Des Moines Lung Cancer Advocate Meets with Congress to Discuss Lifesaving Research, Public Health Infrastructure and Access to Quality Healthcare

Melissa Garza will join volunteers from across America to support lung cancer patients everywhere

Des Moines resident Melissa Garza lost her father and mother to lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), respectively. Now, she will meet with her members of Congress and explain why investments in public health, research funding and quality, affordable healthcare are important to her during the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE Advocacy Day on April 6, 2022. 

“I was all of 38 years old, and had watched not one, but both parents suffer and pass away from smoking and the diseases it causes,” said Garza.

Growing up with a father who worked as a coal miner, and then as a farmer of tobacco on their very modest land in the deep hills of Tennessee, Garza’s mom (Mable Neu) had a lifelong struggle with tobacco use. She was diagnosed with COPD at the age of 45. At 61 years-old, she passed away. Garza’s dad (Patrick Neu) smoked his entire life, but after his wife died, he decided to finally quit, and be successful, after multiple attempts and setbacks over his life. In 2010, he found out he had non-small cell lung cancer and COPD. The following year he lost his life, three days before his 70th birthday.

As a part of the nationwide event, Garza will join more than 50 people across the country who have been impacted by lung cancer to advocate for $49 billion in research funding for the National Institutes of Health, $11 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to protect expanded access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 Advocacy Day will be conducted virtually to allow this important message to be heard while also protecting the health and safety of patients and caregivers. During the virtual Advocacy Day, Garza will speak with Senator Charles Grassley’s office, Senator Joni Ernst’s office and Representative Cynthia Axne’s office to share her personal experience of losing her parents to lung cancer and COPD.

It is estimated that in 2022 alone, there will be 2,530 people in Iowa diagnosed with lung cancer, but there is hope. More people than ever are surviving lung cancer, in part because patients and caregivers are urging their policymakers to take action. That’s why Garza is sharing her story with lawmakers and others — so that more can be done to help lung cancer patients and their caregivers throughout the United States and in Iowa.

Garza encourages others in Iowa to advocate for lung cancer research and healthcare protections by contacting their members of Congress at Learn more about Garza’s story and the LUNG FORCE initiative at

For more information, contact:

Dana Kauffman
[email protected]

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