NEJC residents travel to D.C. to lobby lawmakers for support on cancer legislation

Jim Miksch, a Prairie Village cancer survivor, is heading to D.C. today to take part in the American Cancer Society's leadership summit and lobby day.
Jim Miksch, a Prairie Village cancer survivor, is heading to D.C. today to take part in the American Cancer Society’s leadership summit and lobby day.

For northeast Johnson County residents Gay Garrett and Jim Miksch, cancer is personal.

Miksch, of Prairie Village, has fended off the disease twice, and has been cancer free for 14 years now. Garrett, of Merriam, watched her mother die from breast cancer 31 years ago.

The experiences of both have made them passionate advocates for improved care for patients and increased research in how to stop the disease. And this week, both will be in Washington, D.C. to ask members of Kansas’s congressional delegation for their support on three fronts as part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Lobby Day:

  • Increasing cancer research funding for the National Cancer Institute and funding for prevention programs managed by the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Co-sponsoring legislation to give cancer patients more access to palliative care.
  • Co-sponsoring legislation that will make it easier for some Medicare patients to get colorectal cancer screenings.

Miksch, who spent much of his working life in government affairs for Sprint, has made advocating for improved care and research a focus in recent years.

“After I was through my surgery, I decided I wanted to lend my shoulder to the wheel,” he said. “I know how the government affairs process worked and I wanted to use those skills to advance the cause. My father survived [prostate] cancer. I’m a survivor. And my son is at increased risk of it because of the family history. So this is important to me.”

Similarly, Garrett says her personal experience with the disease has prompted her to make advocacy a priority.

“I have personally lost my mother, my mother-in-law, friends I knew since childhood,” she said. “And so many more I know have fought their battle with cancer and are still with us. Cancer may never be cured, but if we can continue the research, it can hopefully be a disease that can be dealt with in a way as other chronic illnesses rather than the death sentence it is for so many people.”

Miksch and Garrett will meet with Rep. Kevin Yoder and Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts on Tuesday. Both credited Yoder with strong support for improved cancer research funding.

“Yoder has been very articulate on issue of increased funding,” Miksch said. “He’s been a leader on the 21st Century Cures act, which we are very much in favor of.”