South MS cancer survivors rally for more research funding

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi cancer survivors and volunteers are joining a nationwide rally, calling on Congress to spare cancer research from the chopping block.

Members of the Cancer Action Network say thanks to research, millions of people have lived to celebrate another milestone, like a birthday or anniversary.  But they fear funding is in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, they came to Biloxi to ask people to share their stories.  It's part of their campaign to convince Congress to increase funding and make cancer a national priority.

Some people wrote about love and loss. Tammy Ladner of Saucier lost her husband to cancer.

"December of '06 is when they told us there wasn't nothing they can do," Ladner said. "He passed away in '07. He had mouth and throat cancer."

There were also stories of beating the odds and survival. Lori Grayban of Moss Point was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She's been in remission for almost five years now.

"I felt so good, last year, I started working out at a gym," said Grayban.

More than a dozen cancer survivors and those who have been touched by the disease shared their stories at Edgewater Mall Wednesday.

The Cancer Action Network, an advocacy group of the American Cancer Society, is collecting those personal milestones and will deliver them to Congress next week.

"We're asking people to let their congressional leadership know that we need cancer research funding and we need to keep it at least at the level that it is now," said Anita Bales with the Cancer Action Network. "Hopefully, as our economy gets better, then we can go in and we can ask: Please double that funding, please double the research for this, and double the hope for those people out there that are fighting this dreadful disease."

"I had to through six months of heavy radiation," said Grayban. "I mean without research, we wouldn't have those treatments."

"I just told them thanks for the research that we do have out there for the cancer. That's the only hope I had," said Ladner.

Jimmie Colllier of Biloxi signed a milestone booklet because cancer runs in his family.

"My aunt actually had a rare form of breast cancer that was supposed to kill her in five years, but she lived for ten," he said. "It's all thanks to cancer research, so I figured I might as well sign for her."

People from across the state have also signed a banner. That banner has already been sent to Washington DC. It will be part of a huge display of banners from all 50 states.

"I think it's going to be a moving experience, a very visual aid that will be just so powerful," said Bales. "Because they're making cuts, we don't want them to cut cancer funding."

Volunteers expect to deliver about 100,000 stories from people all over the country to Congress next Tuesday.  The stories will also be on display on the National Mall.  The campaign also commemorated the Cancer Action Network's tenth birthday this year.

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