Tina Hoebelhenrich and Michelle Lemmon

Cody sisters Michelle Lemmon and Tina Hoebelheinrich lost their sister to pancreatic cancer in 2015.

“She was a truly amazing woman who passed at age 49 after a 10-month illness,” Hoebelheinrich said.

Now both surviving sisters are doing what they can to help current and future patients.

They represented Wyoming this week during virtual meetings with members of Congress to make the fight against cancer a national priority.

“Overall, we had a great experience,” Hoebelheinrich said, “good conversations with our representation in Washington, D.C., and we really enjoyed doing ‘Lights of Hope’ here at home. We plan on it being even bigger next year.”

The two joined nearly 500 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The volunteers spoke with their lawmakers about critical cancer issues including increased cancer research and prevention funding and improved and more equitable access to clinical trials.

“Cancer hasn’t stopped, so neither have we. Congress must take action to address the needs of cancer patients during and beyond the pandemic,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Emergency funding alone is not enough. We need consistent and significant increases in cancer research and prevention funding to ensure we maximize past investments and continue to make significant progress preventing and treating a disease that is projected to kill more than 600,000 Americans this year.”

In addition to urging lawmakers to boost research and prevention funding, ACS CAN volunteer advocates will also encourage lawmakers to advance legislation that addresses disparities in cancer care and supports more equitable access to cancer clinical trials through the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act.

The virtual meetings followed a Lights of Hope Across America event held Saturday when 45,000 bags lit and decorated with the names of those who’ve fought cancer were displayed in homes nationwide as a powerful message of hope.

The event replaced the annual Lights of Hope ceremony which usually takes place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Here in Wyoming, Lemmon and Hoebelheinrich collected stories and names to display on Lights of Hope bags at the Big Horn Basin Cancer Center and in the Bighorn Mountains to honor and remember loved ones from across the state impacted by cancer.

This year, nearly 2,900 Wyoming residents will be diagnosed with cancer and 960 people will die from the disease, according to ACS.

To get involved with ACS CAN Wyoming, visit fightcancer.org/states/wyoming.

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