31 Days of Impact – Day 2, Susan Sonley
The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.
SUSAN SONLEY, RESTON, VIRGINIA – Breast Cancer Survivor, Race for the Cure Top Fundraiser
“I do my day job so that I can pursue my passion.”
“It’s time to give back to this now. It’s time to do something.”
“We have to keep our focus on the mission – and the mission is saving lives.”
I was 40 years old when I beat breast cancer for the first time. It was 1994 and after undergoing multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation and emerging cancer-free, I knew it was time to rally behind a cause and fight for a cure. Susan G. Komen was well-known in Washington, D.C. and I needed to prove to myself that I was well again – that I was stronger for the experience, so I signed up to run their 5K. The feeling of accomplishment I had after completing that marathon only motivated me to do more to help women undergoing similar experiences. I knew it was time to give back to others facing breast cancer – it was time to do something.
I began an aggressive fundraising campaign by founding my own Komen Race team, Champions of the Cure, and then took my story to the public to raise even more funds. I reached out to friends, family and business associates and told them that this is an exclusive club that no one wants to join, but once you’re in, it’s life-changing. I want to make sure that people know that there is always someone who will help and a place to go – and many times it starts with a call to me from a worried friend of a scared friend about a new diagnosis.
In 2010, when my cancer returned, I was more determined than ever to not only survive, but to make an even bigger impact within the cancer community. Maintaining an optimistic outlook was crucial – I knew it was a good thing to have a new cancer, because that meant the old one had not returned after 16 years. That year, Champions for the Cure grew to more than 100 members, we raised over $105,000, a personal best, and I was given the honor of again being named as the top fundraiser for Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure for the ninth time out of the past 12 Races, raising more than twice what the second-place team raised. It reminded me how many people want to help but don’t know what to do, so they donate generously when asked.
Everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. I reach out to people’s need to help others facing breast cancer by sharing my personal story. Each year presents another opportunity to challenge myself and see how much more I can accomplish to impact the lives of women and men through my fundraising efforts. The funds I have raised over the years aid Susan G. Komen in its mission to provide breast health care to individuals who otherwise might not survive breast cancer. We’ve come a long way in 30 years following this vision. To date, Champions of the Cure has raised more than $925,000 for Komen’s screening, treatment, education and research programs and this year the goal is to hit $1 million.
As a two-time survivor (18 years now and counting) I know how hard it is to face a breast cancer diagnosis. I would not be alive today but for the work of Susan G. Komen, which has invested more money – more than $2 billion – to find the cures for breast cancers, more than any other organization in the world outside of the U.S. government.
I’m fortunate to see the fruits of Komen’s work every day – in the treatments that have benefited me and in the programs that are helping low-income and uninsured women in our nation’s capital (which has the highest death rate from breast cancer in the country).
Every Race I run raises funds that get real help to women and families right here in DC, and around the world. Every Race I’ve participated in expands the community of supporters that believe as I do in the importance of Komen’s mission. Very importantly, every dollar I raise goes towards finding a cure and saving lives. Our focus must remain on the mission: saving lives.
Read other impact stories here.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.