Cancer is the leading cause of death in our state. This according to Hilary Schneider who's the Maine government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. She says the ACS works to attack cancer from every angle- one of the most important being advocacy. She says volunteers across the state and nation work to make sure lawmakers keep the fight against this disease a priority.
"Their role is really to reach out to our lawmakers and say hey this law you're considering would either hurt the fight against cancer or benefit the fight against cancer and really put a face on that issue because words on a piece of paper that are a bill or numbers seem impersonal but when you share stories that show the impact of that budget or those laws and policies its hard for the lawmakers to ignore that," she said,
Schneider says volunteers in Maine work with lawmakers to reduce tobacco use in the state- which she says is important for Aroostook County because we have some of the highest smoking rates in Maine. She says they're also working to make sure patients have access to health care coverage for early detection screenings and life saving treatment...and finally, they're advocating to improve the quality of life for both cancer patients and survivors.
"Our organization was instrumental in achieving significant increase in federal funding for cancer research just this past year, and that was largely due to the drum beat of our volunteers in every congressional district across the nation, reaching out to their lawmakers and letting them know how important that issue was," she said.
She says they just recently worked to pass a federal law to improve childhood cancer research. Schneider says it doesn't matter where research advancements are made, they'll come back and benefit Maine people.
"We want to invest in the best researchers across the country and across the world so we can achieve the most gains fastest because we don't want to see any more people impacted by cancer," said Schneider.
Schneider says advocacy can be a powerful tool for those battling or who have battled this disease.
Schneider says at the Relay for Life event on Saturday, volunteers will be asking people to sign petitions to ask Congress to increase funding for cancer research and prevention.