By Joy Simha, NBCC Board Member
Yesterday I testified before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee in Washington DC. It was not my first time. But someone asked me about the experience and how I felt. It got me thinking. The first time I testified, I was overwhelmed with the idea of giving testimony before members of the U.S. Senate to ask them to make breast cancer research funding a priority. But then I stopped to think about all the amazing women and men that we lose to this awful disease. I thought about all the educated advocates with whom I work who do this very difficult work because we need to better understand how to end breast cancer. Knowing that I am standing before Senators representing all of them and so many families affected by this disease, I was inspired and driven to bring the group’s perspective to this influential subcommittee. This is not about my story, but about everyone who has lost a loved one to breast cancer.
So how does one make a case for a line item in the appropriations budget to help fund high impact, innovative, collaborative and high-risk research? The proof is in the pudding. The Department of Defense (DOD) Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) has worked since 1992. Targeted therapies, like Herceptin, have been developed as a direct result of this program. Biomedical research is being transformed more and more as a result of this program. We see innovation and dedication at the decision-making table. If we are to end this disease, we need to continue investing in this effort.
At the DOD BCRP, educated advocates sit at the table at all levels. As one of those advocates, I can tell you we ask for the money and we ensure that the program only funds critical research that will impact our lives. I have sat at some of those tables for eight years now, and watched how well that decision process works. It’s easy to speak up for what you know works. And since I am a NBCC Project LEAD® graduate, and since I attend every NBCC Advocate Summit, those who run the program know I am qualified to serve effectively.
So, when I’m asked whether I’m nervous about testifying in front of the Senate, the simple answer is no. I don’t have the time nor the luxury to be nervous or worry. This year nearly 290,000 women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and annually we continue to lose about 40,000 of them to this disease. They need—our future generations need—the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Breast Cancer Research Program. The women who were in surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments on June 6, when I last testified, had a much tougher task that day than I did as I stood before the Subcommittee. The families who were helping their loved ones in hospice know what a difficult task is. I just needed to stand before the committee representing all of them and emphasizing the need to continue the innovative, high risk, high reward, collaborative work done by the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program in it’s mission to eradicate breast cancer. I was honored to represent all who are affected by this disease.