Pink Aroostook Advocates Attend Virtual Summit
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 and she was unable to make the trip to the capitol. Cancer doesn’t stop for pandemics and a pandemic was not about to stop the passionate breast cancer advocacy work of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC). The non-profit organization quickly and efficiently pivoted and with a short postponement, delivered the entire 3-day in-person summit as a virtual offering spread out over the course of 4 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. 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,” shared Zell.
As a long-time NBCC advocate and Maine’s Team Leader/Field Coordinator, Zell was not only able to attend the entire virtual Summit, she was also invited to participate as a summit 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, who just finished 10th grade, also trained to be able to participate in the June 16 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. Even as a young person, I have a voice and I am happy to use it to advocate for those who can’t,” shared Zell’s daughter, Elizabeth.
On Tuesday, June 16, the mother-daughter advocacy team met virtually with staff from Senator Angus King and Congressman Jared Golden’s offices before having a ZOOM video call with Senator Susan Collins and her staff. During their meetings, they shared breast cancer updates from the NBCC Summit and thanked all of Maine’s delegation for their support for funding for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. Additionally, the meeting with Senator Collins resulted in her agreeing to cosponsor the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act (S. 1374) which would waive the SSDI (5 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.
On June 16, National Breast Cancer Coalition advocates, Bethany (top right corner) and Elizabeth (lower left) Zell from Caribou, participated in meeting with Maine’s congressional leaders including a ZOOM meeting to discuss important breast cancer legislation with Senator Susan Collins (bottom right) and her Health Policy Director, Amy Pellegrino (top left).