Our Story

hanna and Zahara in color jpegWhat is Cancer Families for Affordable Medicine?

Cancer Families for Affordable Medicine is an organization of cancer patients, survivors, loved ones, health care professionals, and allies who are pushing for affordable cancer medicines.

Cancer affects us all in different ways, but it also unites us. Many cancer patients know the frustration of high co-pays and deductibles, exorbitantly priced drugs, and battles with insurance companies for approval of necessary treatments. We know that having to bear those burdens while struggling to stay alive is one of the harsh realities of cancer. We know that cancer affects families, friends, and communities, not just the person in treatment. Together we strive to ensure cancer patients have better access to affordable life-saving medicines.

Our current campaign is to educate Members of the U.S. Congress about the dangers of the NAFTA renegotiations for people with cancer. Changes to NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – could lock in policies that keep prices high, create barriers to access, and give incentives for drug companies to engage in legal maneuvers instead of investing in innovative life saving medicines.

Cancer Families for Affordable Medicine is focused on advocacy in the U.S., but we coordinate with allies around the world who are concerned about making cancer treatment affordable. Policies limiting access to medicine would have an especially devastating effect in low-income communities in Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

Our Story, Our Leadership

Cancer Families for Affordable Medicine was founded by Zahara Heckscher and Hannah Lyon in 2016, with the support of allies in other organizations working for affordable medicine and against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Hannah saw Zahara on Democracy Now talking about the TPP, and she reached out to get involved. They decided to work together to spread the word about the threat of the TPP for access to medicine for cancer patients. As part of their effort to spread the word, they attended a protest together on World Cancer Day in Washington, DC. where they got arrested at the Headquarters of PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to CancerFam and countless out organizations who brought the TPP’s threats to medicine to the forefront, by the time the 2016 presidential election was underway, public opinion was anti-TPP and ultimately the U.S. pulled out of TPP negotiations. Read more here.

Supporters of our Indiegogo Campaign, the Cancer Patients Legal Defense and Advocacy Fund, made this organization and website possible. ( Support our Indiegogo Campaign).

Zahara and Max ready to climb
Zahara and Son Max

Zahara Heckscher lived with years with advanced breast cancer. As a mom and writer living in Washington, DC, she was a fierce activist for social justice. In the fall of 2015, when she found out that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would threaten patient access to cancer medicines, she decided to put her body on the line to spread the word. She was arrested at the Atlanta TPP negotiations. Zahara passed away in February 2018 at the age of 53. Her work lives on.
Hear Zahara explain her arrest and why she cares about the TPP.

Hannah in San Francisco-6

Hannah Lyon was shocked to learn that at the age of 26 she had advanced cervical cancer. After participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial she decided to advocate so that innovative treatments such as hers are accessible to everyone. Hannah is a California resident who now feels at home in Washington D.C. with her February 2016 arrest protesting the TPP and resulting court dates.
Read Hannah’s Op Ed about the TPP.