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Walking around the Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill, Warsaw resident Rhonda Ferrell found a bag with her name on it among the 33,000 illuminated in honor or memory of someone who has battled cancer.
The trip, one she has taken every year for the last decade, is spent lobbying for more government funding for cancer research — something Ferrell holds close to her heart.
In 1998, Ferrell was diagnosed with breast cancer. After finding a lump, she had a mammogram done, but doctors didn’t see anything suspicious. There was a deep history of breast cancer in her family, and in the back of her mind, she knew it was a good possibility she would one day get the diagnosis.
“I knew there was something there,” Ferrell said. “I was a nurse and I knew what I felt.”
She returned to the doctor and had them do further testing and the lump and breast cancer were found. After undergoing surgery, the cancer survivor underwent three rounds of chemotherapy for nine months, followed by radiation.
“My treatment was very successful,” Ferrell attested. “Here I am, 20 years later.”
Ferrell says she became involved with the Duplin County Relay for Life, getting her daughter and grandson involved as well. About 10 years ago, Ferrell says she was approached about getting involved in the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network — a group that travels to Washington, D.C. each year to lobby for cancer research and funding.
During the four-day trip, Ferrell says she has the opportunity to talk with all the congressional and senate offices and mingle among 700 people from around the country. As part of the event, Ferrell says she attends workshops on cancer research and resources, and prepares to take their concerns to Capitol Hill.
“On our last day, we spend the entire day walking on Capitol Hill,” Ferrell said. “It’s an opportunity for us to talk with members of Congress and lobby for specific bills.”
During her most recent trip, just a week ago, Ferrell said she was able to lobby for a quality of life bill, as well as more funding for medical and nursing schools. Additionally, Ferrell said her organization is fighting for Medicare patients to have certain procedures paid for through insurance.
Twenty years ago when Ferrell received her diagnosis, she said telling her family was something she could not imagine doing. Today, she spends time traveling throughout North Carolina and the country speaking about her experience and fighting for others.
“Breast cancer is not something you want to have,” Ferrell said. “But, because I did, I help by encouraging people who are diagnosed. If it wasn’t for research, the doctors wouldn’t have known how to treat me. Now, I can help find treatments for other people.”
As part of the event, 33,000 luminaries are illuminated surrounding the Reflecting Pool and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to spell out the word “cure.”
“People need to get involved,” Ferrell shared. “I am willing to come and talk to groups if someone needs or wants me to.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.