Sitting at my gate at LAX, I am finally able to shift my focus from the frenzy that has been preparing to leave the office for a week, getting the child back from his class trip to NYC (over 5 hours late, mind you), and packing myself up for this year’s NBCC Summit. Despite errands un-run and projects put on hold, in the next 100 hours I will join hundreds of other men and women, survivors and supporters, patients, doctors and scientists, who share my passion and commitment to ending breast cancer once and for all. It is an awesome, inspiring, humbling and hopeful journey that I make each year.
I am often asked, “…but what are you DOING there?” It’s important that people know what I’m doing. People need to know what’s happening in the world of breast cancer, and what we can each do to change the course of this disease. People also need a context in which to understand the “buzz” that emerges from the conference. In these brief four days we do so much that it is a challenge to figure out where to begin, but here’s my shot it at.
At last year’s conference the National Breast Cancer Coalition launched DEADLINE 2020 — a call to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020. Both literally and metaphorically, the clock is ticking. Our goal is to focus our limited resources and limitless energy in exactly ONE direction: THE END. Nothing short of a united, strategic plan will get us there. We have fewer than eight years to meet this goal, and I hear again and again that it is “impossible.” However, like our country’s effort to put a man on the moon, nothing seems impossible anymore…and even if it is, we cannot possibility get there if we don’t try. (Truth be told, I’ll settle for 2021.) And so the Deadline provides the framework for all that we do.
NBCC arms us first with knowledge. Over the course of the next few days we will be hearing from cutting-edge researchers about their efforts to eradicate breast cancer, from the a promise of a vaccine, to the drive to prevent metastatic disease, we will learn about both the promises and challenges facing the field right now. We will also focus energy on becoming change agents in the effort to keep Deadline 2020 at the forefront of the national agenda.
The launch of my blog was inspired by last year’s summit as vehicle to channel my voice and share my knowledge with others. Throughout the Summit I will continue to blog and tweet the latest information available. I would love for you to “pay it forward” and make sure that your friends and family know where they can get solid, accurate information about the progress we are making. (If you don’t already, you can follow me on Twitter @regrounding).
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the Summit is our Annual Lobby Day. I haven’t see our schedule yet, but I am certain I have a very full day of meetings with memebrs of Congress and their health care Aides to look forward to on Tuesday. Negotiating the halls of the Rayburn and Longworth buildings, the sense of power and potential are palpable. Whether we are meeting with long-time supporters of our efforts, or being challenged by those who see things differently, it is an exciting and challenging day. What means to much to me is that I am a part of the dialogue. In my own small way, I have a voice at the table of this great country. I am amazed that so many attendees don’t stay for Lobby Day…for me, it is the raision d’être for my coming to DC each year.
I have to admit, it’s not all work…there’s plenty of fun, too. From connecting with others in the California delegation to meeting some of the women I’ve come to know and love from my Monday night #bcsm tweetchat, from catching up with my Project LEAD classmates, to other DOD consumer reviewers, building bridges and deepening friendships is a wonderful part of the conference as well. And when the work is nearly done, we rock the house at our closing celebration!
As I said in one of my very first blog posts – 500 years. I don’t have that kind of time. None of us do. I’m not a researcher or doctor. I’m not a politician or even politically well-connected. I’m just a survivor. One who longs to live in a world where pink ribbons are used to wrap up birthday gifts, one where our mothers and daughters, sisters and friends do not need to live in fear of this disease. More to the point, I long to live despite my disease. The NBCC Advocacy Summit is one way that I effect that agenda.