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  • Affliate Spotlight: Komen West Virginia Rocks a Local Hospital

    There are countless ways that Komen Affiliates across the country make an impact in the lives of local women and men every single day. For some, it’s access to free breast screenings. For others, it may be transportation to and from treatment, a wig, or other support services – all provided by local community grants. For Komen West Virginia, an excerpt from Komen founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker’s book Promise Me, combined with the passion of two artists, resulted in a project that totally rocked a local hospital.

    In Promise Me, Brinker described the long hours Susan G. Komen spent in the cancer wards while battling breast cancer. Suzy wished that there was a way to make the chemo wards less depressing and instead, fill them with things to remind those inside how wonderful the world is outside of the treatment rooms. And while she was never able to fulfill her desire, artists Amy Ocasio and Nancy Ballard, along with the help of nearly the entire community of Parkersburg, WV, made this dream a reality at Camden Clark Medical Center.

    Through support from the Camden Clark Foundation, Komen West Virginia and Whimsical Spirits of Whim-en, the Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo project got underway on Sep. 14. Working only during the nighttime hours, Amy, Nancy and other artists took the dreary and bare chemo rooms and got to work, painting themed designs in each room such as Paris, butterflies and dogs. Komen West Virginia joined in on the fun as well, decking out one special room in Ford Warriors in Pink scarves, representing the powerful and courageous who fight against cancer.

    The unit administers nearly 5,000 chemotherapy treatments each year and sees about 120 patients a week, one of whom is patient Julie Gray Dye. Julie expressed her appreciation for the work of all of the volunteers, saying “Before Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo, the rooms were cold and sterile, and six hours staring at hospital walls seemed like an eternity. The teams have truly changed the experience for patients like me.”

    Many of the volunteers, like Sharyn and Jon from “Team Fuzzy Friends,” shared their passion for this project as well. Jon was inspired by his father’s journey battling cancer to do his “little part to make it a little easier for the patients.” Sharyn was very excited to join the project as well, saying that Rooms that Rock became her way of showing love and support for the patients that would receive treatments in the very rooms they were painting.

    As the artists transformed the nine treatment rooms and one conference room, local hospital officials were so impressed, they decided to approve more funding for the project, making it possible to renovate the entire 5,000 sq. ft. chemo unit. One of the medical center’s oncologists, Dr. Nik Shah, shared how touched patients and their families are by the new surroundings. “Many of the patients and families have expressed how beautiful the unit looks and really appreciate what the community has done… Not only are the patients happy, the office staff has tremendously enjoyed the work environment. It really makes our day a lot brighter.”

    On Oct. 20, the new ward was officially complete, and volunteers, hospital workers and sponsors were excited to present the newly decorated ward to the public. With donated artwork lining the walls, including a hand-stitched Ford Warriors in Pink quilt created by Komen West Virginia Race for the Cure survivors, the ward now offers a completely different atmosphere – one of hope – for patients and their loved ones.

    Our hats are off to Komen West Virginia and every other organization and volunteer that made this project possible. And this story is just one of many that tell of the amazing work Komen Affiliates, so keep reading Komen’s blog and see how your local Affiliate is making an impact in the fight against breast cancer.

    Check out the before and after pictures of the rooms  in our slideshow below.

  • Remembering Suzy and the last 30 Years of Progress

    Today would have been my Aunt Suzy’s 69th birthday.  Aunt Suzy – Susan G. Komen – was born on Oct. 31, 1943 and died in August of 1980 at the age of 36, after 3 grueling years suffering from breast cancer.  Before she died, she asked my mother, Nancy Brinker, to do something about breast cancer, so that no one would suffer as she and the women she met were suffering.  Mom, of course, promised that she would, and 2 years later, Mom started Susan G. Komen in her sister’s memory, so that no one would ever forget the sister she loved and missed.

    I was a very young kid when Mom and her friends set out in our living room to fulfill this promise, and I can remember the hushed conversations about women being afraid or ashamed to admit they had the disease.  At that time, cancer in general, and breast cancer in particular, were never discussed.  I remember people calling it “The Big C,” and I remember the doors slammed in Mom’s face when she set out to raise money for this cause.  No one wanted to be associated with such a personal “woman’s disease.”

    I thought of all this as I stood in an arena in Charlotte, N.C., just this past week, accepting a very generous donation from WWE Superstar John Cena, in front of thousands of screaming fans.  I was especially moved by the breast cancer survivors in the audience, wearing pink survivor tee-shirts with pride, holding up signs that proclaimed their status and hope to the world.

