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Making the Voices & Faces of the People Living With Breast Cancer Heard

Peggy Belanger, a breast health nurse and the Cancer Care Coordinator at Southern Maine Medical Center, reflects on her experience participating in the Champions of Change Leaders in the Fight Against Breast Cancer panel at the White House.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Peggy Belanger

I never dreamed that as an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN), volunteer attending their annual Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, I would also be given the opportunity to represent ACSCAN as one of their Champions of Change at the White House!  To have been nominated was fabulous, but to have been selected is truly an honor and privilege.

As a Champion of Change in the fight against breast cancer I had the opportunity to share my experience as the Cancer Care Coordinator at Southern Maine Medical Center, Biddeford, ME.  I was one of 12 panelists at the White House Champions of Change program which focused on breast cancer early detection and prevention programs, education and awareness initiatives, and most importantly how to move forward to end this disease through continued funding for research.  ACS CAN, NBCC, and Susan G. Komen breast cancer survivors, health care providers and leaders of the above organizations comprised the panel. Our discussion was led by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff Tina Tchen.

I focused my discussion on the need for more collaboration amongst health care providers and service organizations, especially given the reductions in funding and staffing.  We also need to offer programs and services identified by those individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.  Most importantly, I, as well as many of my fellow ACS CAN colleagues, spoke from the heart.  We all felt a responsibility to be the Voices & Faces of the people living with breast cancer.

Although we are called Champions of Change, our work to influence policy makers and secure investments in cancer prevention and research programs is far from over.  My experience at this White House event has encouraged me to continue the “fight”, and to rally as much support as I can. It is only by working together can we be successful in eradicating this disease, not only breast cancer, but this dreadful disease called cancer.

Peggy Belanger is a breast health nurse and the Cancer Care Coordinator at Southern Maine Medical Center, a 150-bed community hospital in Southern Maine.