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New bill aims to save Indiana children from cancer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Heather Garvey lost her 9-year-old son, Mason, to cancer in 2020. While she says his fight may be over, hers is not, as she is pushing for Indiana to become a trailblazer in childhood cancer research through House Bill 1314.

“They call the gold standard of care, which is actually kind of laughable. The gold standard of care for most children are treatments that are 40 plus years old,” Garvey explained.

According to data from the American Childhood Cancer Organization (AACO), there are only six states that allocate money in their cancer research. Indiana is not one of them.

“House Bill 1314 would set up a framework to to be able to bolster this effort to give more focus on treating and curing,” said Indiana House Representative Ryan Lauer, who authored the bill. “It’s a budget year, and it’s always a challenge.” 

The bill would dedicate $1 million a year towards childhood cancer research. Something Garvey says is more than necessary in the state.

“[Mason] was declared no evidence of disease. We rang the bell and about six very short weeks later, his cancer returned,” he said.

There have only been six new cancer drugs in the past 20 years for children according to the AACO. In comparison, there have been over 200 new cancer drugs made for adults.

Garvey says while Indiana has made progress by the Department of Health incorporating childhood cancer into the Indiana cancer plan for the first time in the state’s history. Still, she says there is more work to be done.

 “We would be driving back from Riley. I’d be headed home and [Mason would] say, Mom, I have basketball practice. What are you doing? I need to go to basketball. So he did not let cancer define him,” Garvey said. “If we can get this bill to pass that can change the narrative for other families.”

Garvey says 150 people have already signed letters in support of House Bill 1314. She is encouraging others to do the same.

She also asked Hoosiers to call their local representatives to push for change as well and attend the Indiana Advocacy Day on Feb. 15. The event will be at the Indiana Statehouse from 1-4 p.m.