09/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Letter to Senator Dodd Following His Cancer Diagnosis

Dear Senator Dodd:

I am a resident of Connecticut. I just heard you have prostate cancer. I am very sorry to hear this news. I'm sure it's a frightening revelation that has sent your entire family into a tailspin.

As far as I know, however, you are now surrounded by expert medical practitioners who are giving you detailed plans on how to treat and cure your cancer. These experts are plying you with statistics on what treatments work, setting appointments for you, counseling you on your choices. You've likely been told that there is every hope for a cure and a full life ahead of you, after all, you're only 65. That must be a huge relief in this time of crisis.

Let me tell you what happened in my family when my then three and four year old daughters were dealt an equally frightening diagnosis back in 1999. My husband and I were told that our daughters had autism, and that it was a lifelong condition with no cure. Did I mention the girls were ages three and four? No cure.

The neurology "expert" who diagnosed the girls had no treatment to offer. In fact, the only "prescribed treatments" were external therapies. All of which we had to pay for out of pocket. In our first months following diagnosis, we were spending $800 a month just on speech therapy. A decade ago.

Getting an autism diagnosis isn't much different in 2009 than it was in 1999. Doctors still tell worried Moms and Dads that there is no cure, to plan for a group home for the more severely impacted child, to rely on the public school system for "treatment." Three years old, and your little one's life is "over." Astounding, isn't it?

I believe your Senate health care plan will cover your cancer treatments without question, correct? It must be a big relief to know your family will not go bankrupt so that you can live a full life, pursue your career in public service and maintain your masculine dignity.

Perhaps you will go to sleep tonight fearful of the surgery and the possible side effects of treatment. You might even awaken several times with worry. Who could blame you?

I''ve been doing that for ten long years, Senator Dodd. Autism aside, you well know that tens of millions of Americans without healthcare insurance remain sleepless when they or a loved one become ill. And I know you're fighting to change that. Thank you.

I hope that when you return from your surgery, you will continue to fight for healthcare for all Americans. And thank you for co-sponsoring the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act which will provide research into prevention, treatment and a I hope a cure for autism. Because I could really use a good night's sleep.

Thank you. I wish you well.

Your constituent,

Kim Stagliano

(PS) Could you please pull Senator Lieberman aside and ask him to sign onto ATAA too? He's unwilling so far. My girls and I would appreciate it.