By: Lennie, Breast Cancer Survivor and patient of The Rose
I’m not simply a cancer survivor. I’m a cancer treatment survivor. And now, I’m also an advocate.
First, there was chemo, then two surgeries, chemo again and then radiation that ended in September 2018. This last round of treatment was my second fight against breast cancer affecting my breast and lymph nodes. Throughout the experience, I relied on The Rose for services and care. This is why I couldn’t say no when The Rose, whose staff was so gracious toward me, asked if I wanted to be part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) day at the Texas Capitol.
A willing heart didn’t make it easy though. I was only six months away from my last radiation treatment, which was pretty intensive. I’m also disabled from my cancer experience. I have neuropathy (nerve damage that causes weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in your hands and feet) and edema (abnormal accumulation of fluid in certain tissues). I’m in a machine for an hour and a half every day for the rest of my life for compression maintenance. I have also discovered I have sleep apnea and that’s another machine 8 hours a night.
On top of all that, I’m 63 years old so an awareness march and trying to maneuver through the Capitol building with all its annexes made for a busy and taxing day.
But I told The Rose that if they ever needed me to advocate for them, I’d do it. So, in February I did. I went to Austin to speak to legislators in support of increasing the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a fund that has directly impacted my life and thousands of other lives in the past few years.
Because of those funds, The Rose has been able to serve over 16,000 uninsured women across 38 counties. I’ve been supported by The Rose since my mammogram in 2017. And just as they take care of their patients, they take care of their advocates. I have to give credit to The Rose staff for being so gracious because that graciousness really uplifted me in my health journey and empowered me to give back.
Going to the capitol was a way to demonstrate the meaning and effectiveness of research and outreach program funding. The ripple effect this necessary healthcare support has had on the economics of our communities can’t be denied. For example, for every dollar spent on prevention services such as mammography, it means a savings of $25 for later services. My position is that CPRIT has also put citizens back on their feet and I’m one of them.
After an orientation on what the ACS CAN day was all about, I wasn’t feeling good. I was fatigued and the day involved a lot of walking. I really did need the physical and emotional support of the staff and the other advocates to get through the hour and a half of doing what we came to do.
I was fortunate in that my legislator is Senator Lois Kolkhorst and also the chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. She was impressed that I was on my feet, surrounded and supported by the agency that she had supported. I also got to talk about the significance of the mental health side of this illness. It was all very meaningful.
I was very proud to be in my capitol, in that beautiful building, advocating for something I believe in. And I was thrilled to see so many people standing up for themselves and their interests. It was a patriotic moment that will stay in my heart forever. I want as many voices as possible to join mine to ensure that Texas continues the great research and outreach CPRIT funds have provided.