October 25, 2014

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Woman who brought a face to health care debate meets president

Natoma Canfield is led away from the president’s tour bus after meeting Obama in Parma on Thursday. (CT photo by Jennifer Pignolet.)

PARMA — After almost three years as the face of the national health care debate, Natoma Canfield finally came face-to-face Thursday night with the man who made her famous.

The Medina Township resident met one-on-one with President Barack Obama after his speech in Parma.

“I said, ‘I always knew I was going to get to meet you, and I’m so honored,’ ” Canfield said. “I knew it would come.”

Canfield wrote Obama a letter in 2009 begging him to reform the health care system.

In her letter, she explained that because she fought breast cancer in the ’90s, her pre-existing condition meant she could no longer afford her health insurance premiums. Just months after she sent the letter, Canfield was diagnosed with leukemia.

She is now cancer-free, and recovering from her treatments.

Obama wrote her back and carried her letter with him to several meetings on health care. The letter is now framed and hanging in his office.

“He invited me to come and see (the) letter on his wall,” Canfield said. “My sister said, ‘You come and see the letter on her wall, and we’ll come and see the letter on your wall.’ ”

Members of Canfield’s family had met Obama before on her behalf, but Thursday was the first time she was able to greet him herself. She said they talked about the Affordable Care Act and the Cleveland Clinic.

It was “just amazing,” she said. “Just couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Canfield wasn’t the only Medina County resident who had an experience with Obama at the rally.

Hinckley Township resident Abigail Studor sang the national anthem before Obama’s speech.

The 29-year-old North Royalton Middle School teacher was chosen for the job by a friend from high school who works on Obama’s campaign.

Studor called the opportunity “an honor.”

“I definitely was a little bit more nervous than usual,” she said.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.