Health

Pink Aroostook director joins national breast cancer summit

CARIBOU, Maine — Since April of 2012, Bethany Zell, program director of Pink Aroostook at Cary Medical Center and president of the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition, has traveled each year to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Advocate Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. 

This spring, because of COVID-19, travel plans were thwarted. Cancer doesn’t stop for pandemics and a pandemic was not about to stop the coalition’s breast cancer advocacy work. The non-profit organization pivoted and delivered the usual three-day summit as a virtual offering, spread out over the course of four weeks and culminating with a virtual Lobby Day on June 16. 

“The 2020 NBCC Advocate Leadership Virtual Summit provided the great breast cancer science and research updates that we have come to expect each year at the in-person summit and also trained us in what we need to know as political activists to help change the breast cancer status quo,” Zell said.

“With presentations on topics ranging from disparities in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, preventative vaccine updates, breast cancer modeling, political breast cancer advocacy and drug development/approval processes, we were well-equipped going into our Lobby Day meetings with Maine’s congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities that would help those living with and at risk for breast cancer in Maine,” she said.

As a longtime NBCC advocate and Maine’s team leader/field coordinator, Zell not only attended the entire virtual summit but participated as a workshop presenter. 

In her May 21 workshop entitled “Advocacy in the Digital Age,” Zell shared how to effectively use social media to connect and communicate with our political leaders as well as like-minded advocates that can help amplify our advocacy messages. This workshop provided advocacy tips and tools for the summit attendees to put into use for the upcoming NBCC Lobby Day and beyond.

Having fundraised and attended the Summit in DC with her mom in 2019, Zell’s daughter, Elizabeth, who just finished 10th grade, trained to participate in the Lobby Day meetings with her. 

“Having a family connection to breast cancer with my grandmother surviving two separate diagnoses makes it even more important for me to speak up,” Elizabeth Zell said. “Even as a young person, I have a voice and I am happy to use it to advocate for those who can’t.”

The mother-daughter advocacy team met virtually with staff from Sen. Angus King and Rep. Jared Golden’s offices before having a Zoom video call with Sen. Susan Collins and her staff.  During their meetings, they shared breast cancer updates from the NBCC Summit and thanked the Maine delegation for their support for funding for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. 

At the meeting, Collins agreed to cosponsor the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act (S. 1374) which would waive the SSDI (five months) and Medicare (24 months) waiting periods for qualifying individuals with metastatic breast cancer to be able to access those benefits should it become enacted. The rest of Maine’s congressional leaders had already cosponsored the measure prior to the Lobby Day meetings.

For more information about the National Breast Cancer Coalition, please visit: StopBreastCancer.org.

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