Advocates rally at State Capitol to make cancer a priority

Chances are, you know someone who's been touched by cancer.

According to the CDC, it is the second leading cause of death in America.

Today nearly 150 Texans met at the State Capitol to make sure lawmakers don't forget that.

It was a curveball thrown at Kelly Konopczyk that she could not see coming. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer five years ago, and today, she continues to fight for her life.

"At 35 years old, with a child in kinder and a child in pre-school at the time, and you think cancer's supposed to be for older people," said Konopczyk.

She, along with a large group of Texans affected by cancer in some way, are working to put cancer on top of the to-do list.

"We're reaching out to lawmakers to ask them to fully fund $300 million to keep C-PRIT, which is the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas," said Konopczyk.

Another priority, passing House Bill 1874, which focuses on better quality of life for patients during their treatments. Lastly, they are asking for more funding for tobacco awareness.

"The evidence is clear. If we put a lot of funding into these tobacco prevention programs, we're going to save a lot of lives, we're going to save a lot of headache and also save a lot of healthcare costs," said Dr. Rick Ngo of Houston.

Jolene Hall and her family have been deeply affected with the disease and by showing up today she is hoping lawmakers can match a face with cancer.

"I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and I've never been a smoker," said Hall.

Now with funding for these programs in the hands of lawmakers, The Cancer Action Network can only wait, but they do wish to send a message to those fighting the disease.

"Find what's important to you and focus on that, cancer is part of who i am but it doesn't define me," said Konopczyk.

"Continue to have hope don't give up and upbeat feelings, happiness, joy in all circumstances," said Hall.

House Bill 1874 for palliative care, or focusing on quality of life, is the only "bill" the group has authored, but they say they plan on fighting to get the tobacco prevention funding and C-PRIT bills on the floor soon.