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Write every day: How to advocate for cancer care

So many incredible people have asked me what they can do to help me through this time. I’m so grateful for the love and support and I know I will need a lot of it in the year ahead. Today, here’s what would help most:

– Vote on November 3rd to protect healthcare and the environment

– Write to your representatives—federal, state, and local—to advocate for better access to early health screening

– Call your doctor to get your annual physical and discuss the screenings you should get

– If you’re a woman 40 or older and haven’t had a mammogram in the past 12 months, please make an appointment to get one. It could save your life, just like it did mine.❤️

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If you’re wondering what to say in a letter to your reps, this is the letter I wrote to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday.

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I have appreciated all you’ve continued to do to keep New York safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now I’m especially appreciative because on Monday, October 5th I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. I’m 44 years old and this was my first routine mammogram. I have no symptoms and had no idea anything was wrong until I was screened.

Within 100 hours, I went from diagnosis to care plan with a top-notch medical team at NYU Langone. Exemplifying New York Tough, I’ve chosen to have the most extensive surgery—a double mastectomy with reconstruction—so I don’t give cancer anywhere to hide.

Despite a cancer diagnosis during breast cancer awareness month in the middle of a global health pandemic and less than a month before the most critical election in modern history, I’m lucky. I was able to get an appointment to be screened despite COVID. I have insurance that I buy through the NY Health exchange because I run my own business, and I have access to the best medical care that exists. Every person going through cancer should have what I have. Most don’t, and that has to change.

I also advocated with my doctor for a mammogram before one was due. The CDC and and American Cancer Society guidelines recommend mammograms starting at age 45 for women of average risk. If I had waited a year, who knows where I would have been by then. And sadly, that’s where so many people find themselves. We can change that, and we must.

I’m writing to you to find out how I can assist in the following:

Change the guideline for routine mammograms from 45 to 40 in New York State and make them easier to get

– 4 years ago, the CDC and the ACS changed the guideline from 40 to 45. I have read the medical research on why this decision was made. Given my own personal circumstances, I believe that New York should issue its own recommendation of age 40. Though people who work in cancer care adamantly opposed the change to 45, it was made anyway. This has put thousands of young women like me at risk of having their cancer undetected until a much later stage.

– Additionally, the process to get a mammogram is absurd. You have to get a prescription to a screening center from your doctor. In my case, my insurance changed in January and my former doctor doesn’t take my current insurance. So I had to find a new doctor, which can be a difficult process in New York, to get a prescription in order to get a mammogram. I was extremely lucky that I got a referral from a friend, could get an appointment with a doctor who was accepting new patients, and doctors’ offices finally opened again now that the COVID numbers have dropped. A woman should not have to jump through this many hoops and pray for good luck in order to take care of her health. We should be able to walk into any screening center, present our insurance card, and get a screening once per year. The process should be as routine as getting a flu shot because our lives depend on these screenings.

Mitigating climate change to reduce the impact of cancer

– Every two minutes, a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer. Most of them have no family history of the disease and their cancer is environmentally-driven. We are surrounded by toxicity in our air, water, soil, food, and consumer products, and most of it is difficult at best for any of us to escape. We are not apart from nature; we are a part of nature. We need policies that show we understand that.

As a biomimicry scientist and product developer, I’m determined to help New York City become the healthiest and most sustainable city in the world. I know this is a goal you also believe in and I’m hoping there’s a way I can be a part of your broader plan for New York City and the state as a whole.

Again, thank you for your leadership and commitment to the people of New York. I don’t know what we would have done without you at this time. When there is so much to worry about in the world, I’m grateful that in New York we’re taking care of each other by being smart, united, disciplined, and loving.

I look forward to hearing from you or a member of your team, and helping make New York healthier for all people.

Ever upward,
Christa Avampato

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