Call on Congress 2015

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One day in 2006, while I was on my way to see my oncologist, the Patient Navigator at my cancer center stopped me in the hall and asked me if I’d be interested in going to Washington, DC to talk to Congress about colon cancer with a group of strangers who call themselves Fight CRC. I pictured someone testifying before ALL of Congress, like you see on C-SPAN. And thoughts of traveling with TPN and all the medical supplies that goes along with it, leaving my small children and the cost of said trip seemed overwhelming. I immediately said “Nope, not interested.” I didn’t give it another thought until June 2014, when I was at the Colondar 2.0 photoshoot in Nashville, TN. Danielle Burgess, Director of Communications, for Fight CRC and former Colondar Model herself, came to talk to us 2015 Colondar models. She explained who Fight CRC is and what they’re all about, their many initiatives including Call on Congress. We were all invited to come to Washington, DC in March 2015 for the official 2015 Colondar 2.0 release at Fight CRC’s Call on Congress. (#ConC2015)

I did participate in Call on Congress in March and have every intention to return in 2016. The first 2 days we heard from a number of speakers and learned about things like, how to be an advocate, progress in colon cancer research, and what we were going to be asking Congress for including support for Bill H.R. 1220 – Removing Barriers to Colon Cancer Screening. There were even workshops on how to talk to the Congressmen. Everything we needed to be prepared, every question answered.

A few weeks before I left, a ConC “mentor” emailed and called me. I found out I wasn’t going to be alone. As a matter of fact, this was the largest ConC to date, with over 100 people participating. There were 3 other people from Ohio, which meant I didn’t have to walk around to the various meetings (in different buildings) or talk to Congressmen by myself. The meetings are most often with a Congressmen’s Health Aide but sometimes directly with the Congressman (or woman). Personally, I talked to aides. I didn’t get to meet any representatives this time but the aides are so very important. They are the ones who have the Congressmen’s ear. They are a way a Congressman can be in 2 (or more) places at once. They are not to be dismissed. Most of them are in their 20s and incredibly easy to talk to. I got to share my cancer story and hand out Colondar 2.0s to all the aides. Not scary at all! Nothing like what you see on C-SPAN.

In 2006, I didn’t want to leave my kids to go to Washington D.C. I’d already had to leave them so much during my plentiful hospital stays. Being cancer free now, I’m not making trips to the hospital like I used to and my kids are teenagers but I had no idea you could take your kids with you to ConC. They’re called “Jr. Advocates” and they did an amazing job. Sometimes better than the adults. Who wouldn’t want to listen to a cute kid talk about how their mom or dad having colorectal cancer affected their lives. Listening to them prompted me to come home and ask my kids questions about their experiences.

It’s still a challenge for me to travel with ostomy and medical supplies and have my TPN shipped to wherever I’m going but it’s manageable. And as far as cost, since this was the Colondar 2.0 launch, the Colon Club paid for me to go but there are also scholarships through Fight CRC and there are other ways to save some money like sharing a room with someone.

Yes, you walk a few miles from meeting to meeting the third and final day. Something I’m not sure I could have done a few years ago, but there is time in between the meetings to rest if you need it. The Celebration Dinner that last night is so much fun. There was great food, too many drinks, a photo booth, DJ, dancing and lots of new friends.

If you’ve never heard of Fight CRC or Call on Congress, I urge you to check it out. I had a great time, learned a lot, met amazing people and hopefully made a difference. I know being there definitely made a difference in my life.