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Cancer Survivorship Summit Brings Community Together to Share Experience, Resources, and Hope

By: Brandon Leonard, Senior Director of Government Affairs and Lauren Humphries, Associate Director of Constituent Engagement

 

Thanks to significant advances in early detection and treatment in recent years, there are over 18 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today. Now, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to improve quality of life and care at every stage of survivorship. LUNGevity was pleased to participate in the first annual Cancer Survivorship Summit hosted by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in South Florida on October 16. The Summit featured an impressive lineup of speakers headlined by First Lady Jill Biden, as well as expert panels and a resource fair with local and national organizations providing information to attendees.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and her staff brought together leading individuals and organizations in the cancer community to address life after diagnosis, highlight gaps in survivorship care, discuss policy proposals, and share local and national resources and support services. Hundreds of people attended the event at Nova Southeastern University, including cancer survivors, caregivers, providers, patient advocates, and students. 

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, who is a breast cancer survivor and a fierce advocate in Congress for all cancer survivors, opened the Summit by firmly stating, “It is very clear how essential [it is to make] sure that we can focus not only on the beginning of an individual’s journey through cancer upon diagnosis, but [also] how important it is that once you complete the active phase of your treatment, that you don’t get lost in the transition.”

During her remarks, Dr. Biden reflected on her family’s own experience with cancer and highlighted successes of President Biden’s reignited Cancer Moonshot.

 

“We have to keep going. Because of all the things cancer steals from us, time is the cruelest – the days spent in treatment or surgery, anniversaries and holidays missed, pages of photo albums unfilled.


Cancer doesn’t stop stealing time when you’re declared ‘cancer free.’ Side effects from treatment linger through remission. And so does the anxiety that begins long before every screening, worried you might hear that you have cancer. Again. 

 
We can’t afford to wait another minute for better care, better treatments, or better cures.” – Dr. Jill Biden

Speakers also included Dr. Douglas R. Lowy, principal deputy director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI); U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis R. McDonoug;, and the leaders of Florida’s three NCI-designated cancer centers. During a session on the caregiver experience, tennis legend Martina Navratilova spoke about her diagnosis and treatment for both throat and breast cancer earlier this year, while her wife, Real Housewives of Miami star Julia Lemigova, shared her story as a caregiver. Videos of the speakers and panels at the Summit are available here.

During the Summit, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz remarked, “there is no single right way to navigate survivorship, but whatever your path, you should never have to do it alone.”

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz recently introduced the Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act (H.R.4363) along with Reps. Fitzpatrick (R-FL), DeSaulnier (D-CA), Carson (D-IN), Mfume (D-MD), Moskowitz (D-FL), and Clarke (D-NY). A Senate companion bill (S.2213) was introduced by Sens. Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cardin (D-MD). This legislation would make meaningful improvements to care coordination and access for cancer survivors across the continuum of care.

 

“This legislation calls us to action to work together to find new, innovative ways to educate and empower patients and survivors before, during, and after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer is not and should not be a partisan issue. Survivorship is a chance for both sides to come together, which is so rare at this moment in our country. And [the] White House’s Moonshot Initiative is that very call to action that can unite and mobilize us to eradicate this disease. To meet this shared goal, we each have a role to play, and we have a lot of work to do.” – Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz

You can read more about the Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act and write your members of Congress in support of the legislation via this campaign in the LUNGevity Action Network.

We were also grateful to have the opportunity to speak with Summit attendees about LUNGevity’s programs and services, including Patient Gateways that provide a wealth of information on different types of lung cancer; Virtual Meetups for patients and caregivers to connect with each other; and online communities to find support.  For more information on our policy and advocacy activities, please visit the LUNGevity Action Network and be sure to sign up for email updates!