Rhody chosen to crusade against cancer in capital

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 27, 2002

Joyce Rhody took her message to Washington last week.

As one of 55 Minnesota American Cancer Society Ambassadors chosen to represent the community and meet with congressional members, Rhody, of Albert Lea, took part in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Celebration on the Hill Sept. 19.

The event was a grassroots event celebrating cancer survivorship and empowering survivors and other to become a political force, both in Washington, D.C., and in communities across the country.

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Rhody, a cancer survivor, got involved with the American Cancer Society after attending meetings of the Cancer Support Group at Albert Lea Medical Center.

“Through that, I get lots of literature, and there was a brochure to apply to be an ambassador for the Celebration on the Hill,” she said.

The event took place on the National Mall. There were opening ceremonies, and a survivors’ lap where cancer survivors walked around the reflecting pool.

There were tents set up for each state, and “the goal was to get congressmen to meet us in the tents,” Rhody said.

Rep. Gil Gutknecht came out while Rhody was doing her survivors’ lap, and other members of the Minnesota delegation went to see Sen. Paul Wellstone in his office.

“My one disappointment was that I didn’t get to talk to any representatives,” Rhody said.

Ambassadors asked members of Congress for more funding for cancer research and treatment.

Rhody said her own husband is a good example of how research is working. He has leukemia, and has been able to take advantage of the drug Gleevec, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May of 2001, with much success.

“He just turned 82 and he looks great,” she said. “Research is what does it. But the other side of the coin is that some people can’t afford these drugs.”

It’s estimated that 7,000 people, including 3,000 Community Ambassadors, as well as cancer survivors and volunteers, took part in the 12-hour celebration, which ran from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

The doctor who started the Relay for Life carried the torch, and luminaries were lit around the reflecting pool. There was also a full moon, Rhody said. “It was just beautiful — and the weather was perfect,” she added.

Ambassadors were also part of the Celebration Bus event that recently wrapped up a five-month tour across the nation. It was in Albert Lea in June, and visited all 48 contiguous states, Rhody said.

More than 130,000 signatures were collected on the bus and displayed at the Celebration on the Hill to demonstrate to Congress that cancer is a national priority and that they do play a critical role in the fight against cancer.