Opinion: Reach out to our state legislators

Jan 15, 2023
To the Editor:
John Lewis, the late Congressman and Civil Rights hero, said many incredibly wise things and among them was, "If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.” Those are words to live by and words to help prevent others from dying due to lack of action. I write to urge you to please contact our State Senators and Representatives and ask them to please co-sponsor An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer - Senate Docket #264 & House Docket #393. 
I implore Dartmouth Week readers to reach out especially to State Sen. Mark Montigny and State Rep. Christopher Markey, but please do not feel limited to only those who represent our town. I have already reached out to the entire membership of the 193rd General Court and perhaps you also may be motivated to send emails to the 40 Senators and 160 Representatives. An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer was originally filed in the previous legislative session and earned 77 co-sponsors, including both Rep. Markey and Sen. Montigny. Yet, we cannot assume that any legislator will co-sponsor either SD.264 or HD.393 in 2023. Therefore, as many constituents as possible need to ask our elected officials for their continued support. Indeed, every legislator in Greater New Bedford, and most from across the SouthCoast, were co-sponsors in the 2021-2022 session, and I hope and pray that they will be once again. Last time, An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer was favorably reported by the Joint Committee on Public Health but stalled in the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in a legislative logjam near the end of the session. Now, we have a new opportunity to help fight cancer and hopefully save lives!  
An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer (HD.393/SD.264) is a logical development of the Special Legislative Commission to Study Pancreatic Cancer in order to advance our recommendations. I served as the Chair of the aforementioned Pancreatic Cancer Study Commission. The Boston affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network of Massachusetts support the legislation, and other members of both served on the Study Commission. ACSCAN MA assisted me in drafting the original legislation.  
Pancreatic cancer is often called the toughest cancer and it is the second deadliest form of cancer in Massachusetts, behind only lung cancer. Per the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1,400 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in our state in 2023 and 1,120 are estimated to die in the Bay State this year. Nationally, pancreatic cancer is the third deadliest form of cancer, behind only lung and colorectal cancers with estimates of 64,050 new cases and 50,550 deaths. Over 70% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within the first year of diagnosis. Just this week the American Cancer Society announced that the 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer increased 1% to 12%, however that is still among the lowest of all major cancers. The vague symptoms of pancreatic cancer, along with its location in the body, make early detection extremely difficult and only 20% of pancreatic cancers may have a surgical option. While that recent small increase is absolutely a wonderful reason to celebrate, we can, and we must do more as a Commonwealth!    
Advocacy and activism to fight pancreatic cancer through legislative engagement is of grave importance to me as my father, Norman Cordeiro of Dartmouth, died on March 30, 2014, from the disease at the age of 66. My dad underwent a failed Whipple Procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital before dying at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford. He survived six months and twelve days following his diagnosis. It is my profound and abiding hope that through An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer (HD.393/SD.264) we in Massachusetts, blessed with the greatest hospitals on Earth, will play a vital role in one day defeating pancreatic cancer.
Please reach out to our state legislators and ask them to co-sponsor An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer - Senate Docket #264 & House Docket #393. I thank you in advance for your support.  
I began this Letter to the Editor invoking Congressman John Lewis, who also famously stated “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” John Lewis died of pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020.
Brock N. Cordeiro,