By Terry Rogers
Cindy Canevari has survived cancer twice, having been diagnosed with breast and then bladder cancer. Her battle led her to the American Cancer Society where she acts as the Delaware Ambassador for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The network is a leading cancer advocacy organization fighting to restore federal funding for cancer research. From March 15 through 17, Ms. Canevari was in Washington DC talking to legislators about funding needs for research.
“Over the past few years, cuts to cancer research have risen to $1 billion,” Ms. Canevari said. “We were in Washington to talk to our elected officials and to tell our stories about what it means to be a cancer survivor. It was an amazing event that brought people together and it was amazing how heart wrenching, heartwarming and hopeful the event was for everyone who was there.”
The focus of the event was to show that everyone is one degree from cancer. Ms. Canevari said that there is not one person who has not been touched by cancer in some way, whether they have been diagnosed or have a loved one who has struggled with the disease. She explained that the One Degree program is designed after the game many people play called “Seven Degrees from Kevin Bacon” in which people find a way to connect themselves to the actor.
“Although the game is meant in fun, the One Degree program is meant to bring awareness to how many people are touched by cancer,” Ms. Canevari said. “The American Cancer Society has partnered with Stand Up To Cancer, an organization created by Katie Couric, whose husband died of cancer. It is an unprecedented partnership that is designed to demonstrate just how widespread cancer is throughout the world.”
During the event, many celebrities told their One Degree story. The husband of actress Marcia Cross was diagnosed with throat cancer right after the birth of their twin daughters and she spoke at the event about how grateful she was that he was cancer free, but misses the friend she lost to brain cancer earlier in her life. She also talked about family members who have suffered with the disease. Actor Pierce Brosnan lost his first wife, Cassandra Harris to ovarian cancer at a young age only to lose a daughter, Charlotte Brosnan, to the same disease. NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suffers from chronic myeloid leukemia. In addition, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s grandfather and uncle both died of colorectal cancer and his father was also diagnosed with the same disease. The guest speaker for the event was Tris Imboden, drummer for the band Chicago, a cancer survivor himself.
“Many legislators also told their One Degree connection,” Ms. Canevari said. “What was amazing was that none of them made it political. Listening to these famous people talk about their experience with cancer made me realize that cancer makes us all equal. As I listened to them, I heard the same experiences I went through during my treatment. Cancer doesn’t care if you are rich, famous, Democrat or Republican.”
Ms. Canevari said that she did not testify on Capitol Hill but each state had representatives there from the American Cancer Society and were given time with their state legislators. Ms. Canevari said that she met with Senator Chris Coons before the event and spent time with Senator Tom Carper, talking about the need for funding for cancer research. Although she did not meet with Representative John Carney, he took time to come to the event to say hello. While he was there, Ms. Canevari gave him information on cancer research for him to review.
“I am blessed to live in a state where our federal legislators are so accessible,” Ms. Canevari said. “Before I left, I decided to post on Facebook the names of people I was dedicating my trip to and the list just went on and on and on. Even I was surprised at how many people in my life have been touched by cancer.”
Information about the ACSCAN organization is available on their website at www.acscan.org and information about the Stand Up To Cancer organization is available at www.standup2cancer.org.