It was Christmas Eve just over a year ago when a seven-year-old boy from Jerseyville, who had touched my heart with his spirit, determination, and kindness for others, lost his battle with brain cancer. Despite his own pain and struggle, Jonny Wade’s wish was to ensure no other kid has to have cancer. Now, this is my mission in Congress.
Just weeks after his passing, Jonny’s parents, Kim and Jon, and his twin brother Jacky joined me at the State of the Union to carry on Jonny’s mission and raise awareness about pediatric cancer research. My office’s campaign began by delivering a Team Jonny wristband to every member of Congress with a letter asking them to wear it during President Obama’s last State of the Union address. By the end of the night, nearly every member of Congress knew Jonny’s story and more than 100 participated by wearing his wristband.
During the address, President Obama spoke about a ‘Cancer Moonshot’ and just a few weeks ago, Congress came together to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which increases funding for research and development with the goal of eradicating cancer within five years. Additionally, this bill, which is now law, breaks through government red tape to accelerate life-saving and life-improving medical treatments for not just those battling cancer but many other illnesses.
The 21st Century Cures Act, which is fully paid-for, advances Precision Medicine and invests in research to understand and fight Alzheimer’s, a disease impacting one out of every nine seniors. Included in this law, is mental health reform legislation passed by the House earlier this year to completely change the way we treat mental illness in this country. Whether it’s another suicide or mass killing, we’re reminded each and every time that our country is facing a mental health crisis that we cannot afford to ignore. These reforms aim to overhaul the system so people have access to the help they need before it’s too late.
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While the next Congress and president has much more work to do, passing this monumental law should not be forgotten. As someone whose family has both won and lost battles with cancer, this holiday season I can only think of the millions of families the 21st Century Cures Act has the potential to help. A new year means another opportunity to fight for Jonny’s wish that no other kid ever has to have cancer.
Rodney Davis has represented Illinois’ 13th congressional district since 2013.