The Cancer Advocate in Me


After my cancer diagnosis, I realized that the only person to speak up for me was me. This is how I learned to speak up for myself and talk to those who represent me in Congress.

Whether it is a sickness, a family tragedy, an accident or some sort of trauma in your life, you may find that once you go through something, you want to spread the word on how to stop it from happening to someone else. For me personally, it took a cancer diagnosis for me to realize that I had to do more in this world to try and help prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else. At least that was how my cancer diagnosis affected me.

I found that by sharing my cancer story, I helped someone else become aware that it could happen to them. I was 32 when I got breast cancer and I had no family history. Before I found that lump, I was foolish to believe cancer would never happen to me, especially at a young age. Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Fast forward six years later and I still feel the importance of sharing my story, but my focus has changed a bit.

We live in an ever-changing world. Our health care has been an extremely hot topic of conversation these days. Now, I am not here to tell you what to think, who to believe or anything along those lines. It’s certainly not my place. However, I think it is important to stand up for what you believe. I have started to find this to be the most important part of my cancer journey to-date. In May, I took a trip to Washington DC. I had been there before, but this time I set foot on Capitol Hill as a cancer advocate. I was granted the opportunity of a lifetime to join a group of other cancer advocates to spend the weekend learning the latest in the science of breast cancer, hear lectures on new treatments, new studies and what is happening with our healthcare legislation. On the fourth day, we all teamed up to hit Capitol Hill and talk to our congressional representatives. This was my chance to voice my opinions to those that represent me in Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the point of our democracy, isn’t it?

The point of our lobby day was to share our story, explain what we hoped to happen with our health care and remind those that represent us the importance of thinking of all the people they represent in each state, city and town. Whether it is cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma, all of us have needs with our daily health. It’s therefore our responsibility to make sure those that those who represent us understand that, remember that, and think of that as they make decisions that affect all of us. I know not everyone will have a chance to go to Washington and say what is on their mind directly to those in Congress. However, there are plenty of ways to advocate for yourself and others.

Each person in Congress has a website and contact information. Send a note and explain your position. Feel free to tell those that represent you what you would like to see done during their time in Congress. They, after all, represent you. You have every right to share your story, share your opinion and share your thoughts. Many of those in Congress are active on social media as well. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, follow them and see what they are up to. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I wasn’t active in who represented me before I got sick.

Yes, I always voted. Yes, I knew who my congress people were. But, that was about the extent of it. I never wrote to them. I never shared my opinions. I never did much of anything outside of voting. I have found that speaking up as well as following what they are doing as my congress person as empowered me! I feel hope that at least I spoke my peace. I will continue to vote and share my story and more importantly, I will continue to advocate for my health!

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Dr. Kelly Stratton
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