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Cancer survivor asks for funding, coverage page 2
Former Stafford resident heads to Capitol Hill to share her story with others

 Rochelle Joseph went to Capitol Hill to ask for more research for colorectal cancer. She was diagnosed at 26.
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Date published: 3/21/2010


Weaver detailed C3's wish list: that lawmakers would fund more research and require insurance companies to cover the cost of a colonos-copy, the test for early screening. Currently, it's recommended that African-Americans get tested at age 45 and everyone else at age 50.

But because the disease seems to be becoming more prominent among African-Americans, Weaver wondered if they should be screened at earlier ages.

Weaver also asked that money for colorectal research be more comparable to what's spent on breast cancer. Currently, breast cancer gets three times more funding.

"We probably never will have our ribbon flying from the White House," Weaver said, referring to the pink ribbons for breast cancer that were displayed from Pennsylvania Avenue to football stadiums.

"What's your color?" asked Amy Schultz, a senior legislative assistant in Rep. Steny Hoyer's office.

"Blue," Joseph answered.

"It probably should be brown, but that wouldn't fly," Weaver said.

Throughout the meetings, Weaver and Joseph dropped humorous lines, hoping to make it easier to talk about a topic that's unpleasant at best.

"No one wants to say the word, 'rectum,'" Joseph told one deputy chief of staff.

Being in the C3 group has made it easier for her to discuss the digestive issues that plagued her--and that she ignored for a while--because she thought there was no way she could have cancer.

Joseph took two days of training with C3 to learn the best ways to approach legislators.

"One person at our meeting said, 'It's not very often you get to talk about poop over drinks,'" Joseph said. "I think I've been saying it so much lately, it gets easier every time. I sometimes worry if I'm saying too much, and I'm offending people."

Most of the legislative aides Joseph met with thanked her for sharing her story. One asked about her current health, and another congratulated her for reaching the 10-year mark.

Another aide just nodded when she recited the details: that she moved back home to Stafford, with her parents Jim and Edna Bynum, so they could take care of her; that her father was diagnosed with a Stage 1 tumor three weeks after she was; and that her recovery process lasted about three years.

Joseph and Weaver also told the legislators they'd be glad to talk to other lawmakers who support early cancer screenings.

They noted that a routine colonoscopy costs about $1,400. The year Joseph needed chemotherapy, her medical bills totaled more than $300,000.

"Screening can save a lot of suffering and money," Weaver said. "If anybody needs help telling others that, we're not scared to walk around and talk about butts."

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com

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FAMILY: She and husband Jaymar Joseph have an adopted 2-year-old daughter, Ryan.

PARENTS: Jim and Edna Bynum of Stafford County. Has one brother, John. DESCRIBES HER MOTHER, who does accounting for the City of Fredericksburg, as "a shining star." Edna Bynum took care of Rochelle, who came back home at 26 after she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Then Edna cared for her husband, who got the same diagnosis three weeks later. EDUCATION: Graduated from Spelman College, then got her master's in urban planning from Georgia Tech. CAREER: Recently resigned after seven years as a deputy zoning administrator in Washington to be a full-time mother and homemaker. May do some consulting work as an urban planner.

COLORECTAL CANCER is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in men and women.

IN 2006, 139,127 people were diagnosed and 53,196 died. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE between colon cancer and colorectal cancer? Tumors that form within inches of the rectum are defined as colorectal cancer; those elsewhere in the colon are colon cancer. SYMPTOMS: Changes in bowel habits, constipation or diarrhea, pain in the abdominal area and unexplained weight loss and fatigue. The biggest symptom, said survivor Rochelle Joseph, is no symptom. SCREENING is done by a colonoscopy. If growths, or polyps, are detected early, they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Doctors told Joseph her tumor grew for about 10 years. ON THE NET:

FightColorectalCancer .org

Cancer.org. Search for colorectal cancer.