In late January, when U.S. Rep. John Carney announced a bill he had authored to address the shortage of drugs used to treat breast cancer, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition was on hand. DBCC was there, too, in February when State Rep. Deborah Hudson unveiled the Delaware Cancer Treatment Access Act, which requires insurance companies to make equal reimbursements for oral and intravenous anti-cancer medications. Since then, DBCC volunteers and staff have worked with both legislators on passage of these laws.
Many people associate DBCC with providing services for individuals with breast cancer, and while helping survivors will always be a primary focus for the organization, it is essential in the battle against breast cancer that DBCC’s staff and volunteers engage in advocacy.
“It’s important for women to have a voice in decisions not only about their own treatment, but also about the future of cancer prevention and treatment,” says Victoria Cooke, DBCC executive director.
From serving on medical review boards to assisting the media with story research to influencing legislation, DBCC works at the local, state and national levels to advance the cause of breast cancer research and treatment.
Cooke, for example, has just begun her third term on the board of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, a position that gives DBCC national exposure and respect and provides Delawareans with a say in the national agenda.
To help prepare them for their advocacy role, every DBCC staff member has completed Project LEAD, NBCC’s intensive science training for activists. Several staff members have also had advanced LEAD training in the science of clinical trials. “The training we have received makes it easier for us to share the message and to lobby on behalf of NBCC and DBCC priorities,” says DBCC program director Cathy Holloway.
Holloway, for example, has brought her advanced knowledge to bear in her role as a community member of the Christiana Care Institutional Review Board, which reviews the clinical trials to be offered at Christiana Care. Several DBCC staff members are also active members of the Delaware Cancer Consortium.
This month a group of DBCC staff and volunteers will again attend the NBCC Advocate Summit in Washington, D.C., to learn more about breast cancer and its treatment and to receive further advocacy training.
This year’s conference focuses on NBCC’s breast cancer deadline—the effort to eliminate breast cancer by Jan. 1, 2020. “At this point, there is a tremendous amount of awareness about breast cancer, and that’s great, but there needs to be more than awareness,” Cooke says. “NBCC has put a goal out there and is making people responsible for making things happen.”
DBCC volunteer Gail Lanouette attended the NBCC conference in 2011, and she plans to be there again this year. She was also on hand for both Carney’s and Hudson’s announcements. “I am passionate about learning what I can do to educate others,” says the three-year breast cancer survivor. “The more we learn, the more we can change the conversation about breast cancer, so that we’re not just talking about treating it, but about ending it.”