31 Days of Impact – Day 9, Gabrielle Union

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.

GABRIELLE UNION, LOS ANGELES – Co-survivor, Breast Cancer Advocate

“Fear can literally kill you. It killed Kristen. Knowing is better than not knowing. Don’t let fear sway you from getting screened.”

“Prevention is key. Early screening and treatment saves lives, and at Susan G. Komen, we are doing everything we can to take that message worldwide.”

“Access to proper health care is vital to the fight against breast cancer. We need to continue to do everything we can to ensure that every woman, no matter where they live, has the opportunity to obtain the treatments they need to save their life.”

Seven years ago, at the age of 32, my best friend, Kristen Martinez, was diagnosed with stage IV metastasized breast cancer. She fought this disease for 5 years, but she lost her battle and passed away 2 years ago.

After her diagnosis and before succumbing to this scourge, Kristen became a vocal and passionate patient advocate for the millions of other women out there who, just like her, are underinsured.

Kristen serves as my inspiration day-in and day-out to advocate the importance of screening and early-detection and expand awareness about breast cancer, particularly among young women and women of color. There are just so many women out there who do not have the funds or are too fearful about what they may learn that they do not get screened.

Early detection leads to early treatment, which saves lives. Due to the research and treatments that are funded from organization like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer, when caught early before it spreads beyond the breast, is now 99% (compared to 74% in 1982).

Women in their 40s who are diagnosed early have a 15% lower chance of dying from breast cancer. These numbers are even more disturbing for women of color, who are less likely to develop breast cancer, despite a 39% higher mortality rate than white women.

Among African American women, breast cancer is the most common cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. We do not yet know why this is the case, but in the past 4 years Komen has invested $2.3 million to support projects that are seeking to understand these issues and create solutions at the community level.

Earlier this year, I took part in Komen’s Global Race of the Cure to raise money and awareness for the vital programs that Komen supports.  We all must do everything we can to ensure that women, just like my friend Kristen, are able to get the treatments they so desperately need.

Read other impact stories here.

About the author

Susan G. Komen has written 342 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

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.