Jonrowe’s visit inspires lawmakers to reflect, appreciate. 

For months, lawmakers have been seeing red, as in multi-billion dollar budget deficits.

On Thursday, the color changed to pink. That’s thanks to Iditarod icon and breast cancer survivor DeeDee Jonrowe.

Lawmakers set aside their political differences and welcomed Jonrowe to the Capitol. They celebrated Jonrowes’s 36 years on the trail, which features 16 top-10 Iditarod finishes.

Lawmakers packed the speaker’s chambers for a chance to meet the Willow musher, posing for photos and getting in a line 10-deep for autographs.

Those who know her reminded others how Jonrowe lost her Willow home to a wildfire just three years ago. They also were reminded of her successful fight against breast cancer 15 years ago.

Some even wore pink, the 64-year old’s team color ever since her battle with breast cancer.

“Honestly, a lot of people know you as a dog musher, but I think we all know you're more than just a sports icon,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “You’re a cultural icon in Alaska. You got me to wear pink today.”

Jonrowe asked lawmakers not to forget mushers Susan Butcher and Melon Shea, who lost their battles to cancer.

Another cancer survivor stepped forward: Sen. Shelley Hughes (R-Wasilla).

“She was a tremendous inspiration to me when I got the diagnosis of breast cancer, which I am cancer free,” Hughes said. “So, we are survivors together. When somebody said about how people look up to her. Look at this little, tiny lady. She’s got so many people looking up to her. That’s the coolest thing.”

Unlike many dignitaries who visit, Jonrowe didn’t just shake hands and leave. She immersed herself in public policy. Shortly after arriving, she sat in the House gallery and watched several floor votes.

Later, with Minority Leader Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage), Jonrowe toured the capitol, making stops at nearly every lawmaker’s office.

“I’ve also always been interested in seeing the Legislature in action,” she said. “I never have really seen them, how the process goes and what all is involved. I can see there is a lot of involved and a lot of homework involved.

“That’s one of the reasons. You know, I’m starting another stage in my life and it’s nice to be able to say thank you to the people that have made your life possible.”

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