The wife of presidential candidate John Edwards renewed her fight against breast cancer this week. Elizabeth Edwards is one of three million women in the United States living with the disease. Of the 275,000 new cases diagnosed each year, 40,000 die. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, breast cancer survivor and rock star Sheryl Crow was on Capitol Hill [Wednesday] to add her support for new breast cancer legislation.
When Grammy award winner Sheryl Crow has something to say about politics or her personal life, it usually comes out in her lyrics.
What Crow had to say this time was directed to members of the U.S. Congress. Diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, she was on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to pass the 2007 Breast Cancer Environmental Research Act now before the Congress. "I'm really encouraged about this bill. I feel like the eyes of America are on us at this moment. We are moving forward. We are getting closer. We are not leaving any stone unturned. We have to look at the environment. We can not ignore it anymore," she says.
The bill calls for $40 million a year over five years to study the role the environment plays in breast cancer risk. Crow says this would be money well-spent. "We are not asking for money that is going to be taken away from the [national medical research] labs. We are not asking for less research monies to go to scientists. What we are asking for is more money. Now is not the time to be cutting money in cancer research," she says.
That message was not lost on the half dozen members of congress who shared the podium with Crow, including Senate majority leader and the bill's co-sponsor, Harry Reid. "I strongly believe that the environment is an area that we need to look [at] to find out why so many women are being diagnosed with breast cancer," he said.
Reid said he is outraged that an American woman has a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. He assured Crow and advocates with the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund that he would push the bill forward. "We are going to bring the bill to the floor and if it takes cloture vote after cloture vote, we are going to have the Senate dispose of this issue," he said.
That promise was echoed by House member and bill co-sponsor Lois Capps, a leader in the Congressional Women's Caucus. "This bill must pass," she said. "I know that we are going to take this issue and make a difference in the cancer community all through the country and that is going to affect every one of our lives. So, thank you all for your support in this. I am very pleased to be a part of this team."
The law would establish breast cancer and environmental research centers to investigate causes of the disease. The bill has been introduced numerous times over eight years, but has always failed to pass. The bi-partisan members at the news conference assured Crow and advocates that this time would be different.
Crow said she is taking them at their word. "I'm very encouraged that it is going to happen this year," she said. "Also yesterday in [my] meeting with the women's [congressional] caucus I think the goal really was to get the bill marked up and passed by mother's day!"