Editor’s note: Today’s story is written by Clayton Mansfield, the volunteer Advocacy Chair for PanCAN’s Philadelphia Affiliate. He shares his experience as an advocate for more pancreatic cancer research funding and urges others to do this same, first by attending PanCAN Action Week 2021 – “Voices in Action” – on June 14. It’s a special evening of heartfelt stories and it’s free to attend, from wherever you are. RSVP today!
A little over 10 years ago, I cut a vacation short because I couldn’t walk 200 feet without fatigue. I put my symptoms into my computer and basically got the message: Seek Help Now.
I did, and was diagnosed with a tumor in my duodenum. Yikes.
However, since the tumor was detected early, hadn’t metastasized, and could be Whippled, I logged 30K on my pedometer last week.
As you may have guessed, I like to walk, and I’ve done my share of canvassing for political candidates. But I don’t climb stairs like I once did, and phone banks are a grind.
So, I married my two big volunteer roles, and turned to direct advocacy for a cause I care about.
I’ve made several trips to Washington, D.C., for PanCAN’s Advocacy Day – up through 2019. The energy of being in the nation’s capital, meeting my Congressperson, telling my story and making the case for federal funding of pancreatic cancer research to help those who continue to struggle with the disease and grieve for the loved ones lost was inspiring.
And, since the tunnels between the House and Senate Office buildings are long, I still got my 10,000 steps in.
It took time, effort and patience, but you could see the results. We got the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act passed, and in 2018 Congress created a dedicated pancreatic cancer research program at the Department of Defense (DoD). Plus, the five-year survival rate inched forward to where it now stands at 10%.
In 2020, I took over as Advocacy Chair in PanCAN’s Philadelphia Affiliate, and then was promptly hit with the pandemic. Everything changed. Instead of hopping Amtrak to Washington, I was suddenly scheduling and conducting telephone conferences with congressional staff.
With the help of my fellow volunteer advocates in Philadelphia, we made our case and successfully lobbied for a $15 million appropriation to the DoD program, despite the challenges of virtual advocacy.
This year, we’re in transition. Our Advocacy Day won’t be in person, and any meetings that take place with members of Congress will be through video conferences. It’s a step forward, but we must again use all our resources to generate the passion and commitment to make next week a success.
Why should you be an advocate and participate in PanCAN Action Week 2021? Because members of Congress want to do their best for their constituents and need to hear directly from you by phone, email and social media about what is important to you. You can make the case for a $20 million appropriation to the DoD research program, for allocating more resources to National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, and supporting the Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers.
It’s your stories and your patience to advocate continuously for a cure for pancreatic cancer that influence legislators to make research, treatment and support for patients and caregivers a greater priority.
So, take action next week, starting June 14 with “Voices in Action,” an evening of inspiring stories. Then on June 15 and 16, call and email Congress (PanCAN will give us all the instructions and information next week) and make our collective voice loud and strong.
Then take a walk. For your health and the health of those you love.