Del Mar cancer survivor calls for research and preventative funding from lawmakers

By Kristina Houck

Having battled cancer three times, Julie Westcott is now an advocate for others who have the disease.

A Del Mar resident, she participated July 7-8 in One Voice Against Cancer’s National Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., to encourage elected officials to increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs.

One Voice Against Cancer is a collaboration of nonprofits that urges increased funding for cancer research, treatment, survivorship and prevention in the Congressional budget.

“I feel it’s really important for people to have a voice,” said Westcott, who has lived in Del Mar since 2001. “It’s one thing to be a passive bystander and have feelings about something, but you have to actually take the time and effort to make your voice heard.”

Westcott was diagnosed with adult acute myeloid leukemia in 2006. She was just 31 years old. The aggressive cancer returned in 2008 and again in 2009. While still undergoing treatment, she became an active volunteer with both the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Livestrong Foundation in 2008.

As a representative of Livestrong, Westcott joined advocates from more than 30 cancer organizations in One Voice Against Cancer’s National Day of Lobbying to request increased funding for cancer research and prevention programs.

More than 30 Livestrong representatives participated in the two-day event, totaling almost 130 meetings among the entire team with the offices of elected officials.

Westcott met with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and presented her with One Voice Against Cancer’s 2014 Cancer Champion Award. She also met with the offices of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

“Before I left and my first day there, I was really nervous. I’ve been very involved in advocacy and fundraising for care, but I’ve never done something like this before,” said Westcott, 39, who is celebrating five years cancer-free in September.

“Even though it was a personal challenge to step out of my comfort zone, I wanted to get involved so my voice could be heard. It was an empowering experience.”

As a result of funding cuts, about 750 fewer new patients were admitted to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center last year.

Advocates gathered on Capitol Hill to urge their local lawmakers to end the decline of cancer’s share of the budget for the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency and the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. Advocates also requested $5.26 billion for the National Cancer Institute, and $510 million for cancer programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We need Del Mar to have a voice,” Westcott said. “I’m fairly certain that almost everyone in the Del Mar community has been affected by cancer in some way. We need to have a voice, go to our representatives and ask for funding together.”

For more about One Voice Against Cancer, visit

www.ovaconline.org

.

For more about Livestrong, visit

www.livestrong.org

.

Copyright © 2018, Del Mar Times
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