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Breast cancer survivors push for better health care and treatment

RICHMOND, Va. -- Breast cancer survivors met with Virginia state lawmakers Wednesday to push for better health care and treatment as part of Breast Cancer Advocacy Day. The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation organized the event at the General Assembly.

Salud Astruc is a breast cancer survivor and a member of the group. She experienced first-hand the challenges of dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

"I was diagnosed in December of 2014 and I had a double mastectomy," Astruc explained. "It's not an easy path and not everybody has the tools in their hands to be able to talk to different doctors and look at protocols and what your options are."

She said that's why she -- and many other survivors -- came out to lobby. They want to make sure all women with breast cancer have access to care and that Virginia funds research to help prevent more women from getting the disease.

"It's very important to stay active in what is going on in your state level or national level because that's where a lot of the rules are written about what kind of care we're going to be able to get and how affordable is it? And how accessible is it," Astruc said.

Susan Siegel, also a breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed in 2007. She lost her sister and cousin to the disease.

"There should've been no reason for me to get it because we know how prevalent it was in my family," said Siegel. "I had six surgeries in 14 months."

Siegel said a major concern will be what happens with the affordable care act. She said when she was diagnosed, she didn't leave her job because she feared she wouldn't have been able get health insurance again or she would've had to pay more since she had a pre-existing condition.

"We should be able to live our lives as we want to live our lives and not so we can have health insurance and coverage," said Siegel.

Delegate Nick Rush, a Republican representing the 7th District of Virginia, said supporting breast cancer patients was very important to him.

"There's not a family in Virginia that hasn't been touched by cancer. There's not a delegate that hasn't been personally touched by cancer, so we're very aware and very supportive of these efforts in the budget," he said. "When you do replace the ACA you have to make sure you have pre-existing conditions coverage, and I don't think we'll have a plan that doesn't have that."

The VBCF also lobbied for protection of and improvements to Medicaid, access to palliative care and caregiver support, and monitoring access to medications.

According to members, the ultimate goal is to find a cure.

"We want to work to make sure we keep cancer from metastasizing and hopefully eradicate it at some point," said Siegel.

Find out more about the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation.