Thursday afternoon Lana Bradshaw wore a hat with pictures of two cancer victims – her father and her aunt. Thursday evening she and thousands of others lit candles in their honor around the U.S. Capitol’s reflecting pool.
Bradshaw is one of an army of volunteers whose ongoing mission to fight cancer and honor those who have survived the disease continued this week in Washington,D.C.
Bradshaw,of Harrodsburg,Ky.,and travel partner Debbie Lowe,of Danville,Ky.,spent Wednesday and Thursday as two of about 70 of their state’s ambassadors in the Celebration on the Hill,a national fundraising event sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
Lowe,50,and Bradshaw,53,are cancer survivors who have been co-workers for 16 years. They said the Celebration on the Hill,which drew nearly 15,000 people to the National Mall,was a like giant reunion with other Americans who understand their same struggles.
“It was incredible just to see how many survivors there are,” said Lowe,who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996.
The Celebration on the Hill is the national culmination of the cancer society’s Relay for Life,a 12-hour walking event that has been held in communities across the country over the summer,including Danville.
Thursday representatives from all 50 states,including the troop from Kentucky,walked laps around the reflecting pool while chatting,joking and supporting each other. Later they gathered together for an emotional luminary service that honored and memorialized those touched by cancer.
The trip also served as a way for many of the delegates to meet with their local congressman and senators and lobby for their cause.
Bradshaw and Lowe spoke with Rep. Ernie Fletcher,R-Ky.,Thursday morning.
In their talk,Fletcher,a medical doctor,explained the roadblocks Congress hits with cancer-related bills that require complicated agreements with insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
“It's a process I don't think we really understood as far as the politics and everything getting done,” Lowe said of the political hurdles. “Being a doctor,(Fletcher) gave us the more medical perspective.”
The women said one of the greatest accomplishments of the Celebration on the Hill was raising cancer awareness with passersby. This week,the cancer society delegation flooded the Washington streets and subway stations.
“With this sea of purple in D.C.,everybody is like,‘What is that?' or ‘What are you all doing here?'” Bradshaw,a survivor of uterine cancer for nearly four and a half years,said about the purple T-shirts the ambassadors were wearing around the city. “We're creating a scene.”
Still,the ultimate goal of the cancer march was to convince lawmakers to raise the financial bar and pursue a cure more strongly.
“We're getting now what we wanted yesterday,” said Lowe.
During a training session in New Orleans last month in preparation for this week's event,Bradshaw and Lowe said the cancer society coached them on how to best express their concerns to legislators.
“They told us you have to get them hook,line and sinker,” Lowe said. “The hook is your story. Then the sinker is the political action they take.”
Lowe and Bradshaw said the trip to Washington symbolized the kinship they feel everyday with fellow cancer survivors.
“Call it a sisterhood or a brotherhood or whatever,it's always there,” Bradshaw said.