Many people will spend today racing in honor of the mothers in their lives at Susan G. Komen Races around the country. Many will spend this Mothers Day, as I will, in quiet gratitude for mothers who have been touched by breast cancer, and who inspire us with their courage and grace every single day.
It is a unique honor for all of us at Komen to wade into a sea of pink at our Races to celebrate with the many women surviving breast cancer today – surviving because our global community has rallied to this cause. From a time when we couldn’t talk about breast cancer out loud, we today proudly wear the badge of “breast cancer survivor” in the pink tee-shirts you will see at a Komen Race.
I promised my sister, a mother of two, that I would do everything in my power to end this disease so that no child would ever face a future without a mother, and so that no mother would ever have to worry about this disease, ever again. That was 32 years ago. Two years later, we would start Susan G. Komen for the Cure in her memory, determined to keep that promise.
We have made tremendous strides in just three decades, thanks to our Komen community. Death rates from breast cancer have declined by 33% in the last 21 years in the U.S. 5-year survival rates for early stage breast cancers are now 99%, versus 74% when we started our work in 1982.
Every day, the scientists that we fund are seeking new ways to stop, reverse or prevent this disease, and I’m confident that we will one day, very soon, give all women the promise of a full life.
In our communities, women, men and children band together to raise the funds that provide groceries, co-pays, access to cancer care, and the support and dignity that every cancer survivor deserves. We are deeply grateful that we are able to help hundreds of thousands of women, many without insurance, without money, and without support, every single year.
Our race is not yet completely won. Sadly, on this Mother’s Day, we will look around at our Races and see sons, daughters, grandchildren and so many others wearing race bibs that tell the all-too-tragic story of their lives – running “In Memory” of a cherished relative or friend whose life was ended, too soon, by this disease. Each time I look out on one of our Races—especially on this day to honor mothers—I redouble my vow to create a world where no one has to run “In Memory,” ever again.
That’s why I continue to fight, and why we will always fight, to find the cures, assuage the terror of a breast cancer diagnosis, and to give all women and men the outstretched hand of a community that understands what they are going through, and wants to help.
From one mother to many others, thank you for making our work possible, and for providing the resources that will give us a world without breast cancer. Hug the little ones today. Hug your Mom. And Happy Mother’s Day to all.
Rain or shine, Komen supporters were undeterred last weekend, coming out in their pink to support Race for the Cure events in Winston-Salem, Charleston, and West Orange.
Komen NC Triad held its 13th Annual Race last Saturday. Among the 6,500 participants at the event were sisters Becky and Connie, whose stories, along with others, were captured by The Winston-Salem Journal. Attendees were bubbling over with pink pride – some wearing sombreros, tutus and gaudy hats. One participant even wore a wedding dress! A special moment for all came at the end of the survivor ceremony when butterflies were released into the crowd.
In Charleston, the 12th Annual Komen West Virginia Race faced some rough weather, but many were still happy to run. A Komen representative who was at the event saw the runners “smiling as they ran in the pouring rain!” The Chicago Tribune discussed the Race ahead of time, sharing that while 75 percent of funds raised at the Race stay in the local area, the 25 percent can have a local impact as well! “In the last two years, West Virginia received two research awards at WVU on two different research projects,” said Rebecca Newhouse, president of the Affiliate’s board of directors.
Komen North Jersey’s Race had its own excitement as well. The 5,000+ participants celebrated the Affiliate’s 15th anniversary with a special cake designed by Buddy Valastro from TLC’s “Cake Boss.” During the Survivor Celebration, survivors walked on stage behind bagpipers, receiving applause from the crowd and joining hands themselves for an emotional moment. Co-Chairwoman for the Race Lisa Renwick shared that she was “thrilled at the turnout.” NorthJersey.com, nj.com and BloomfieldPatch covered the event, capturing images and the passion of all in attendance.
Congratulations to all 3 Races for such incredible events, and a special thanks to everyone who participated and volunteered!
Komen Pittsburgh, Memorial, Siouxland, Boise and Connecticut are ramping up for their Races as well. Stay tuned to hear more about these upcoming events! And if you’re in one of these communities and haven’t registered for the Race yet, join us and help meet the need for breast health services right in your backyard.
Eric Brinker is often referred to as our longest-running volunteer. The son of founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker, Eric grew up with the breast cancer movement, and went on to become a Komen national board member, global ambassador, and Race chair and board member of the Susan G. Komen Peoria Affiliate.
Reading recent reports on how Susan G. Komen for the Cure fundraising has been impacted by recent events, I was reminded how far we’ve come, not since January’s Twitter-storm, but since 1977, when newspapers considered the words “breast cancer” unfit to print.
