We’re barreling down US 25, driving in a big branded bus to Loveland as fast as possible. Our bus full of activists got a hot tip that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is holding an event a few miles away, and so the “Cardboard Cory” bus tour will be there to meet our ever-elusive senator.

Alas… We showed up, only to be foiled again. The world’s worst treasure hunt: It shouldn’t be this hard to find your own U.S. Senator and ask him a question face-to-face.

Last month while the Senate was in recess and Gardner was nowhere to be found, we did the next best thing. A group of activists took Cardboard Cory, his doppelganger, on a Colorado statewide public tour instead.

We held 11 events in every corner of the state in one week, while our own elected U.S. Senator held zero open public events all year. Representing several progressive organizations in Colorado, including Indivisible, CIRC, Conservation Colorado, Planned Parenthood, MomsDemand, ProgressNow Colorado and others, we talked about the gamut of issues – from the environment, to immigration, from a woman’s right to choose, to gun safety. All the issues where our own senator has been AWOL.

I went on this tour, and have been traveling across the country on other bus tours, because our stories must be told. I’m a cancer survivor and my life might literally depend on it.

Two years ago, I walked into a doctor’s office with a nagging cough, and walked out with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. I’m still here today thanks to the Affordable Care Act. As a self-employed person, I used to have junk insurance before the ACA. If I still had that today, I would be bankrupt or dead.

But I’m still here. It took six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation to be here.

This should be a happy ending, right? But the day after my first chemotherapy appointment, in May of 2017, was the day that the U.S. House voted to repeal the ACA and take away my healthcare. The care that was saving my life. I’m uninsurable without the Affordable Care Act, and if my cancer returns I could not afford to stay alive.

Unfortunately, Gardner values tax cuts for billionaires over the lives of Coloradans like me. We the people are treated like ping pong balls in a game of the Republicans’ making.

It shouldn’t have to be like this. One hundred-and-thirty million Americans have pre-existing conditions, and everybody with a body is vulnerable to accidents and illnesses. Our bodies don’t care if we are Republican or Democrat, so our insurance companies should cover us all the same.

The elections in 2018 brought in a wave of change, but the Senate just isn’t listening. And President Donald Trump pays lip service to lowering drug prices or premiums, then gets distracted and moves on.

So we traveled across the state of Colorado in a bus with a cardboard version of our senator, Cardboard Cory. This paper man is braver than the real thing: our schedule was public, we had Facebook events and told the press ahead of time for each stop.

Contrast this with Sen. Cory Gardner, who sneaks into his campaign stops, then posts humblebragging photos on social media after the fact. Will he show up for Coloradans during his next scheduled recess in a few weeks? I have my doubts.

We all deserve better than this. We want and desperately need elected officials who will protect our care, not trade it away for tax cuts for their billionaire buddies. Our senator isn’t listening, so we need to find someone who will.

Laura Packard is a small business owner in Denver. She is a stage 4 cancer survivor and national co-chair of Health Care Voter.