Judith Giuliani was the first of two spouses of presidential candidates to speak at the conference, sponsored by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. A registered nurse, she described the phone call her husband received after undergoing a biopsy in 2000 when he was mayor of New York.
"From the moment a patient hears the word cancer ... your ears are hearing through a different filter," she said. "Rudy, of course, as we all know, is one of the smartest guys around, but when he was first told that his diagnosis ... was positive, I watched his face as he said, 'Oh, wow. Positive. Positive is good right?"'
"Even for someone as intelligent as my husband is, it took a few moments for him to filter through that process and realize that in this unfortunate case, positive was not good," she said.
Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of Democratic U.S. Rep. of Ohio, also spoke at the conference. She promoted her husband's single-payer health care plan and compared the ease and affordability of the health care she enjoyed in her home country of England to the United States.
"We really have an affordable health care system, and I don't see why America is afflicted with a system where we have insurance companies who are in business to make money, not provide health care," she said to strong applause.
In a radio ad running in New Hampshire, Giuliani has criticized England's health care system, noting the country's lower survival rate for prostate cancer. But the American Cancer Society says that survival rates are actually higher and that it's misleading to compare the two countries because doctors in the two countries have different approaches.
Giuliani, a Republican, often mentions that his wife's background as a nurse helped him through his successful cancer treatment. On Tuesday, she said they were fortunate to survive the experience together and would both be strongly committed to funding cancer research if he becomes president.
Judith Giuliani said her husband's administration promoted free breast cancer screenings in New York and launched a $12 million, 20-year cancer study involving 300,000 New Yorkers.
"I can assure you, when Rudy is president, you will have two allies in the White House," she said. "This will be a priority to us."
Elizabeth Kucinich, who said three of her relatives are breast cancer survivors and another recently began treatment, said her husband's administration would focus on research into possible environmental causes of cancer.
"Before we get to a cure, I'd like to know why cancer is now so rampant," she said. "Why cancer in general is spreading through society, not only through the human species, but the animal kingdom."
"In a Kucinich White House, we'd have a lot of research going on into the environmental factors - aerial spraying, domestic chemicals," she said. "Because I really feel there are environmental factors that are being neglected."
The conference highlighted the Komen organization's "I Vote for the Cure" campaign. Through that campaign, the group is urging voters to press the candidates to support more research, free screening and equal access to treatment for breast cancer patients.
Hala Moddelmog, a five-year breast cancer survivor and president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, noted that there are 2.4 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, and hundreds of thousands of people who have participated in the group's fundraising races and other activities.
"We think we have a little machine here, a mini-union that can really sway votes," she said.
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