By Michele E. Gaguski, MSN, RN, AOCN®, CHPN, NE-BC, APN-C
In May 2018, I participated in the American Cancer Society’s (ACS’s) Cancer Action Week in my role as a legislative volunteer for ACS’s Cancer Action Network (CAN).
In this role, I advocate on the state level for various key legislative efforts for people with cancer in New Jersey. While serving as a volunteer, I joined other advocates to meet with our assemblymen to inform them of the current issues facing patients in our state. I also requested specific support for vital legislation that will help our patients and providers in New Jersey. I stressed to our legislative representatives that quality cancer care is a priority for the constituents in our state.
ACS CAN volunteers met with R. Bruce Land (D-NJ) and Bob Andrzejczak (D-NJ) to discuss tobacco prevention and control as well as to request their support for pending legislation that would raise the cigarette tax by $1.65 per pack, bringing New Jersey tax rates into alignment with neighboring states. The increased tax rate would provide public health benefits and serve as a consistent funding source for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts for the state in the future.
As an advanced practice nurse in oncology, I was able to share my stories of patients diagnosed with a cancer linked to smoking. I stressed the critical importance of funding support programs focused on tobacco cessation and counseling. During my time with the representatives, I also discussed restoring the $2 million appropriation for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer’s research into the state budget and continuing funding the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program (NJCEED). NJCEED provides low-income and uninsured residents access to potentially life-saving cancer screenings.
Our meeting was productive, and both representatives were extremely supportive of our requests. They shared their own personal experiences with cancer, and it was a great opportunity to listen to their stories and understand their views on the issues. I volunteer with ACS CAN and ONS because it affords me opportunities like this, where I can take an active role in advocating for my patients on a state and national level.
Cancer research, tobacco control, and funding for screening and early detection programs is crucial to making a meaningful difference in the prompt diagnosis of cancer. These initiatives help us provide evidence-based services to patients before, during, and after treatment. Today, more people are living and surviving with cancer than ever before. Keeping cancer issues front and center for our legislators enables them to make appropriations to prioritize cancer care funding and support in states across the country. State legislators need to be made aware of essential information, evidence, and guidelines to inform their decision making, so that laws can sufficiently address the needs of the public. Get involved in this imperative role as an oncology nurse advocate.