Debbie, your strength and courage reach further than you know. You give us hope and you’ve turned your pain into purpose and changed the lives of countless people, especially women, across the country. Thank you for inviting me to join you today.
Secretary McDonough, thank you for joining us today. Denis, you have been a leader in our fight to support veterans and their families who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Thank you for making the VA a powerful leader in the Biden Cancer Moonshot and for working with the National Cancer Institute to help ensure that all cancer survivors can receive the care they need.
Hidden in crowds – scattered throughout workplaces, and grocery stores, and parks – there is a fellowship of people who’ve lost sons and daughters.
To the uninitiated, we look normal, average, whole. But like a secret handshake, I can spot them – by the sadness that rests at the corner of their smiles. By the curve of their shoulders, as if they can still feel the small arms of a child wrapping around their neck.
I meet them everywhere I go. And though we are strangers, we know untellable truths about one another: That we will spend the rest of our lives longing to see a face that’s gone forever – and that when they left our world, they took a light inside of us with them.
Still, we have discovered moments of grace too. Somehow, against all odds, we rise from the floor. We find a fortitude that we didn’t know we had – and we reach out for help. We realize that we’re not alone.
When Joe and I lost our son Beau to brain cancer, we decided to turn our pain into purpose by helping other families like ours. We wanted to stop other parents – and siblings and spouses and children – from having to know this terrible loss.
Everyone in this room knows someone who has wrestled with this disease, maybe even lost someone to it.
Cancer doesn’t care who you vote for. It’s not a red or a blue issue. It’s a human one. And it takes all of us to stop it.
It’s an honor to be here with all of you this morning for this important summit on survivorship.
Over the past few years as First Lady, I’ve met with patients and families, health care workers and researchers to hear what’s working and what isn’t. And when I brought their stories back to the White House, Joe listened and we got to work.
We reignited the Biden Cancer Moonshot – our White House initiative to build a world where cancer is not a death sentence. Where we stop cancer before it starts. Where we invest in innovative research and help patients and their families navigate this journey. Where we catch it early and help people live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Since I joined Debbie here in South Florida almost exactly a year ago, the Biden Cancer Moonshot has made tremendous progress.
Here are two examples of that progress:
Joe has expanded the number of patient navigation grants and he worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to propose a new rule that, when finalized next month, will allow Medicare to pay for patient navigation services. We’re also working with the private sector to bring these services to more people in more places.
And Joe’s putting American innovation to work to help patients get better treatments and better cures.
He established ARPA-H, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health – a new agency focused on creating the kinds of health breakthroughs in cancer and other diseases that will change our world.
Already, ARPA-H is providing over $330 million to research teams around the country – accelerating groundbreaking projects that are developing new types of immunotherapies that can attack solid tumors, inventing new tools that will allow surgeons to remove tumors with more accuracy, and transforming how we treat ovarian and colorectal cancers.
Through the Biden Cancer Moonshot, we will end cancer as we know it. And that means a world filled with more survivors.
That’s why Debbie’s work on cancer survivorship is important and urgent.
Last month, ahead of this summit, I visited the Fred Hutch Center in Seattle, where they are doing incredible work on survivorship. There, I saw how the Department of Defense is funding research to prevent breast cancer from recurring and spreading, and discover how to treat it if it does.
And, I heard about the unique health challenges that childhood cancer survivors experience, as well as efforts by researchers to find treatments with fewer side effects, to improve their quality of life well into adulthood.
And, President Biden reauthorized the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, to bolster the National Cancer Institute’s efforts to conduct and support pediatric cancer survivorship research.
We have to keep going. Because of all the things cancer steals from us, time is the cruelest – the days spent in treatment or surgery, anniversaries and holidays missed, pages of photo albums unfilled.
Cancer doesn’t stop stealing time when you’re declared “cancer free.” Side effects from treatment linger through remission. And so does the anxiety that begins long before every screening, worried you might hear that you have cancer. Again.
We can’t afford to wait another minute for better care, better treatments, or better cures.
That’s the reason we’re all here. That’s why I’m asking you to lean in just a little more, to push just a little harder – for all the families touched by cancer across the country that are in a race against time.
This work gives those families the power to hold on to hope just a little longer – because this could change their lives.
That is the urgency of now.
For Joe and me – for Debbie – this is the mission of our lives.
And together, we will make it so the word cancer loses its power, so fewer families know the pain of losing a loved one to this disease.