Throughout my 15 years of living, I always found life to be a blessing. Even in the saddest of moods, I never once took God's gifts for granted. I always believed that no matter what, I should live everyday as if it were my last. While lobbying Congress in Washington D.C., I learned how to appreciate my life even more and stand for whatever I believe in. In addition, lobbying Congress at such a young age accompanied by such remarkable women taught me that no matter what the age, knowledge is truly power. The more we know and teach others, the more we can make a difference.
When I was in 5th grade, the tragic news of my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer had shocked me. Cancer? I thought over and over to myself, "Is my mom going to die?" Back then, that's all I ever knew about it. All I knew was that my friend's mother had lost her hair and then died from it. My knowledge would change over time, however.
It was April 27th of 2007. The wonderful week was ahead of me and I had no clue what I was in for. Yes, I knew I would have the extreme pleasure of lobbying Congress, however little did I know the impact and how it would change my outlook on life forever. D.C. is one of my favorite cities. What more could I have asked for? I was missing school for a week to be with my aunt and learn about breast cancer.
I was in for numerous workshops/lectures, the intelligence, insight, and wisdom of profound guest speakers; and of course my first Lobby Day. On the first full day, I, along with other women from LABCA registered at the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) conference where we signed up for a couple of fascinating workshops. I highly enjoyed attending the "How a Bill is Passed" workshop. To my surprise, I understood most everything due to my vigorous 8th grade year while having a tremendous history teacher who taught me everything about passing bills, the constitution and so much more relevance to today's government. Another highlight of the trip was listening to Dr. Dennis Slamon, where I found myself filling up two full notepads. That day, in that conference room, I knew being an advocate for breast cancer would stay with me forever. Hopefully, I won't have to advocate for the rest of my life, but if breast cancer continues to be an issue in my elder years, I know that I will continue to be a part of the humungous chain that keeps giving. The remarkable people who are giving their time, effort, devotion, and passion to find a cure. The people surrounding me that made me want to reach out to others like they so strongly reached out to me.
Having a mother who is now a survivor of breast cancer opened my eyes. I never in my wildest dreams believed that as a 5th grader, my mother had an increased risk of loosing her life. If only I knew then what I know today about breast cancer, I could have truly been there for her. While I was culminating out of elementary school and into middle school, I didn't know the depths within this disease that affects so many people. I didn't know that there were different stages of breast cancer. And I didn't know all of the things I learned just a few months ago.
What I did know was how Congress passes a bill. I didn't, however, imagine that I would help those Congress members decide whether or not to pass the bills that we so strongly believed in. Our group leader, Michele Rakoff, was so poised and experienced. As a flashback of the textbooks ventured through my mind, it now came to life with Michele's leadership. I now knew all of this was real. I got to see that I can make a difference. I can't do it all by myself, however. I learned that by presenting the government with the points we were preaching that we could get that much closer to help finding a cure.
Hundreds of people joined together in that wonderful week to support breast cancer. I got to see with my own two eyes that breast cancer doesn't affect just the patient, however it affects everyone who is close to the patient. Meeting so many women, young and old, with and without having breast cancer, and in different walks of life taught me that you don't need to have the disease to help. In addition, I learned that age should never stop anyone from striving to their fullest abilities.
Lobbying Congress along with learning so much about this disease made me want to channel the anger I have towards breast cancer. It wanted me to tell the whole world what I learned that week. It made me want to prove to everyone that getting involved and ADVOCATING DOES IN DEED MAKE A DIFFERENCE.