On the Road to Rwanda and Remembering Why We Fight

By: Loyce Pace Bass, LIVESTRONG Foundation
Cross-posted from the LIVESTRONG Foundation Blog.

Often times I miss being in the trenches of the fight against cancer. Back before I
joined LIVESTRONG’s team to lead on health policy, I interacted on a daily basis
with survivors and their families, healthcare providers, and volunteer advocates all
over the world about the issues they were facing. I heard firsthand what mattered
most to them and why. It’s actually one of the reasons I was ultimately driven to
work in policy. It got to the point where I felt I could do more at a higher level rather
than continue to focus on battles one-by-one. However, I’m starting to experience
what people warned me about when I left the field: a looming sense of
disconnection from what’s really happening on the ground, and the need to get
back out there and reconnect with the people we serve. So, that’s what I’m off to do

A lot has changed since I’ve started at the foundation. In the US, people affected by
cancer celebrate expanded access to healthcare but are also in need of better
engagement and information in support of their cancer journey during treatment
and beyond. And survivors globally await the promise of changes in their countries
as a result of recent agreement by the world’s leaders on how to address cancer
and other chronic diseases. At last count, there are over 32 million cancer survivors
worldwide, many of whom still require basic education, programs, and services that
adequately improve their quality of life. Thankfully, more stakeholders – across
universities, community organizations, government agencies, private donors, and
corporations – are responding to the call by raising awareness and taking action.

Many of these early champions have taken it upon themselves to fill persistent gaps
in the global healthcare system. They see changes on the horizon but are impatient
optimists, determined to identify and implement solutions for survivors today. These
innovators have found creative ways to rise to the challenge and do more with less,
at least until everyone else catches on. One such group is Partners in Health,
implementing programs in Haiti, Rwanda, and elsewhere that demonstrate what’s
possible. We’ve recently renewed our support for their work with a new partnership
in Africa, and I look forward to seeing efforts in-person next week. Rumor has it I
might even get to meet Francine, a living testament to the impact of this initiative
and an assured reminder of the one-on-one interactions I’ve been missing.

Loyce Pace Bass is the Director of Health Policy at the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Stay tuned for updates throughout the week on Loyce’s travels and dialogue with our Africa partners.

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