Editor’s note: We asked PanCAN advocate Suzanne Yoder to share her experience participating in Virtual Hill Day, part of PanCAN Action Week 2022. Suzanne goes into detail about how her day unfolded, how fortunate she felt to have this opportunity and how you can get involved.
Have you ever wanted to advocate for a cause that is really important to you? If helping pancreatic cancer researchers find early detection methods or leading-edge effective treatments is that cause, then the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) has many opportunities where you can help!
One of these opportunities is Virtual Hill Day during PanCAN Action Week, which I was fortunate to have participated in recently. We met virtually with our members of Congress or their aides, to advocate for increased federal funding for pancreatic cancer research. The purpose of the meetings was to share our personal pancreatic cancer story and why funding is so important.
Here is a quick overview of how our Virtual Hill Day unfolded:
There were four sessions total. The first two included the entire state team, as we met with our two senators’ offices. During the next two sessions, we broke up into smaller, House of Representatives’ district teams. We followed a flowing yet concise agenda. But don’t worry, we had plenty of practice time with our teams beforehand and the sessions could not have gone any better!
Sound exciting? It certainly was! Here’s how I got on board, how our teams came together, and what the experience meant to me.
First, after receiving an email detailing this opportunity, I registered with PanCAN that I was interested in participating in Virtual Hill Day. After I heard there was a spot for me, I received the PanCAN Action Week schedule with the days and times for:
- “Voices in Action,” the virtual kickoff event to Action Week
- Training Sessions (with the PanCAN pros and our teams)
- Virtual Hill Day!!!
- Celebration and Wrap-up!
Everything was seamlessly presented via email!
As I am not too computer savvy, I appreciated Soapbox, the organizer of the virtual day. They made the experience so easy to navigate. The group is very helpful and just a phone call away if any of us ran into any problems during the sessions.
Most importantly, working with my team of fellow volunteers was the highlight of my experience. Their stories of how pancreatic cancer has touched their lives were uplifting, emotional, sad, compelling, and heartfelt. Our sessions went smoothly because of them; they were all prepared, polished and real pros!
Even though we were only together virtually, our teams quickly developed a special connection and friendship. We shared a deep concern for research funding, be it for oneself, a family member or friend, or to honor a loved one who passed away from this dreadful disease. You know, pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death: no wonder my surgeon calls it the “rattlesnake in the abdomen.”
What to wear on Virtual Hill Day? Purple, of course! Our purple unity showed support for pancreatic cancer research funding!
I feel so fortunate to have been part of the sessions during this special day. We were well received, which made us confident that our points were well taken and considered.
I can’t forget about the PanCAN leaders and organizers; they were so helpful! I cannot thank them enough for their organization, people skills, and friendly professionalism! They were so kind to thank us, the Virtual Hill Day participants, many, many times!
Lastly, how did I get involved with PanCAN? My interest and story began with an incidental finding of an IPMN (intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasm) – a cystic tumor located in my main pancreatic duct. IPMNs are precursors of pancreatic cancer, and mine had many worrisome features. Thirteen days after the diagnosis, I had a Whipple surgery and the IPMN was deemed precancerous. And that was 10 years ago! I wanted to give back and working with PanCAN continues to be a wonderful way to be involved in its mission of helping those affected by pancreatic cancer and funding research.
If you are interested in becoming a participant in your state’s advocacy team, and would like more information, contact PanCAN: they are always more than happy to help!