Cancer patients push state leaders for support and funding

More than 30 advocates with Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa boarded a bus Wednesday morning to travel to Tallahassee where they will push state lawmakers to help fight for a cure. Each one of them brings a special story about how cancer has impacted their lives. 

They're sharing their experiences with state lawmakers for Moffitt Day. As part of the annual event at the state capitol building, advocates will speak with Florida leaders and representatives to share why the cancer center is important to them and, for some, how it saved their lives.

One of the women making the trip for the first time is Amy Heiser-Meyers. She is not only a stage 3 breast cancer survivor but is also the principal of a school in Polk County

File: Exterior of Moffitt Cancer Center.

File: Exterior of Moffitt Cancer Center. 

She went with a special message from her personal experience with battling and beating cancer. 

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"You have to have a self-advocacy, your own medical self-advocacy," she stressed. "It's so important that you know your body, take advantage of all the screenings, and the diagnostic assessments that are available to you, and if you don't feel that something is right, continue to get a second opinion because early detection saves lives." 

File: Patients and doctors lobby for more cancer funding and research.

File: Patients and doctors lobby for more cancer funding and research. 

They're also asking for continued state support and funding for research and patient services. 

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Dr. Matthew Shabatch, who is the leader of the epidemiology program at Moffitt, says, cancer research is entering a remarkable time. 

File: Patients and doctors from Moffitt Cancer Center meet with state leaders.

File: Patients and doctors from Moffitt Cancer Center meet with state leaders. 

"I'm using the power of computers, I'm using artificial intelligence to identify cancer at its earliest stages," Dr. Shabatch added. "We know if we can catch it earlier, that patients' outcomes are going to be drastically improved because we can often remove that cancer through surgery alone and don't need any of those toxic side effects of chemo therapies or radiation."

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Shabatch and the others on the bus will meet up with 31 cyclists that are part of a cancer awareness group called Cure on Wheels.

The group rode their bikes from Tampa to Tallahassee and stopped in different cities over the last four days.