The co-chairs of Oklahoma’s Cancer Caucus said the loss of Sen. Robert M. Kerr underscores the need to raise awareness about cancer and use every resource possible to fight the deadly disease.
The organization was formed last June making Oklahoma only the third state in the nation to have an official caucus to develop and pass legislation dealing with cancer research, prevention and treatment. Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, are co-chairs of the Caucus.
“Senator Kerr’s passing is devastating and is a painful reminder of how no one is immune to this terrible disease. In fact in the last four years we’ve lost three members, including Senator Larry Dickerson, my husband Keith and Senate Staffer Ron Henderson, to cancer,” said Leftwich. “It’s hit our Senate family hard—but we are by no means alone. Cancer impacts almost every family in our state sooner or later.”
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the number one health concern among Oklahomans. It was estimated that during 2005 more than 18,400 Oklahomans would be diagnosed with cancer and more than 7,600 would die as a result.
Rep. Steele agreed the latest loss in the State Legislature underscored the need for the Cancer Caucus.
“Bob Kerr was deeply respected in both chambers of the Legislature and his passing is a tremendous loss. I think it really drives home the need for a Cancer Caucus to bring people together in a productive way to do everything we can to fight this disease. It would be a tremendous tribute to Senator Kerr,” Steele said.
Pat Marshall, State Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society, said the organization has a goal of eliminating suffering and death due to cancer by the year 2015.
“It is an ambitious goal—but one we feel can be achieved, especially through the efforts of organizations such as Oklahoma’s Cancer Caucus. I know that Senator Kerr had hoped to be a part of that effort. It is an honor to continue the fight against cancer in his memory,” Marshall said.