Capital Hill building in Washington DC with and someone planting seeds around it

If You Toss Enough Seeds, Maybe One Will Land on Fertile Ground

I am dumbfounded right now. I just finished writing a blog post that is highly critical of my Representative in Congress. I now have to retract what I wrote (it was never published) and tell a slightly different story. I am delighted to have to make the change.

Here's the story

I went to Washington, DC last week. I joined about 150 others who were at the Lung Cancer Alliance 10th Annual Summit. The purpose of our meeting was to lobby our Congressional leaders to (1) cosponsor the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2018 (S. 2358 / H.R. 4897) and (2) restore $6 million in funding to the Lung Cancer Research Program within the Congressional Directed Medical Research Program administered by the Department of Defense (DOD).

If you are very involved in the political side of lung cancer, you know that federal support (funding) for this disease lags far behind what it should be. In 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded breast cancer at $19,250 per death, prostate cancer at $9,432, colon cancer at $5,804, and lung cancer, the most deadly of all of the cancers, at a mere $1,479.1

As a beneficiary of the new research that is being done in the field (immunotherapy has kept me alive for the last five years), I am a big proponent of providing adequate funding so that our researchers can continue to make the huge progress they have been making in the last five or six years. But, lobbying Congress is one of the most frustrating things I think I have ever done.

Going to the Hill

We were organized by state and went as a group to visit our state's Congressional leaders. There were ten of us in the Texas contingent. We visited the offices of both of our state's Senators and five of its Representatives. In all but one case, we visited with Congressional Aides.

It is strange to make your case to young people who could (almost) be your grandchildren, but we met some very nice and caring individuals. I found that most of the aides asked good questions and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say. It must be difficult to listen to people beg for something all day long. I realize that everyone's cause is just as important to them as lung cancer is to me. And the Hill is packed with groups going from office to office to "make the ask" just like we did.

The ups and downs of advocacy

We met with only one Representative. It just so happened to be my community's Rep. Our meeting didn't go particularly well. All of us left the meeting feeling deflated. We wondered why we had even wasted our time visiting with him. He seemed to care not a bit about what we had to say.

I had just finished writing a blog post about how completely frustrating and maddening that visit was when I got an exciting text message. It turns out that the Representative just co-sponsored H.R. 4897, as we had requested. Wow! My attitude took a quick turnaround from deflation to elation!

Continue planting seeds

I kept reminding myself after the visit that even if we didn't get what we requested, we were at least planting seeds. Sometimes, it takes a lot of seeds before one germinates. So, while it is very disappointing not to have immediate success, it is possible that our seed is just the one that will ultimately take root.

I have written letter after letter after letter to my Congressman. If I get a response at all, it is an irrelevant form letter. And, while I felt like we had thrown yet another handful of seeds on barren ground last week, it turns out that one of them found enough of a crack in the ground to germinate!

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