“How did it go?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question the past few days!
I travelled to Toronto last week to meet with MPPs at Queen’s Park, to share my story with the hope that …
… and that’s the real issue. What was I hoping for? Well, you know how I feel about funding lung cancer research. Lung cancer causes 27% of cancer deaths in Canada but research only gets 7 cents for each cancer dollar. That’s not fair! I hope for lung cancer research to be fair!
Last week, though, we weren’t asking for research dollars.
On Wednesday morning, Canadian Cancer Survivors Network and Lung Cancer Canada hosted a #Right2Survive Breakfast, with quite a good turnout. Thank you to all of you who contacted your Ontario MPP. Many good conversations were had, and several people spoke from the podium. I took pictures whenever I remembered to, and a professional photographer was present. One of the MPPs told me her people were always telling her to take more pictures and tweet more. I finally had time to tweet during the train trip home! (I’m @JillHW – please follow me if you’re not already!)
I think my cards were an effective way to get across the main point from my story – that lung cancer research makes a real difference for families like ours (and is worth funding) – very powerfully and quickly. Access to innovative new treatments has extended my life! Everyone I gave my card to looked at it, and I think the message hit home.
I listened as MPPs shared personal stories of losing loved ones to lung cancer. Some of the people in the room were clearly already committed to the cause. Others seemed very interested and open to further conversations and deeper commitments. I was grateful for everyone’s presence there and spoke with as many as I was able. Many good conversations were happening around the room!
One speaker noted that lung cancer kills over 20,000 Canadians every year, the size of a small city every year!
Our three main messages for the day were: screening programs (save lives, time and money), lung cancer patients deserve timely and affordable access to innovative treatments, and patient voices must be heard!
After breakfast, several of us observed Question Period in the Legislature. What an interesting experience! (My first time.) For those who may not know, our provincial government has recently introduced a new plan for families with an autistic child or children. They claim it will help more families, but it works out to less funding per family. Families have been protesting, and that day quite a large number were in the gallery. One after another, members of the opposition introduced families and described their situation and how the funding changes would negatively affect them. It was very sad, very hard to listen to, but it reinforced to me the importance of telling our stories. Clearly the Opposition together had determined this was the best strategy to sway the Government, and I can tell you that it was powerful.
After Question Period, quite a few meetings were scheduled with MPPs. I wasn’t very nervous about meeting with MPP John Fraser, because I had sat beside him at the pre-election town hall meeting at which I spoke last Spring, and he was very encouraging. This time he expressed interest in our messages and appreciation that I had traveled all the way to meet him there in his Toronto office rather than in Ottawa. He honoured me by listening intently and saying how important my story is. My fellow advocates had many similar experiences in their meetings.
So, how did it go? To be honest, I’m not sure. I plan to ask the organizers what they think, once they’ve had time to process it. They’re the experts. I’m just a voice of lung cancer, telling my story, representing countless others, and trying to do that well.
I hope that it makes a difference – even the smallest difference. That’s what I hope for.