October 13th is Metastatic Awareness Day in the United States, thanks to Shirley Mertz, a metastatic breast cancer survivor from the United States.

October is breast cancer awareness month, so Shirley and two other patients approached their Senator, whose mother had passed away from breast cancer, and ask him to promote their cause in the Senate; they then approached the House of Representatives with the same request. This resulted in a motion being passed through the US government to specifically commemorate ABC on October 13th. [Since then, President Joe Biden designated October 17 to October 23 Men’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week]

Shirley believes in the power of research, belonging to the translational breast cancer research consortium. This consortium has different groups that study different aspects of breast cancer. Through lobbying Shirley has made sure that there is at least one ABC patient in each of those groups.

Shirley’s message: never underestimate the impact you can have, even on your own. Talk to your community groups such as your church and encourage people to talk about the disease. Promote the need for research until cures can be found.

Here in New Zealand, the power of lobbying has been demonstrated in NZ by Metavivors taking petitions to Parliament and presenting to the Health Select Committee. These include Terre Nicholson’s Ibrance petition and Sue Wall-Cade’s Kadcyla petition. Both petitions played a huge part in getting those two drugs funded to extend the lives of New Zealanders living with ABC. However, there are other ways to influence people. From talking to people in your sports club, whanau, friends, and work colleagues to writing to your MP or the Minister of Health, you can make a difference in raising awareness about ABC. Post on Facebook, raise money for an ABC charity through a fun run, or join a support group. All of these things add up to increased awareness, and through increased awareness big changes can happen.

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