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Oregon's cancer awareness plates modeled after Washington's

Although still a freshman legislator, state Rep. Susan McLain has already helped make a positive mark on the state of Oregon and has demonstrated the benefits of bipartisanship.

Earlier this year, the Forest Grove Democrat teamed up with fellow state Rep. Bill Kennemer, a Republican from Canby, to co-author legislation to create a new specialty license plate that will raise funds for cancer research and awareness.

Their bill — House Bill 2570 — was signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown on Aug. 12.

“We are working on the design and the run (deciding how many of the new plates will be produced at first) of the plates,” McLain said. “The new plate will be ready sometime in the fall. It’s exciting.”

“We’re eager to get it out there,” Kennemer said. “And we’re thankful to the legislators and the governor for supporting it.”

Kennemer added that he appreciated the bipartisan nature of the legislation and McLain’s work on behalf of the bill.

“She was a good partner,” Kennemer said. “It was a tough sell to the bureaucracy, but not to the members.”

Gov. Kate Brown said she believes the new cancer awareness license plate will be beneficial to the state of Oregon.

“The breast cancer awareness license plate will allow Oregonians to get involved by raising money for early detection of breast and cervical cancers,” Brown said on Tuesday. “I appreciate the Legislature’s work on this important bill.”

Proceeds from sales of the new plate will go to the Oregon Health Authority to support early detection and prevention programs for breast and cervical cancers, and the legislators believe the license plate has the potential to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help battle cancer.

“It will add money to the pot for cancer research,” Kennemer said.

Both McLain and Kennemer have been directly impacted by cancer, and that was part of their motivation in pursuing legislation to create the specialty license plate to help fight the disease.

McLain’s husband, Cliff, died from cancer in 2009, and Kennemer’s first wife, Sherran, died from breast cancer about 25 years ago.

On Jan. 1, 2015, the state of Washington unveiled a new cancer awareness license plate that displays a view of Mount Rainier with a pink ribbon and pink sky and the wording “Early detection saves lives,” and McLain pointed out that Oregon’s specialty plate will be similar.

“Ours will also say ‘Early detection saves lives,’ and will have a pink ribbon,” McLain explained. “That’s a message that’s working, and we wanted to stick with that main theme. But instead of their mountain, we’re going to feature Mount Hood.”

The Susan G. Komen Foundation and the American Cancer Society were among the organizations lining up to support HB 2570, and McLain said that factor played a role in considering the design.

“We talked to the Susan G. Komen organization,” McLain said. “They work in Washington and Oregon, and they really liked the Washington plate, so keeping the same message made sense to us.”

According to the American Cancer Society, Oregon has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the nation, and early detection makes a huge difference in the survival rates for cancer victims. With early diagnosis and treatment, the survival rate for women is close to 90 percent. But in cases without early detection, the survival rate drops to around 70 percent.

“That’s what makes this special. This can save a lot of lives,” said Kennemer. “It’s a reminder to people to get checked. The biggest problem is people not getting checked early. With early detection, people can almost certainly be cured. That makes this license plate important.”

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