the breast cancer was too aggressive. We were still reeling from her death when we got my mother’s diagnosis. The next few weeks were a blur of doctors’ visits, tests, and conversations with my extended family while we worked with doctors to figure out the best course of action for my mother. Nine months later, my mother completed her treatments. Her struggle against cancer had been arduous and terrifying, but she made it through and was home with us.
I thought I knew a lot about cancer, but all that changed when my mother was diagnosed. I needed support; we needed support, and the cancer community was there for us. My mother’s fight made me realize that I needed to do something to support people affected by cancer. One of the most important ways I could do that was by sharing my story to advocate for better and more resources to support cancer survivors and their families.
Participating in One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) Advocacy Day is a chance to meet with our elected leaders in Congress and urge them to make cancer-related funding a priority. For me it is a chance to speak up for Latino families, immigrant families, working-class families, and LGBTQ families; families like my own, like my best friend’s. Every meeting, every conversation is a chance to make cancer personal, to make cancer a real experience and not just something that happens to other people. We share our stories to remind Representatives and Senators that they can support us, our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers by funding research, programs and initiatives that help people affected by cancer.
We are still a long way from finding cures for all forms of cancer. In the meantime, I use my story and my voice to advocate for the information, services and programs that support cancer fighters and survivors. And I’ll continue to do so until cancer is no more.