"If you don't speak, they won't move!" In case the 150 or so Cancer Fighters gathered at the Capitol in Albany on April 30 needed any encouragement, we got it from this pronouncement of a New York State Assemblymember. The "movement" we were hoping for was on legislation to reduce the accessibility of tobacco products, particularly those products enticing to minors.
Groups of Cancer Fighters from across the state spent the afternoon meeting with Assemblymembers and Senators to discuss how cancer has impacted their lives and urge legislators to support bills to reduce the present and future impact of cancer in New York. For our group one of the accomplishments of the day was meeting with an Assemblymember who committed to supporting two tobacco access-limiting bills. We met with several others who indicated a likelihood of supporting the bills and with whom we will be following-up over the next couple of weeks.
Personally, getting involved with cancer-related advocacy activities was something brand new to me when I made my first visits to New York State legislators in 2011. I was outside of my comfort zone, nervous and unsure of myself. However, I quickly realized that these lawmakers were genuinely interested in discussing how cancer was affecting their communities. Importantly, I saw the impact our advocacy efforts were making as additional legislators signed on to support bills and, ultimately, bills were passed to protect and support cancer survivors.
I now look forward to the opportunity to participate in advocacy days and events. The experience--the amount of positive energy and commitment from participants, the sense of empowerment knowing you are a part of "something bigger" and helping to "move" legislation to support those affected by cancer is incredibly fulfilling.
Looking for a new experience as an oncology social worker? Looking for new ways to help people affected by cancer today and those who will be affected by cancer tomorrow? Looking for new avenues to impact how your legislators understand cancer in their community? Why not join in and get involved with advocacy? The AOSW advocacy committee can help you get started.
Remember, "if you don't speak, they won't move", so speak up!