Desperate Housewife Steps Up for Breast Cancer Patients

Cross clarifies that she wasn't seeking out a public advocacy role for breast cancer, but that when Lifetime called her, "It was just something I couldn't say no to, especially with the writer's strike and having time to do this," Cross said. "It's like, what's the downside? I have to go do this."

Getting the word out

Lifetime began gathering signatures and raising awareness about the problem of "drive-through" mastectomies in 1995, with public service announcements from journalist and cancer survivor Linda Ellerbee. It established a Web site,, where viewers can add their names to the petition to ban the practice.

"Within six months, we had about 17,000 signatures, which at the time, was a fairly significant number," said Meredith Wagner, executive vice president of public affairs for Lifetime.

Wagner explains that the following year, DeLauro introduced the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act in Congress.

DeLauro said she first heard about "drive-through" mastectomies when Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a Connecticut surgeon, came to her New Haven office in 1996 and asked her for help.

"She said, 'I'm fighting every single day with insurance companies. I can't get them to allow women to stay in the hospital for a period of time so that they can actually recover,' DeLauro said. "And she said, 'Do you think we can do something about it?' and I said, 'Yeah we can do something about it.'

Wagner announced that in 12 years, they have collected some 20 million signatures for the online petition.

"We feel a huge responsibility to our viewers; that we have to make this bill a reality," she said.

The Next Step

With continued promotion of the online petition and with Cross' new public service spot airing on Lifetime starting in the coming weeks, lawmakers and Lifetime hope that their message will hit home.

DeLauro intends to use the signatures on the Lifetime's petition to persuade members of Congress who are not yet supporting the bill. "[We can] take those names - because they're aggregated by district - and get them to members of Congress to say, 'These are your folks,'" she said.

DeLauro and Cross are both optimistic that this is the year that progress will be made on this bill.

"This year we have 204 bipartisan co-sponsors. We need 218 and I believe we will get 218 in the next few weeks," DeLauro said. "We make great strides but it's not, we're not there yet."

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