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By Ryan Strik
Hello! Let me start by sharing with you a little about who I am. I was born and raised in Smithfield, Rhode Island. As a product of the Smithfield Public School System, I attended LaPerche Elementary, Gallagher Middle and Smithfield High School. I spend most of my days working, going to Bryant University and volunteering with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). That last bit is why I occupy these printed pages today – to talk with you about one of the most important medical issues facing the current generation, and all that have yet to come. Cancer.
My journey began in February of this past year, when being a full-time student and working two part-time jobs were not enough to occupy my time. I came across a volunteer opportunity with the state chapter of the American Cancer Society, and more specifically, ACS CAN – the advocacy affiliate of the Society. Upon filling out an application for an ‘Advocate’ position, I was then headed for my first meeting. I was quickly greeted by my soon-to-be boss, Cori Christie (inspirational woman) who serves as the Grassroots Manager for Rhode Island. With her help, and the support of so many amazing volunteers, I was quickly ushered to the position of Legislative Ambassador. Alongside my fellow Ambassadors, I serve as a liaison of sorts between local and federal lawmakers and cancer patients/caretakers not only in Rhode Island, but across the country. My primary volunteer duties involve assisting in the organization of events, rallies and representing ACS CAN in the community I have met with the offices of our state Congressional delegation – expressing the importance of patient protections and research funding. I have written speeches and social media posts, sharing with the community what it is we do as cancer advocates. I have even spoken in front of the Rhode Island State House Finance Committee, testifying on the importance of making cigarettes less accessible to children and adults. There are no dull moments, even for a rookie such as myself.
During strained political times such as these, it is important that those without a voice be represented and cared for in their darkest hours. Now more than ever, cancer patients and their loved ones are at risk of losing key benefits and protections in their health coverage. If not done correctly, reform to this nation’s health care system could leave thousands across Rhode Island in the dust when it comes to accessible and affordable care. Nationally, we face the risk of 23 million Americans becoming uninsured over the next decade. Current proposals could threaten key components of cancer patient care such as the potential lack of a cap on lifetime spending on health plans and the coverage of various cancer screenings – a key step towards preventing a wide range of illnesses. One has no other thought than to question simply why these events are unfolding in such a way. No end can justify the suffering of patients and their families. There must be a response from the cancer community.
At ACS CAN, we do not act based on political affiliations or agendas. I volunteer for a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of every man, woman and child. We act on humanity, not on politics. It is not in our nature as humans to let a threat to the safety of others go unnoticed. I joined ACS CAN not for any tangible reward. I volunteered because I want to serve at the pleasure of those who need help the most. There is always a way for you to stay involved. Become an advocate. Become an Ambassador, like me. Just don’t sit back in silence and do nothing, for there are seldom powers greater than that of the human voice. If you’re wondering how you can join the fight against cancer, visit www.acscan.org or reach out to us!