Lisa Ann Wheeler

My name is Lisa Ann Wheeler. I am a Breast Cancer Advocate, here in Aiken, with the National Breast Cancer Coalition, promoting Deadline 2020, Knowing How to End Breast Cancer by 1/1/2020. This bold and unprecedented initiative is focused on primary prevention and preventing metastasis.

I lost my beautiful mother to metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for 90 percent of breast cancer deaths. Those women and men, yes men, who are diagnosed with breast cancer in early stages – Stages I-III – have a 30 percent chance of being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (Stage IV) at a later time. Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread to the lungs, liver, brain, bones or elsewhere in the body. The average life expectancy of an individual with MBC is three years, with many succumbing much earlier. While there are treatments that have extended the lives of individuals with MBC, there is no cure. One of NBCC’s highest legislative priorities this year is to enact legislation to waive waiting periods for Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility for women and men with MBC.

There has been a real movement, of late, to educate the public regarding MBC. There are TV commercials regarding new treatments for the disease, morning news show segments concentrating on MBC, the bill recently introduced in Congress and a recent article in the Aiken Standard by Lindsey Hodges about Dianne Hadley,an Aiken resident and MBC patient. Social media is flooded with women and men thriving with this diagnosis. All of this attention to MBC is eye-opening and wonderful. For so long, MBC was never talked about. A breast cancer patient does not usually die from early stage breast cancer, they die of metastatic disease.

The City of Aiken, the State of South Carolina, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Tim Scott have been wonderful supporters and endorsers of my the National Breast Cancer Coalition and Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. I have been so fortunate to personally meet and work with them and their offices here in Aiken and in Washington, D.C. They are so dedicated to the eradication of breast cancer and doing as much as they can to help those navigating their breast cancer journey.

Congressman Wilson is a co-sponsor of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, H.R. 6114. This important legislation would provide eligible individuals who are suffering from MBC with access to support and medical care. Under current law, if an individual is found to be disabled for the purposes of Medicare and SSDI, they must wait 24 months to enroll in Medicare and wait five months to receive SSDI benefits. During this waiting period, individuals with MBC face incredible hardships in supporting themselves and their families and receiving the appropriate medical care they desperately need.

Under current law, individuals with MBC may never receive the SSDI and Medicare benefits they are eligible to receive as a result of these onerous waiting periods, time is of the essence. This legislation would waive the five-month waiting period for SSDI and the 24-month waiting period for Medicare benefits for individuals with MBC who are determined to be eligible under the current programs.

I am looking forward to Sens. Graham and Scott co-sponsoring this very important legislation, too, and joining Rep. Wilson in showing those women and men with metastatic breast cancer that they care and want to make sure they have access to the appropriate medical attention they deserve.

Breast cancer literally affects us all personally be it a family member, friend, co-worker or friend of a friend, it is a burden we all bear. I ask you to please get involved, either in a big or small way. Contact your political representatives, share your thoughts with them on breast cancer, ask them to please be accountable to the breast cancer community by supporting appropriate legislation. Join the National Breast Cancer Coalition, join the South Carolina Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 Action Network on Facebook. There are so many ways you can make a difference and help put us all one step closer to Knowing How to End Breast Cancer by Jan. 1, 2020.