Thursday April 03, 2014
Nearly 100 Massachusetts cancer patients, survivors and their families gathered at the State House Monday to ask legislators to support expanded access to and awareness of palliative care services for those fighting cancer and other serious illnesses. The visit was part of the ACS CAN’s annual lobby day in the Commonwealth.
Specifically, the Massachusetts volunteers asked their lawmakers to support H. 3977 “An Act to improve quality of life by expanding access to palliative care.” The bill, filed by Representative Chris Walsh of Framingham, Mass., would seek to improve the quality and delivery of patient-centered, family-focused care in Massachusetts by establishing a State Advisory Council on Palliative Care and Quality of Life, a Palliative Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program and a palliative care access initiative in the Commonwealth.
Prior to the advocates’ meeting with their representatives and senators, several legislators addressed American Cancer Society and ACS CAN volunteers and staff.
Advocates also heard from ACS CAN ACT Lead Carole Siegel who shared her family’s experience with palliative care that was provided when her husband was diagnosed. Carole’s story, which she calls “a victory story,” is about her husband’s battle with pancreatic cancer. A palliative care team helped to address his symptoms – nausea, pain, dehydration and even hiccups – while he was going through treatment. Carole and her family were even empowered by the palliative care team to assist with her husband’s care so that much of it could be done at home, preventing unnecessary trips to the hospital and allowing for more time at home with his family. Carole’s husband ultimately passed away at home with his entire family there by his side.
This year, more than 38,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in Massachusetts and nearly 13,000 will lose their battle with the disease. But those gathered at the State House on March 31advocated for improved quality of life for cancer patients through palliative care, focused on giving patients control over their course of treatment — providing patients with relief from all symptoms, including pain and stress, of a serious illness such as cancer. Patients who receive palliative care have reduced symptoms – better quality of life, less pain, less shortness of breath and less nausea – and live a longer life.
While in Boston, cancer advocates also joined their lawmakers participating in “Suits & Sneakers” in support of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN and our collective work in the fight against cancer. Both volunteers and legislators wore their sneakers to the State House that day. The day also included a display of “Lights of Hope” bags decorated by legislators from across the Commonwealth.