    And even through the din of that arena, I had a moment of quiet reflection about how much has changed since the days of the hushed conversation. I thought of how proud Aunt Suzy would have been to see this – to know that her suffering had not been in vain, and that because of this promise between my mother and her, millions of women and men are facing a very different world today than the Suzy’s of the world faced 35 years ago.

    Today, largely due to the work of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, more women are living longer even with aggressive and metastatic forms of breast cancer.  We have virtually cured early stage breast cancer, with relative five-year survival rates of 99% today versus 74% when we started.  We’re hard at work funding hundreds of active research grants around the world as I write this, striving to understand the key questions in breast cancer science today: how to keep breast cancer from developing, stop it before it spreads, and cure the aggressive and metastatic cancers that are killing too many women and men.

    Very importantly, we’ve been the helping hand that has truly made a difference in the lives of women who hear the diagnosis and need our help, especially the low-income and uninsured women whose breast cancer journeys are made more difficult by a lack of insurance and a lack of resources.  Komen and our Affiliates pay for the mammograms they can’t afford (700,000 last year alone).  We provide the co-pays; we pay for surgeries; we pay for groceries and living expenses, wigs, prosthetics, and transportation to treatment.  We help with their follow-up care, every day.

    Every time I meet someone with 5, 10, 15 or 20 years cancer-free, I marvel at how much has been made possible by this movement, thanks to the generous support of the people who run in our Komen Races, volunteer at our Affiliates, hold the fundraisers, organize the bake sales at work, or otherwise support this cause.  Thanks to all of you, Komen alone has been able to invest more than $2 billion to research and community outreach, and our movement has grown to more than 30 countries around the world.  We’ve come a very long way in just one generation.

    It goes without saying that Aunt Suzy would be proud.  I know, on her 69th birthday, that she would be overwhelmed with gratitude.  And so on her behalf, and on behalf of all of us at Susan G. Komen, let me say “Thank you” for all that you do to create a world without this disease.  I only wish – as any of us who have lost someone to breast cancer would wish — that Aunt Suzy were here to see it.

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 31, Lisa Carey

    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.

    LISA A. CAREY, MD, CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – Physician and Researcher
    The Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research; Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology; Physician-in-Chief North Carolina Cancer Hospital; Medical Director of the UNC Breast Center; Associate Director for Clinical Research; UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

    “Funding from Susan G. Komen has yielded an incredible wealth of information that helps us, the clinicians, understand breast cancer behavior better and, we hope, improve our ability to tailor treatments appropriately.”

    “As a researcher and doctor, I am thrilled that our work looking for ways to identify and study different subtypes of breast cancer is already benefiting our patients. Our next challenges are to identify tumor characteristics that predict response to therapy and develop novel treatment approaches for the subtypes we have identified.”


    My focus – as a researcher and doctor – is to improve the lives of breast cancer patients. My work with colleagues has led to the understanding that women do just as well if their chemotherapy is given before surgery as after. It’s scientific advances like these that inspire me – we will be able to use molecular science to improve the lives of mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and other loved ones.

    When I was an undergraduate at Wellesley College, my honors thesis project was to develop a mask that would allow workers in freezing temperatures to save water from their exhalations.  My friends would avoid me on Sundays, when I had access to the dormitory walk-in freezer, because they were my guinea pigs.  After college, my training included a medical degree, then Internal Medicine Residency followed by a Medical Oncology fellowship, all at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    I earned an advanced degree in Clinical Investigations at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 1998 and then joined the UNC faculty rising from assistant to full professor.  During my training, I continued my research efforts, first in limb injuries, then in infectious diseases like AIDS.  I decided to become an oncologist during my second year of residency when I spent Christmas week on the inpatient Oncology ward – a truly inspiring experience and one that confirmed for me that I wanted to take care of cancer patients.

    Since joining the faculty at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, I have spent a lot of time with scientists spending all of their time trying to understand the variations within breast cancer – why do some behave more aggressively than others, why do some relapse and others not?  The most useful work I do is trying to extend their findings – understanding and characterizing the molecular subtypes of breast cancer to the clinic so that we may develop better prevention and treatment strategies. I was fortunate enough to lead the first trial looking at a new drug regimen in the breast cancer subtype, triple negative breast cancer.

    But ever since I’ve joined this field, I’ve understood that this kind of research doesn’t fund itself. Organizations like Susan G. Komen carefully examine the work that various researchers are doing that will eventually save lives and impact women around the world.

    For example, in part based upon work performed at UNC, we now know that women do just as well if their chemotherapy is given before surgery as after, however the chemotherapy-first approach means that they are more likely to save their breast. In addition, with preoperative therapy it is possible to tell if the drugs are working since the tumor is still measurable when the chemotherapy is given first. Part of my clinical research program uses this preoperative approach in order to investigate new drugs and combinations of drugs as well as factors that might predict response to these drugs.

