Columbus resident Misty Derringer has helped the American Cancer Society for 12 years as a volunteer, but in September she took on a new role that involved traveling to Washington, D.C.
She was part of a delegation that spoke with government leaders about cancer.
The 41-year-old wife and mother was in Washington from Sept. 11 to 13 to take part in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit and Lobby Day on Sept. 12.
Derringer got involved with the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life, and she leads a charity motorcycle ride, Rumble for the Cure.
“Because of my relationship with Relay for Life, the ACS asked me if I would come on board to help represent our district,” Derringer said of the Washington trip.
She met with lawmakers, experienced the capital and its inner workings, and assisted a group whose purpose is to make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Derringer said she was one of more than 700 people who met with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to let them know how important of a role they play in passing public health policies that combat cancer and other diseases.
She met with U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind. and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and a staffer from the office of U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.
This year’s delegation advocated for a threefold agenda that targeted:
Funding for cancer research
Legislation to support cancer patient quality of life through extended palliative care and hospice access
Legislation that would close a loophole in Medicare that often surprises seniors with out-of-pocket costs related to routine colonoscopy
The delegation sought an increase in the research funding budget that included $2 million for the National Institute of Health and $300 million increase for the National Cancer Institute, Derringer said.
Increasing palliative and hospice care education and training for not only medical staff but also families and patients, so they better understand what is involved, was discussed, Derringer said.
And then there was the issue of closing the Medicare loophole.
“Right now when seniors, who are on Medicare, go in for a colorectal screening and there is a polyp detected doctors go in and remove it,” Derringer said. “Then what happens is the senior gets slammed with a $300 bill. If they don’t have the $300, then they’re scared to go in and they won’t go in at all and may develop full-blown cancer.”
Derringer said the response from Indiana’s representatives, overall, was good.
Although Derringer and her fellow team members did not get definitive answers from Young’s staffer, they walked away feeling pretty good about the palliative care and colorectal screening aspects of the agenda.
“We do not have a ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ So, we will have to follow back up,” she said.
In a separate meeting with Donnelly, the group was pleased to hear he is on board and said ‘Yes’ to all three items on the delegation’s agenda, Derringer said.
The annual Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit and Lobby Day is an opportunity for volunteers to meet one-on-one with members of Congress, said Tracy Lytwyn Fischer, senior specialist with the American Cancer Society’s Division of Media Advocacy.
“The volunteers bring a face to an issue that impacts millions of people around the world and our country,” Fischer said. “Even if you have not faced cancer yourself, everyone has been touched by this disease in one way or another.”
Although government doesn’t always move with the expediency the public would like it to, there is progress, Fischer said. Anytime the delegation’s volunteers can get a member of Congress to co-sponsor a bill that moves research efforts one step closer to eradicating cancer that is a good thing.
“Our volunteers are great about keeping in touch with members of congress and following up,” Fischer said. “For the majority of the volunteers it is not a one-time thing. If they don’t get the hard commitment they are seeking, they follow up and emphasize what a big deal this is.”
Bryan Hannon, director of Indiana government relations at the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, said if there is one thing the society has had the most success with through the delegation’s efforts over the years it is acquiring research funding.
“We are blessed with some great research institutions in Indiana who are receiving federal research funding,” Hannon said. “And so we see it as a win-win. It is providing cures, advancing the fight against cancer, helping patients to live longer and better lives, and it is also creating good-paying jobs in the state.”
Derringer described her experience in Washington, D.C. as an amazing honor.
“It is good to be here in our nation’s capital and talk to some of our leaders about the impact they have on cancer,” Derringer said. “This has been a huge honor for me and I am really excited. I didn’t think I would be doing what I am now by no means when I started out walking a track 12 years ago.”