Reader disappointed by representatives

The following is an open letter to West Virginia’s two senators and three Congressional representatives:

Three years ago I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer usually occurring in children and adolescents. I was 25 years old.

I am now two years out of treatment and in excellent health, thanks to decades of research that have brought the survival rate of this disease up to 70 percent. Other childhood cancers do not share such encouraging odds, and that is why I decided to travel to Washington, D.C. last week to participate in a childhood cancer advocacy event on Capitol Hill.

I took three days of unpaid leave from my job to drive from Rivesville to Washington, D.C. to participate in advocacy training, and to attend scheduled meetings with my Senate and Congressional representatives to ask them to support childhood cancer research funding.

I belied that all members of Congress and the Senate, regardless of political persuasion, could agree that the lives of children are worth a few minutes of consideration. I thought my ability to share a story that thousands of children experience, but can’t always express, would move a fellow West Virginian to action.

Further, being the only member of the advocacy group to represent the state of West Virginia, I was excited to share my story with senators and Congressional members who represent me in my nation’s capital, one of whom grew up just 10 miles up the road from the place I call home. I had my story ready, my request prepared, and had only my nerves to overcome.

Of the two West Virginia senators and three Congressional representatives from our state, not one could spare a moment of his or her time to meet with me. Our congresswoman canceled the meeting 10 minutes after the scheduled start time.

I gratefully accepted the business card handed to me by her staffer, and went on to my next meeting, but I couldn’t help but feel deflated. After visiting the offices of five representatives, not even a handshake.

I met with the staff of three representatives, all of whom listened politely and promised to pass my information along. While I appreciate the staffers’ time, “passing my information along” does not provide me with great confidence that the representative will hear my request, much less become a champion for my cause.

At the end of my day, I had nothing to show for my efforts to fund childhood cancer research.

Going into these meetings, I was hopeful that at least a few of my elected officials would agree to support funding of life-saving cancer research.

Instead, not one senator of member of Congress from the great state of West Virginia took the time to listen to a childhood cancer survivor and to consider the needs of thousands of American children battling every day to become survivors.

Please know that I will continue to fight for this cause, despite the apathy of my Senate and Congressional representatives.

Mina Schultz