Cullman’s Emily Abney among select group urging Congress to make cancer top priority

Emily Abney, shown with her husband, David Abney, in Washington, D.C. (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network)

CULLMAN, Ala. – On Sept. 13, more than 600 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district united in Washington, D.C., as part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day (LSLD).   

The select group of ACS CAN volunteers, who were among some of the first people back in the Capitol to meet with lawmakers since the pandemic, is urging Congress to take specific steps to make cancer a national priority and help end a disease that still kills roughly 1,670 people a day in this country – and 10,520 Alabamians annually.   

Cullman teacher Emily Abney lost her close friend Nancy Branch to brain cancer in March 2017. She says that is her motivation for being a cancer advocate today, the only way, she says, that is the appropriate to honor her as Nancy was always dedicated to helping others.  

Abney met with U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama and U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, to discuss the need to support an increase in federal funding for cancer research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She also asked lawmakers to support increasing the diversity of participants in clinical trials, by ensuring that clinical trial sponsors can cover patients’ trial-associated costs, like lodging and transportation, and provide tools to enable remote participation. Finally, the group asked members to support legislation to create a pathway for Medicare to cover new multi-cancer early detection tests once they are approved by the FDA.   

“Roughly one in three Americans will hear the words, ‘You have cancer’ in their lifetime. We need a full and unwavering commitment from Congress to take action to help prevent and treat cancer,” shared Abney. “We want our lawmakers to know that volunteers from Alabama, and from every state across the country, are counting on them to take a stand.”  

After meeting with their lawmakers, volunteers gathered at the Constitution Gardens in Washington, D.C., to honor cancer survivors and remember those who have been lost to the disease during the annual Lights of Hope ceremony. Illuminated bags decorated with the names of those who have been touched by cancer were displayed as a powerful message of hope.