Family jpg
Maurice, Kandice and their daughter Ava.

Well and Watching From the White House

A little under a year ago Maurice Barron wrote a story for the Irish Echo about his daughter Ava, and how she had become part of the Biden administration's plan to significantly reduce deaths from cancer.

Maurice and his wife Kandice had been in the White House for the moonshot launch, a guest of the president and first lady.

On Tuesday evening, Maurice and Kandice were in the gallery during President Biden's State of the Union address.

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As the camera rested on their smiling faces the president took up their story.

Here's what he said.

"Last year Jill and I re-ignited the Cancer Moonshot that President Obama asked me to lead in our Administration.

"Our goal is to cut the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years. Turn more cancers from death sentences into treatable diseases. And provide more support for patients and families. It’s personal for so many of us.

"Joining us are Maurice and Kandice, an Irishman and a daughter of immigrants from Panama. They met and fell in love in New York City and got married in the same chapel as Jill and I did. Kindred spirits.

"He wrote us a letter about their little daughter Ava. She was just a year old when she was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer.

"26 blood transfusions. 11 rounds of radiation. 8 rounds of chemo. 1 kidney removed. A 5% survival rate.

"He wrote how in the darkest moments he thought, 'if she goes, I can’t stay.' Jill and I understand, like so many of you.

"They read how Jill described our family’s cancer journey and how we tried to steal moments of joy where you can. For them, that glimmer of joy was a half-smile from their baby girl. It meant everything. They never gave up hope.

"Ava never gave up hope. She turns four next month. They just found out that Ava beat the odds and is on her way to being cancer free, and she’s watching from the White House tonight.

"For the lives we can save and for the lives we have lost, let this be a truly American moment that rallies the country and the world together and proves that we can do big things."

The president now turned to the battle against HIV/AIDS. Another gallery guest was Bono. He was present because of his role in this effort which took flight during the George W Bush administration when singer and president joined forces.

Said President Biden as the camera picked out the U2 man in the gallery. 

"Twenty years ago, under the leadership of President Bush and countless advocates and champions, we undertook a bipartisan effort through PEPFAR to transform the global fight against HIV/AIDS. It’s been a huge success.

"I believe we can do the same with cancer. Let’s end cancer as we know it and cure some cancers once and for all. There’s one reason why we’re able to do all of these things: our democracy itself.

"It’s the most fundamental thing of all. With democracy, everything is possible. Without it, nothing is."

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