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Government shutdown is 'matter of life or death,' says cancer patient

Michelle Langbehn is one of hundreds of patients whose treatment at the NIH has been derailed. Now she's demanding that Congress reopen the government.

While to many, the government shutdown may seem like an annoyance, inconvenience, or even running gag, to others, it’s quite literally a matter of life or death.

Michelle Langbehn is part of a group of 200 patients that every week applies for clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH.) But with the government currently out of business, they’re now being turned away from experimental treatments that could save their lives.

“My treatment has been put on hold, and I am not doing chemo anymore as a result, because it might deem me ineligible for this trial,” said Langbehn, who has been battling sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, since last year. “Right now, it’s a waiting game for me and hundreds of others.”

Langbehn, a new mom, started a petition last week designed to put pressure on Congress to reopen the government. As of Tuesday, it had over 39,000 supporters.

The latest Republican strategy to stave off public backlash for the shutdown has been to pass piecemeal legislation that reopens only certain programs and agencies, while keeping others shuttered. On Wednesday, the House voted to fund the NIH–one of a handful of GOP mini-funding bills–but the Democrat-controlled Senate and White House have repeatedly vowed to block this strategy. At this point, any kind of agreement still seems elusive with a rapidly dwindling number of Republicans in support of a full clean spending bill, and a Democratic faction standing firm in its refusal to negotiate until anti-Obamacare provisions are taken off the table.

“It’s not about winning at this point,” said Langbehn on MSNBC Tuesday. “Something needs to change, and negotiations need to be made.”