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Hawkinson advocates in Washington, D.C.

Kayla Hawkinson, to the right of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for improvements in cancer related issues. She his shown with other volunteers from the the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Submitted photo

Kayla Hawkinson of Chokio went to Washington, D.C., along with about 700 other people to make three main requests of national lawmakers.

Hawkinson joined cancer survivors, patients, volunteers and staff in the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network or ACS CAN, to ask lawmakers to: Increase funding for the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute; to support legislation that would expand training in palliative and hospice care for health providers and to remove barriers to access to colorectal and rectal screening.

To participate in an event "this large in scale was extraordinary," Hawkinson said.

"...there were over 700 volunteers there all wearing the same exact thing, baby blue polos. We had between 400 and 500 meetings. We were literally all over the (Capitol) Hill," Hawkinson said. "That was a powerful visual statement."

Hawkinson is a volunteer with the American Cancer Society and a past ACS staff member. She's also passionate about ACS causes because her father was diagnosed with cancer in February.

Her father recently had his first scan after treatment and it was positive. "We are very blessed," Hawkinson said.

Treatment for her dad and thousands of other cancer patients would not have happened without research, Hawkinson said.

"Cancer research funding is so important," Hawkinson said. "I know of plenty of studies waiting for funding. We need to move forward..."

Her dad was on a list for a clinical study but because of his treatment schedule he was unable to participate, Hawkinson said. "We understand the need to uphold the integrity of the (clinical trial)," she said. But her dad's experience with the clinical trial served as a reminder of the clinical trials and studies that are so important to treating cancer, she said.

The visit to D.C. was also a chance to say thank you to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar for supporting the palliative and hospice care training legislation.

There is a tendency to think of palliative and hospice care as end-of-life care but it's more than that, Hawkinson said. The care involves a more holistic approach to care, she said. Patients across the nation, including in rural areas, need to have access to palliative and hospice care, Hawkinson said. More health care providers need training in those areas, Hawkinson said.

Access to colorectal and rectal screening is important because it can diagnose cancer early, the ACS has said. Lawmakers need to close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for senior citizen patients when a polyp is found during a routine examination, the ACS CAN said in a news release.