Stampede Reflections By Montana State Captain Bess Harris

BY Bess Harris


 By Montana State Captain Bess Harris

2021 was my second year as Montana’s State Captain for the METAvivor Stampede.  I am in active treatment for my third bout with cancer—second with metastatic breast cancer--and would not have been able to participate if the Stampede continued as an in-person only, D.C.-based event.  I’m not alone.  We almost doubled our number of state captains in 2021 compared with 2019.  ZOOM has its place in the METAvivor world to be sure.

I am shy and a nervous speaker, but in 2020 I found three friends who would join me on the calls to the legislative aides and that really boosted my confidence.  It was surprisingly easy to schedule everyone, including the legislative aides. All of those we spoke with were friendly and cooperative. 

I gave each team member 5-minutes to tell their stories—firm—with a 5-minute introduction that I did and a 5-minute recap with the legislative “asks” at both ends of the call.  The calls lasted EXACTLY 30 MINUTES, which the aides appreciated and helped us with booking them again in 2021. My team changed a bit in 2021, but the strategy was the same and worked well.

I helped develop the Stampede Tool Kit after the 2020 Stampede and thought I knew it pretty well.  WRONG!  I’m sure I will revisit it every year I am able to captain my team.  Whatever “step” in the outreach process seems mysterious, the Tool Kit has specific, relevant tips to help us.  The video trainings are also great.

In 2020, we scheduled two of the three ZOOM meetings we had hoped for. One of our senators wouldn’t even let us speak with his aide.  The senator whose aide we DID speak with was unaware of our legislative issues and had the senator sign on as co-sponsor for BOTH bills immediately (in 2020 AND in 2021)!  Education is the key to what we do, and it paid off! The senator who refused us last year sent his aide this year!  Lesson:  KEEP TRYING!   

Neither of our bills passed the 116th congress or the 117th congress—yet--but National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research (DOD_ funding for 2021-2022 is secure and may increase substantially, and the SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) modernization process moved along. These are HUGE victories!

I’m convinced by our concrete successes that the METAvivor Stampede gets results.  I wouldn’t waste what precious little time I have doing it didn’t.  I feel that what we do may potentially help each other and the hundreds of thousands of metastatic cancer patients who we represent today as well as those who, sadly, will enter our ranks in the future.  

If you are reading this article and you currently are NOT part of a Stampede team, please consider joining one as a state member, co-captain, or captain.  There are few things you’ll do that will be more satisfying and make a bigger difference to more people.  It’s exciting and fun, too!

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