A group of cancer-fighting crusaders rolled into Lawrence on a tour bus Thursday morning, and the KU Shenk Sports Complex was their battleground.
The American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network is sponsoring a six-month nationwide bus tour urging people to fight cancer with the power of their voices and pens. The organization is using the Fight Back Express to call attention to the role politicians play in funding cancer research and policymaking.
"This is terribly important due to the fact that 1,500 people a day in our nation die of cancer," said Rita Jones, a volunteer traveling throughout Kansas with the bus. "There are so many different types of cancer that we need to find the cure for so that people do not have to hear those words, 'You have cancer.' And so, future generations do not have to live with that."
Cancer survivors and supporters gathered to sign the bus and hear the stories of survivors.
"Survivors are in awe that the country would do this as a token of appreciation for them because survivors are who we do this for," Jones said. "When you sign the bus and you think about what all these names represent, it gets tugging on your heartstrings."
The bus has been covered with shrink-wrap six times to accommodate all the signatures. It has traveled more than 25,000 miles through 47 states. Missouri is the last state it will drive through before heading to Washington, D.C., where the signatures will be on display.
Andrew Spaeth, a KU graduate student, received a cancer diagnosis at the age of 17 and said his family had a difficult time paying his $100,000 medical bills. Spaeth believes the tour is essential because it increases cancer awareness and makes it a national priority.
"A lot of times it gets pushed to the back burners because we have our daily lives to go through, so it's important we keep having reminders and keep it in the public mind," he said.
Spaeth hopes that once the bus arrives in Washington and the shrink-wrap is on display that politicians will act.
"I'm hoping they actually do something," he said. "A lot of politicians talk. Especially during election season, there's a lot of talk. I'd really like to see action."