Newington Man Plans To Join Trip To Lobby In Fight Against Cancer

Special to The Courant
Man will carry memory of his wife to D.C. to lobby for funding in the fight against cancer.

NEWINGTON -- For Tom Boccaccio, cancer is deeply personal.

Almost six years ago, his beloved wife Maureen died of adrenal cancer, a rare form of the disease that strikes the adrenal glands.

"We were married for 45 years," said Boccaccio, fighting back tears as he recalls her. "I loved her dearly."

Now, Boccaccio, a retired Wethersfield police officer and state corrections officer, is fighting back. He is among six Connecticut residents who will be in Washington D. C. Tuesday for the American Cancer Society Action Network's Leadership Summit and Lobby Day.

Boccaccio and his fellow Nutmeggers will be among 600 cancer survivors, volunteers and staff from all 50 states lobbying Congress that day on cancer-related issues, spokeswoman Amber Hillman said.

"I decided you can be part of the problem or part of the answer," Boccaccio said, wearing an American Cancer Society T-shirt and sitting on the couch of his tidy Newington home. "I chose to be part of the answer. I hope we can make a difference."

Boccaccio said he is scheduled to meet with U. S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, or his staff. He also expects to take part in meetings with U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, and other congressmen.

"The best thing for Congress is to get actively involved, to make it (fighting cancer) a priority across the board," he said. "If we can get our congressional people on board, we're obviously going to be in the right direction."

The American Cancer Society Action Network, an arm of the American Cancer Society, holds its Leadership and Summit Day every year, Hillman said. The network chose Boccaccio to go to Washington because of his ability to inspire, said Natalie Cullen, the group's grassroots manager for Connecticut.

"He has spoken at many different events and always captivates the crowd," Cullen said. "He has an incredible ability to tell his story in a way that motivates others to take action."

Top priorities for the network this year include more funding for research and prevention; improving the quality of life of cancer patients and easing access to colorectal cancer screenings, Hillman said.

Boccaccio, 69, said he volunteered with the American Cancer Society before his wife contracted the disease. He is deeply grateful for the assistance and support the group provided during the eight years of her illness.

"The last year was really terrible, but Hartford Hospital and the American Cancer Society were great," he said.

After his wife died, Boccaccio said he felt an urgency to get even more involved. He estimated that he volunteers 12 to 15 hours a week for the society.

Boccaccio is quick with sobering statistics: 1.6 million Americans will get cancer this year, of whom 585,000 will eventually die of the disease; one of every two men and one of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.

"That is really kind of unacceptable," Boccaccio said.

He is determined to do all he can to vanquish the disease.

"The greatest day of my life is when the American Cancer Society is no longer a cancer-fighting organization," Boccaccio said. "They can then turn their work to other diseases."

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
72°