My name is Coco Dorsey, and I traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., along with my dear friend, Kathy Hall, a stage 4, metastatic breast cancer survivor, to participate in One Voice Against Cancer Lobby Day in June. We were two of 52 people from around the country representing the Livestrong Foundation. Our job as volunteers was to advocate for critical federal funding for cancer care and research.
Let me first start with briefly explaining to you how I got to D.C. and why. In November 2006, at 33, I was diagnosed with triple negative, invasive ductal carcinoma, quite simply put: breast cancer. And unfortunately, it wasn’t a “simple” breast cancer. I’m certainly not implying that any cancer is easy, but mine was a bit challenging to treat. To make a long story short, I underwent 16 chemotherapy treatments, eight surgeries — including a double mastectomy and complete reconstruction — and 2 long years enduring pain meds, surgical drains, chemotherapy medi-ports, countless hours in a chemo room, horrific drug side effects and much more. Finally, I was placed in remission. I have been cancer free now for 8 years! That’s the skinny of it.
As a cancer survivor, I am PASSIONATE about the fight against cancer. And who better to team up with than the Livestrong Foundation. Livestrong is the core group out of Austin, Texas that fights to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. The Foundation has been a voice and support team for cancer survivors and has served more than 3 million people, including me. I discovered Livestrong in the early stages of my illness. I was sent a free survivor’s notebook with a plethora of information about the physical challenges, as well as answers to the emotional and mental questions that would eventually surface. I still refer back to my “journal” when medical questions suddenly reappear after a bad scan, or even if I’ve had a tough day and need a super dose of perspective.
On lobby day, June 9, 2015, more than 130 volunteers gathered together on Capitol Hill. We asked our congressional leaders for a 10-percent increase for the National Institutes of Health, NIH, and prioritized funding for the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control, which funds the state-based cancer awareness, screening programs and the National Cancer Registry. Cancer rates are expected to rise by 31 percent over the next decade, so an investment of great magnitude is more important than ever.
Did you know that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed in the United States with cancer in his/her lifetime? That’s an enormous increase and it’s truly TERRIFYING!
Finally, in D.C., I was able to tell my story. I was able to share my ONE VOICE through this avenue of advocacy in hopes of, at the very least, putting a face to the disease. I met with Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman and Rep. French Hill, and this is what I told them: “We need Congress to share our goal of eradicating cancer forever. Congress needs to know that cancer touches all of us. And together we can fight cancer. We need to increase cancer research funding, yet funding is down 26 percent since 2003. We need to save more lives. The next major cancer breakthrough could be very close, but without more research we may not be able to grasp it. We need to restore funding NOW!!”
What an amazing privilege it was to speak with these men, to share my survivorship. And what an awesome experience to get to share with my grandchildren some day — Because I WILL be here! I am a survivor!