Local cancer survivor becomes advocate
Melissa Dozier-Cason FCT Staff Writer
A local cancer survivor represented Franklin County at the Celebration on the Hill held last week, Sept. 19-20.
Belinda Johnson of Russellville was among 10,000 ambassadors who went to promote funding for cancer research and to celebrate cancer survivorship.
The Celebration, first held in 2002, was developed to encourage lawmakers to make a commitment to funding federal cancer research, and programs, according to American Cancer Society.
"Cancer is the most feared disease in America. We want our members of Congress to know that this fear is felt in every corner of Alabama," said James Woodall, chairman of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Franklin County.
Ambassadors selected to represent their local communities were community leaders, survivors, caregivers, health professionals, cancer researchers and volunteers through out the nation who are dedicated in the fight against cancer. Johnson was the only representative from Franklin County, Kara Neloms, American Cancer Society, said.
Last December, legislation was passed to cut the budget of the Nation Institute of Heath for the first time in 35 years, and, therefore, cut funding for cancer research. Ambassadors asked representatives to restore and increase federal funding for cancer research and programs at the National Institute of Heath to help fight this disease.
Ambassadors also asked their legislators to reauthorize the Center for Disease Control's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, increasing funding by $45 Million, and allowing the program to reach an additional 130,000 women in need of cancer screening, according to the American Cancer Society.
One of the most memorable moments in the celebration was being able to tell Congressman Robert Aderholt that his votes can save lives, and giving him a face for cancer in our area, Johnson, who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer 14 months ago, said.
In addition to meeting with legislators, Johnson and other participants were able to share her experiences with other survivors and volunteers from around the nation.
A temporary monument was erected for the event. The monument, made up of 37,000 sheets of steel, called the Wall of Hope, paid tribute to cancer survivors and those who lost the lives in the battle. Each state was represented in the monument, and Franklin County, Ala. was represented along with the many others, Johnson said.
"It was the most inspiring thing, and it changed my life, even more than my own diagnosis of cancer," Johnson said.
In 2006, an estimated 1.4 Million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and an estimated 564 thousand will die from the disease. In Alabama, an estimated 25 thousand new cases will be diagnosed and there will be 9 thousand deaths this year, Woodall said.
"[With those statistics], we are honored that Belinda carried our message about making cancer funding a national priority to members of Congress," Woodall said.
Celebration on the Hill was organized by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem through voter education, and issues campaigns designed to influence candidates and lawmakers to support laws and policies that help Americans fight cancer. For more information on this issue, please contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-234 or visit www.cancer.org.