Turning anger into action


Sometimes a little anger goes a long way. In Ethel Ricci’s case, that anger took her all the way to Washington D.C. in order to advocate on behalf of the many loved ones she had lost to cancer.

After losing her father, brother, brother-in-law, niece and sister to the disease, Ricci vowed to stop simply sitting back feeling defeated by her losses and decided to channel her anger into action. She linked up with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and joined their lobbying excursion to D.C. last year to advocate for more funding for cancer research and other legislative endeavors, such as breaking down financial barriers to diagnoses and better access to palliative care.

Ricci recently returned from her second lobbying trip to D.C. this past Wednesday. In the same trip, Congress approved – and President Trump signed into law – a bill package that included a $6.1 billion increase to the National Cancer Institute, which includes a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health. The funding will enable NIH to provide more grants to organizations, universities and other entities so that they may fund advanced cancer research.

For good reasons, lobbying is so often portrayed in a negative light. However, lobbying for special interests that help only a small percentage of people through outright financial corruption and dark dollar donations is one side of the coin. Lobbying through the telling of stories of tragic loss, or stressing the importance of organizations like the American Cancer Society and NIH is the good side of lobbying.

Efforts of people like Ricci, and the many thousands more with painfully similar stories as her, to implore politicians to see the importance in these organizations and in the work that they do to try and improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people affected by cancer around the world should be commended and used as an example of the good that we are all capable of doing in our lives.

For every topic today that tears us apart and sets us against one another, there is a cause such as cancer that should unite us in our efforts to battle it. According to the American Cancer Society, there were 1.7 million new cancer cases estimated in 2017. The lifetime risk of developing cancer is 33 percent in women, and a staggering 50 percent flip of the coin for men.

While these numbers are somewhat numbing, we must also take solace in the fact that our collective efforts – through the political side related to recognizing a need and increasing funding, as well as the brightest minds among our species working every day on new treatments and prevention methods – the mortality rate of cancer has decreased by 23 percent from 1991 to 2012. Today, 66 percent of patients diagnosed live five years longer after their diagnosis compared to only 50 percent 40 years ago.

While it may seem insurmountable, there were 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States in 2016, and just over 600,000 succumbed to the disease. Cancer may be a formidable opponent, but we’re gaining ground and fighting back better against it with every passing year. Increasing funding for research will only accelerate the rate at which we see its prevalence decrease.

It may seem like a no-brainer, that we should increase funding to be able to buy better gloves to fight this disease – however that has not been happening at an acceptable rate in the years leading up to and immediately following the Great Recession. This most recent development, hopefully, is indicative of a change in the right direction.

In addition to giving credit where it’s due to Congress for recognizing the importance of cancer research, we have people like Ethel Ricci to thank as well.


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