By Jason A. Smith
A national organization dedicated to the fight against cancer brought its awareness and education efforts to Henry County last week.
Henry Medical Center hosted the American Cancer Society's (ACS) Fight Back Express Friday.
The express, a project of the Cancer Action Network, is a bus featuring signatures of people who have committed to finding a cure for the disease.
The ACS's campaign launched May 4 in Cleveland, Ohio.
By the time the express' tour is done, it will have visited locations in each of the states in the continental United States.
One of the purposes of the tour is to bring the ACS together with lawmakers, cancer survivors and area residents, to promote education about the disease.
Eric Bailey, Grassroots Advocacy Manager for the cancer society, said the action network's project is vital. This, he explained, is because the effort to find a cure has gone beyond science.
"The fight against cancer definitely involves our elected officials," he said. "It's important to get their constituents out to support our efforts, so that their officials know we're here every day, fighting to eradicate this disease."
A press release issued by the hospital May 27, emphasized the need for lawmakers' support of the Cancer Action Network.
"The Fight Back Express aims to highlight the crucial role elected officials play in supporting laws and policies that help people fight cancer," said the release. "Cancer stories and signatures collected during the ... tour will be shared with [those] officials, including presidential candidates, in an effort to make cancer a top national priority."
The hospital cited statistics indicating that cancer will kill more than 500,000 nationwide this year.
State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-District 44) was among area legislators on hand for the Fight Back Express' arrival in Henry. She said she hopes to get other lawmakers in Georgia more involved in the battle against cancer.
"As legislators, we need to pass [laws] and make resources available for research," said Davenport. "The cancer society does a good job of increasing awareness, but we need to do a lot of outreach, education and prevention [efforts]."
The senator said she plans to work with the ACS, as well as local civic organizations and churches, to further increase awareness of cancer-related issues.
Vicky Ayers, registered nurse and community educator at Henry Medical Center, showed her support for the cancer society's campaign. She said bringing the express to Henry County served several purposes, all with the goal of increasing the public's level of involvement in battling the deadly disease.
"This was the hospital's opportunity to show our community how we support the ... fight against cancer," said Ayers. "We have to support a collaboration with the American Cancer Society, through education, screenings and advocacy."
Andrea Baldwin was among the people who signed the bus. A representative of the Relay For Life from Butts County, Baldwin said the fight for a cure is close to her heart. "I come from a family that has lost people to cancer," she said. "My father-in-law is a three-time survivor, and my mother-in-law is in the fight for her life now.
"We were here to make people aware of the [disease], and how we're out fighting for cures and raising money. We're all about trying to get the message across."
No additional stops have been scheduled for the Fight Back Express in the south metro Atlanta area.