Friday, September 26, 2008

LIVESTRONG Summit - Something I wrote days after for LIVESTRONG.COM

Here is something I wrote days after the Summit for LIVESTRONG.COM, but not sure was published.

There I was sitting on stage in Mershon Auditorium on the campus of Ohio State University looking at over 1000 people wearing VOTE YELLOW tee-shirts and I was about to be part of a historic occasion. I was at the LIVESTRONG Summit and LIVESTRONG Presidential Town Hall on Cancer.

I certainly never thought I would be sitting on stage with Lance Armstrong and Senator John McCain, but one thing is certain, I knew I was there to help make cancer a national priority.

As we waited for Senator McCain and Lance to come out I sat there thinking about my first experience with the Lance Armstrong Foundation at the 2006 LIVESTRONG Summit. Back when I did not know what the LAF was about and I did not know what I was going to do after I went home.

I had just finished my radiation treatments a few weeks earlier, post surgery for testicular cancer, when I went down to Austin, Texas as a delegate from the state of New Jersey. That is when my life changed forever and I realized that I had to become a leader in the fight against cancer. I created a personal action plan and went home and implemented everything on the list and more.

At this years summit I was not only a delegate but I was also on the Summit Steering Committee. The LAF asked a few 2006 delegates who succeeded in implementing their personal action plans to help on the committee. We were tasked with reviewing applications, outreach program and helping at the summit. I felt honored to be asked and did my best in everything we were asked to do.

Now I was sitting on stage waiting to hear what Senator McCain had planned to help us fight and ultimately cure cancer. As I looked out at the audience I could not help but think how many of them were like I was 21 months ago. I knew their lives were about to change as mine did.

I found the Presidential Town Hall on Cancer to be an interesting night. I felt Senator McCain held back at times when giving answers, but I guess he has to watch everything he says as it will be in the paper the next day. However, he did bring up a good point on how Congress does not watch how they spend our money. He said he would have to work with Congress to improve how we spend the money in order to allocate more towards fighting cancer.

I walked away enjoying the event.

I signed up for the Fundraising training course. The other training programs for the weekend were Grassroots Community, Grassroots Elections and Grassroots Advocacy. I took fundraising as I felt I could both learn and help at the same time. Fundraising offers a person to not only raise funds for the organization they support, but they are also advocating to people while doing it.

The LAF had the training programs well planned and interactive. We were given opportunities to have Q&A sessions with fundraising experts. We created our own commercials and we had a few contests throughout the weekend. The LAF made it fun to get trained.

I found the keynote speakers to be extremely inspiring. We heard from Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon’s General of the United States, Dr. Harold Freeman, President and Founder of the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center in Harlem, Stefanie Spielman, Founder of Stefanie Spielman Breast Cancer Fund and three-time cancer survivor.

My personal favorites were Dr. Freeman and Stefanie Spielman.

On the final day we had a panel discussion with Dr. E. Gordon Gee, The Ohio State University; Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN; Dr. Bernadine Healy, U.S. News and World Report. I thought each of them did an excellent job and were knowledgeable.

As I walked around after the summit ended and I talked to people I found many of them were talking like I did after the 2006 summit. Their lives were really changed forever.

This is what separates the Lance Armstrong Foundation from other cancer organizations. They inspire and empower people affected by cancer. They gave 1000 people from around the country and the world the training and tools needed to help make a difference in the fight against cancer.

It is now up to us to implement and make cancer a national priority. I am up to the challenge and I know 999 other delegates who are too.