    And just this year, Komen awarded me a grant of nearly $1 million to profile the kinome (a group of hundreds of proteins that regulate cancer cell growth) in HER2+ breast cancer, specifically to look at how the cancer cells try to evade HER2-targeted therapy.

    I hope that future grants will enable researchers like me to design and lead clinical trials testing novel ways to better treat breast cancer. Only with the kind of funding that Komen provides will we be able to use molecular science to improve the lives of our patients.

    Read other impact stories.

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 30, Dr. Trey Westbrook

    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.

    DR. THOMAS “TREY” WESTBOOK, HOUSTON, TEXAS – Scientific Researcher

    “Watching someone you care about deeply go through the heartache of struggling with breast cancer is an immediate and daily reminder of the urgency to find a cure.”

    “My research team at Baylor College of Medicine has been using new technology to discover the genes breast cancer cells depend on, and translating these discoveries into new therapies.”

    “Thanks to Komen research grants, my colleagues and I – and researchers around the world – will continue to uncover new therapeutic opportunities for women fighting breast cancer.”

    For me, cancer research is both a professional and personal passion. Watching someone you care about deeply go through the heartache of struggling with breast cancer is an immediate and daily reminder of the urgency to find a cure. I’ve experienced that first hand. Much of my family had to go through the trials of fighting cancer, and I have known for a long time that I wanted to address the fundamental problems in cancer – to take what we can learn about cancer and use this knowledge to help people.

    I’m a geneticist – and most of my Komen-funded research is focused on applying novel genetic technologies that we developed to find new treatments for human breast cancer. Our new technology, sometimes called a functional genomics technology, enables us to scan the human genome for genes that play a role in cancer. We’re using these new tools to identify vulnerabilities of cancer cells and find ways to exploit them. Strikingly, some of our newest therapeutic targets are lethal only to cancer cells, while healthy, non-cancerous cells are spared.

    With Komen-funded support, we’ve discovered that the very genes that are driving cancer are also creating new vulnerabilities. Our work is focused on finding and better understanding those weaknesses and turning those weaknesses into new medicines. Our work has inspired a new clinical trial for triple-negative breast cancer patients. Collaborating with our partners in the pharmaceutical industry, we are striving each day to ensure our discoveries are turned into real medicine.

    I am grateful to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for funding my work. I’ve received $450,000 in Komen funding over the past 3 years to find new therapeutic strategies for triple-negative breast cancer. In 2011, we received a $180,000 grant for my research focused on HER2-positive cancer. Thanks to Komen research grants, my colleagues and I – and researchers around the world – can continue to discover new targeted therapies in order to help men and women defeat breast cancer. There’s a lot more research to be done and as someone with loved ones fighting cancer, my mission is to continue to work passionately towards finding a cure.

    Read other impact stories.

  • Race for the Cure Recap: Oct. 20/21 Weekend and 17 Amazing Races!

    Komen Affiliates across the country kicked it into high gear this past weekend as 17 Races took place, bringing together thousands and thousands of passionate Komen supporters.

    The third annual Komen CENLA Race for the Cure took place this past weekend in Alexandria, LA. Hundreds of strollers, joggers and runners showed up in their pink to participate. The Alexandria Town Talk features local participant Pam Switzer who declared herself 80-days cancer-free the day of the Race and other highlights from the event.

    Downtown Birmingham was filled with pink last Saturday as thousands of people gathered in Linn Park for the 21st annual Komen North Central Alabama Race. AL.com spoke with a few survivors who were passionate about the event, and profiled James Howard, a co-survivor who ran in memory of his mother and one of his sister and in honor of his aunt and other sister. UAB’s Kaleidoscope News covers the event and local survivor Karen Burton shares her journey battling the disease with Over the Mountain Journal.

    The Boston Herald reports that more than 7,000 runners and walkers in pink were gathered in South Boston for the 20th annual Komen Massachusetts Race. 11 of the participants, known as “Uke Runners,” ran the route while playing ukuleles and singing songs as a way to thank everyone who was participating. Braintree Patch and Foxborough Patch highlight attendees and volunteers at the event.

    In Dallas, more than 19,000 participants came out on Saturday to support programs for local men and women through the 30th annual Dallas Race for the Cure. The Dallas Morning News spoke with survivors Ann Massey and Kim Pond, who are as committed as ever to ending this disease. CBS 11 shares more from the Race day and The Dallas Morning News talks with some of the Race winners.

