I’ve had a girl crush on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for a long time, in my own geeky political mom sort of way. She’s more than just one of 435 in Congress — she’s a major player on Capitol Hill and really knows how to bring in the money for the Democratic party, even though she’s only been in Washington for less than five years.
No one had any idea that Schultz, a mother of three, had been fighting some serious medical battles until yesterday when she announced her proposed legislation called the EARLY Act — Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young — to make sure that young women know that breast cancer, and other “female” cancers, don’t just strike when you’re over 40.
In announcing the new legislation, Wasserman also revealed that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2007 after a breast self-exam and underwent seven major surgeries in 2008 to deal with that illness. Given how much she was on the scene in helping Hillary Clinton, then Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2008, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
EARLY is a relatively small program in terms of dollars — only $9 million a year (compared to those billions being tossed about for economic recovery) — to teach younger women not only about the warning signs of breast cancer, but also about the genetic testing that’s available for early screening. EARLY would focus on providing information to groups that see a higher incidence of early cancers, such as African America and Jewish women.
Schultz’s announcement of legislation that would actually do something to help women is why I believe it’s more important that women be in positions of power than spending a lot of time on things like the White House Council on Women and Girls. Efforts like the Council are nice and I hope something productive will come out of it, but real change happens when women are in positions to become power players who can move directly past all the studies and reports and self-reflections and proceed directly to “Go” to make things happen now, not later.
Some of the most important words about the EARLY legislation came from Schultz’s official statement about the Act:
“Some people might say I was lucky. While I certainly was fortunate enough to have access to good health care, I didn’t find my tumor early because of luck. I found my tumor early because of knowledge and awareness. I knew that I should perform breast self-exams, and I was aware of what my body was supposed to feel like. We need to ensure that every young woman in America can rely on more than luck. Their survival depends on it.”
I also have a little something for you over at PunditMom Reviews. If you want some discount tickets to see some speakers who will help you find your inner pundit, head on over to my review blog and help yourself!