As a father of four, it is difficult to even contemplate a child’s life being cut short due to cancer or another terminal illness. As Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, once stated, “no child should die in the dawn of life.” This powerful statement rang true recently when I met the mother of William the Warrior.
Just one month ago, three-year-old William Marion lost his battle after being diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma. His mother, Jessica Marion, recently visited my office in Washington to share the story of her son’s life and their family’s tragic loss.
Sadly, William is just one of thousands of American children who have been impacted by cancer. Each year, 175,000 children ages 14 and under are diagnosed with some form of pediatric cancer. Thankfully, due to medical innovation, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed in the United States become survivors. However, we must continue to fight for better treatments and for those who are not among the fortunate.
Jessica brought to my attention H.R.820, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, and asked for my support. After learning more about the bill and hearing Jessica and William’s story, I happily agreed to add my name as a cosponsor in memory of William and all other children who have lost their lives to cancer.
The STAR Act enhances efforts to identify and track childhood cancer cases, seeks to improve the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors, and expands research opportunities for therapeutics used in the medical treatment of childhood cancer.
It is imperative that we redouble our efforts to end childhood cancer and ensure no more children and families will suffer from this tragedy. While this legislation cannot bring William back, the STAR Act reaffirms my commitment to keep alive the quest for a cure.
The STAR Act is not the first time I have supported live-saving initiatives. Throughout my time in Congress, I have strongly supported efforts to boost funding for medical research and reform the process for approving new medical treatments.
Most recently, I voted in favor of increased medical research funding, which will ensure our doctors and scientists have the resources they need to perform life-saving research. Among many other important provisions, the most recent government funding bill increased funding for the National Institutes of Health by $3 billion, which will continue progress toward finding cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other life-threatening conditions.
Additionally, the House recently passed H.R. 5247, the Right to Try Act of 2018, with my strong support. As you may recall, President Donald Trump discussed the need for “Right to Try” legislation in his State of the Union speech earlier this year. Right to Try allows terminally ill patients to take advantage of experimental medical treatments that otherwise may not be available.
I also strongly supported the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act to improve our nation’s medical research programs and spur medical innovation. It is not often that Congress passes legislation that can actually save lives, but the 21st Century Cures Act can do just that by making some critical updates to our nation’s health programs.
Ultimately, there is no legislation that can take away the heartbreak that comes with losing a loved one to cancer or another terminal disease. However, Congress must continue to make medical research a top priority as we fight to end childhood cancer once and for all.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.