    The Low Country Race for the Cure on Daniel Island was a huge success with great turnout that surpassed previous participation records with more than 9,200 in attendance! The event included a moving survivor celebration and wonderful volunteers. Survivor Kathy Elsner shared her personal story with Live5 news, encouraging those battling the disease to stay strong. The Post and Courier and ABC News 4 cover the event.

    Little Rock was filled with pink on Saturday, marking the 19th annual Komen Arkansas Race. KATV highlights the stories of breast cancer survivors who were excited to be at the event, and Today’s THV11 features local survivor Ashlee Stephens and shares some amazing pink photos from the event!

    Over 21,000 people were greeted by sunshine for the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Race last Saturday. Live entertainment on the main stage kept attendees pumped, and 1,000 survivors enjoyed their promenade up to the stage where they received a rose and were greeted by distinguished local survivors, such as U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Race venue was overflowing with team tailgating tents, a delightful Kids Zone, and many sponsor tents and giveaways. CBS Miami and The Miami Herald feature stories and highlights from the event.

    The New Orleans Museum of Art hosted this year’s Komen New Orleans Race on Saturday. Magic 101.9 created a video, capturing the many inspiring moments of the morning. WWWLTV.com also reports that local corporate teams were excited to support the race and show their pink spirit!

    The Central Valley Race in Fresno, CA, was another one of Saturday’s amazing Races. The event was held at Fresno State, where over 4,500 runners and walkers participated in the event. Survivor and breast cancer advocate Jamie Ledezma (also featured as one of the inspiring individuals in Komen’s “31 Days of Impact ”) spoke at the event, sharing her journey battling the disease while pregnant. ABC 30 shared more highlights from the morning.

    It was a perfect day in Jacksonville, FL, on Saturday as the 18th annual North Florida Race kicked off at Metropolitan Park, overlooking the St John River. The sun shone brightly over the more than 4,000 participants, and fall temperatures kept the morning very pleasant. The enthusiasm of the participants and volunteers was abundant as cowbells and loud cheers could be heard throughout the morning. The Florida Times-Union shares more memories from the Race.

    In Texarkana, more than 8,000 people (including 400 breast cancer survivors) showed their support for the Texarkana Race for the Cure on Saturday. According to KTBS, this year’s race, which took place on the Four States Fairgrounds, was the biggest so far for the Texarkana Affiliate!

    A cold, drizzly Sunday morning didn’t stop 3,500 participants for turning out for the Komen Oregon and Southwest Washington Race in Eugene, OR. As The Daily Emerald put it, “pink and gray make a lovely combination.” Dressed in pink from head to toe, participants were excited to be in attendance, and committed to the cause. The Register-Guard covers the event, and The Daily Emerald shares a few photos.

    In Hawaii, it was a very festive and spirited day with a lot of local flair as the 18th annual Komen Hawaii Race kicked off in Kapiolani Park, Honolulu. Approximately 6,000 supporters came out to support local breast cancer programs, with over 1,000 people registered in the last week alone. Ke Alaka’i discusses the event.

    Approximately 23,000 race participants gathered in Hunt Valley for the 20th annual Komen Maryland Race for the Cure. ABC2 features the story of Bridget Spence, a courageous woman and Komen Ambassador. Bridget recently returned to her alma mater where a team of 150 students signed up to Race in her honor. ABC2 also covers the story of David Berdan, who has won the Komen Maryland Race for the fourth straight year, and uses these wins as a platform to honor survivors and raise awareness. The Baltimore Sun shares more from the Race.

    It was a beautiful day in Kingsport, TN, this past Sunday for the Tri-Cities Race. Race participation was the highest in their seven years with around 6,000 walkers and runners.  With a festival feel, many of the participants, along with friends and family, spent the afternoon at Memorial Park enjoying music, a kid’s dash, a  1-mile  run and the 5K Race. Tri-Cities Sports reports that $500,000 was raised at the event, and shares some wonderful photos from the Race.

    The 16th annual Central Florida Race in Orlando was an incredible event for the nearly 5,000 participants that came out, and Komen Ambassador Bridget Spence joined the survivors at the event to celebrate survivorship and Komen’s critical mission. The Central Florida Affiliate shares some great photos from the event.

    Thousands hit the pavement in the rain on Sunday in Temecula, CA, for the 14th annual Inland Empire Race. Press Enterprise reports that this year’s event raised more than $690,000 – surpassing funds raised last year! The nearly 6,500 members who attended enjoyed a concert by American Idol finalist Tim Halperin, and survivors aged from 26 to 89 were honored at the event. North County Times shares more stories from the event.

    Another incredible Race weekend has come and gone. We are so grateful for everyone who decided to get up on a Saturday morning, and in some cases, weather the elements, to support your local Komen Affiliate. Keep checking Komen’s blog for more exciting updates on our work around the globe!