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Cancer research advocate shares passion for the cause

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Julie Turner’s connection to cancer began with a jolt at a young age. At 17, she was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s disease.

“I recall wishing for just a little more time to be a normal teenager, free from the devastating grip of cancer and the pain, fear, and anxiety that treatment brought,” says the Springfield woman.

But Turner says that by the grace of God, cutting edge medical treatment, unending nurturing and care from her family, and the American Cancer Society at her side, she’s been fortunate enough to celebrate 38 birthdays since that shocking diagnosis.

In addition to happily blowing out birthday candles each year, Julie is constantly advocating on behalf of the American Cancer Society.

She inspired attendees at the kick-off breakfast for the Making Strides walk and we asked her to share her story and her passion for advocacy with readers, in her own words:


Recollections of chemotherapy and radiation treatments at such a young age are forever logged in my brain, and I believe that these memories fuel my fire to fight back against cancer.

I have volunteered for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Pan Ohio Hope Ride and my local American Cancer Society board of directors. Each endeavor affords me the opportunity to share my message of hope, triumph and dedication to a cause about which I am passionate.

When I was asked to become a cancer advocate with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), I jumped at the chance. ACS CAN is the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society and the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization.

Funding research

I am especially committed to making sure that we continue to fund cancer research at the federal level, which is one of ACS CAN’s national priorities. I benefited directly from cancer research funding because the chemotherapy treatments I received were developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cancer research literally saved my life.

Funding in the fight against cancer is critical to achieving long-term and permanent success. Unfortunately, NIH funding has been unable to fully meet scientific needs or keep up with inflation for some time. In 2012, cancer research facilities in Ohio received over $814 million in federal funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. NIH funding also supported 14,885 jobs in Ohio alone. Any cuts to this funding could jeopardize the effort to find breakthroughs in the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer. We cannot move backward when it comes to cancer research, and we cannot let potential treatments sit in a lab undiscovered. Someone’s life might depend on that treatment, just like mine did.

Heading for Washington

As a cancer advocate, I am honored to serve as lead advocate for the 8th congressional district. On Sept. 10, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with over 450 fellow volunteers from across the country for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN’s) annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day.

This event is an opportunity for volunteers to meet with their federal lawmakers and with other advocates who share their passion for fighting cancer. This year, I met with my lawmakers to discuss three important legislative asks: support legislation that will make palliative care more easily accessible to cancer patients and help improve their quality of life while they are undergoing treatment; increase the federal tobacco tax to help prevent young people from starting to use tobacco; and increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs.

After my own battle with cancer, I thought I was done with this dreadful disease. But, my beloved mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The person who had cared for me during my diagnosis and treatment and willed me back to health now needed me. It was my turn to be at her bedside, to hold her hand, to be her rock and support. She fought a courageous battle with my sisters and me at her side for seven weeks until cancer unmercifully took her from us. My mom is always with me, she resides in my heart, and I feel her guiding hand on my shoulder.

I hope that my story will inspire others to fight back, especially as an advocate.

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