Earlier this week I had the honor of attending the 2010 Summit to End Prostate Cancer. This annual event is sponsored by ZERO (zerocancer.org), an organization that focuses on lobbying Congress on behalf of prostate cancer.
The 2010 Summit focused on effective strategies for increasing the federal investment in prostate cancer research and on the last day of the Summit, we had the opportunity to meet with our elected officials on Capitol Hill.
There were hundreds of people present, primarily survivors, their family members and advocates. We came representing the hundreds of thousands of survivors and family members whose voices are not heard by our elected officials.
Although the US government has spent hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars on prostate cancer research, it's not enough. In order for a cure to be found, the research must continue to be supported. With 217,000 men diagnosed each year, the need for a cure cannot be denied. The most impressive presentation for me was given by the Program Manager for the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Project. Her project is funded annually with $80 million dollars. Though this is a considerable sum of money, the amount has remained flat for the last five years and is actually down from $100M from the proceeding four years. This is a travesty, we aren't even keeping up with the rate of inflation. As Ms. Best explained, this leaves her with no choice but to fund fewer research projects on an annual basis.
For me, I departed with the feeling that it is all moving at a snail's pace. It's like watching paint dry or grass grow.
I was forewarned that I would in all likelihood just be meeting with staff members of the two Kansas Senators and our Congressman. My first meeting with Senator Roberts was in fact with his staff. Both ladies were very cordial and took rather extensive notes during the meeting. The Senator however is as fiscally conservative as I am, so am not sure my meeting will make a difference.
My second meeting with Senator Brownback began with a senior staffer but much to my surprise, after two minutes, the Senator stuck his head into the meeting room and asked what we were meeting about. When I replied prostate cancer, he shut the door and joined us.
When I flew home a few hours later it turns out he was on the same flight. At one point during the flight he recognized that I was four rows back and took a few minutes to come back and thank me for coming by and sharing my story and concerns with him. We may never see each other or speak again, but I felt like I had made a friend and my message promoting the importance of research for a cure for PC was definitely heard.
In addition to the Senator, I made a number of other new friends from Charlotte, Austin and a number of other locations. Washington is a beautiful city but the inner workings of the federal government would be a bit too frustrating for me.
Once again, many, many thanks to Skip and everyone else at Zero!