That year, my 33-year-old Aunt Suzy was diagnosed. Awareness was too little too late. Breast cancer was shrouded in shame and ineffectually treated. Watching her sister suffer and die, my mom, Nancy Brinker, was seared with a sense of purpose that met with her natural talent for research and a passion for patient advocacy that bordered on bulldozer. She promised her sister that breast cancer would be different for women in the future.
Mom sweated every detail of the first Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation event in 1982, pinching every penny, calling in favors from years of fundraising for other charities. It was the perfect Dallas lawn party—except for the torrential rain. That morning, Mom slogged through the mud in her pink high heels, sobbing, “I’m sorry, Suzy, I’m sorry.” The money involved was nothing compared to her sorrow at not keeping her promise.
As Mom’s first volunteer, I grew up with the organization eventually renamed Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (My friends were impressed with the illustrated breast self-exam cards and life-size feel-for-the-lump demo breasts stored in the corner of my room.) Over the years, as Susan G. Komen raised more than $2 billion and rallied 1.7 million volunteers, I saw Mom lifted up by supporters and torn down by detractors. I was by her side when President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom and when critics condemned her for 20+ years of Komen funding breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics for women who often had no other place to go.
The Nancy Brinker I know is a broad-minded, basically well-behaved Jewish girl from Peoria, who saw something wrong and did something about it. People either love her or hate her because she makes it impossible to sit there with a broken heart and a bucket of excuses. My mom is living proof that every one of us can make a difference.
That said, she is human, as is the Susan G. Komen staff, I and my fellow board members and everyone involved in this movement. We all make mistakes. Without rehashing the whole Planned Parenthood grant situation, I’ll say we failed to think it through. Accustomed to triaging breast cancer, not PR debacles, we stumbled. Viral response rapidly morphed into a pandemic of misinformation.
She apologized. We apologized. Most of the credit for the wealth of good will we’ve enjoyed over the years belongs to our local affiliates, on-the-ground volunteers and generous corporate sponsors. We won’t let them down again. On a personal note, I’d also like to tell my mom that I’m sorry I failed to get between her and the oncoming freight train.
For years, the public perception was breast cancer + pink = good, but the complexity of this organization—and the disease itself—was never fully understood. What matters now is the opportunity to bring people back with more information and, hopefully, a greater sense of urgency.
Not everyone will hear us. Responding to bloggers who misrepresent our research spending is as futile as responding to snark about Mom’s big hair. What matters is transparency. We’re making changes, including additional board representation from local Affiliates, and we welcome anyone who wants the real facts about how we manage to reach around the world with no government funding, funding the most breast cancer research of any non-profit, and helping hundreds of thousands of women every year.
Rumors abounded that I was forced to give up my board seat. In fact, I stepped aside after my term ended, to make room for an additional Affiliate.
Our leaders and volunteers are galvanized with the same purpose—usually for the same reasons—as my mom, who not only lost her sister to breast cancer, she lost her breasts. She survived a mastectomy and chemotherapy; mudslinging doesn’t quite compare.
Back in 1982, standing in the rain with her big hair deflating, Mom saw a car pull into the parking lot, followed by another and another. At the end of the day, the mud didn’t matter. Our community understood the need and rallied to help.
30 years later, in the aftermath of controversy, we’re seeing some impact in revenues in some parts of the country. But as our Mother’s Day Races approach, we’re seeing our communities rally to help. We appreciate those thousands of moms, dads, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers who are continuing to support us, because thousands more are depending on Komen every day to find a cure for breast cancer, and help those who suffer with it today.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Together, we’ll weather the storm.
This year, more than 4,000 women and men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel. We are working with NA’AMAT and the Jerusalem Municipality on the ground in Israel, uniting people of all nationalities and religions together against this disease. We are so excited to join the women and families who will take to the streets for the second time to raise funds and awareness of breast cancer in the 2012 Susan G. Komen Israel Race for the Cure in Jerusalem on May 3.
Since 2010, we have given $3 million to organizations in Israel including the Weizmann Institute of Science, Hebrew University-Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and NGO’s such as Naamat, Beit Natan, The Galilee Society, NISPED, the Israel Cancer Association and others. 100% of the funds raised through the Israel Race for the Cure will stay in Israel to support programs that address breast cancer and women’s health needs.
In Israel, breast cancer accounts for nearly 30% of all new cancer cases, with 1,000 women and men expected to die of the disease this year. As we prepare for this year’s Israel Race for the Cure, we are especially focused on reaching out to Arab, Ethiopian and Russian women, and ultra-orthodox women living in Israel – all of whom can face economic or cultural barriers to early detection and breast health care. We want all women in Israel to know that they are welcome to walk with us.
Help us fight breast cancer in Israel and walk with us on May 3, 2012! If you can’t make it, you can still virtually join us by registering as a VIP – Virtual Israel Participant!
For more information, please visit http://www.komen.org/israel
There’s chatter online today about us and our work in Uzbekistan. Our partnership is with the National Breast Cancer Association of Uzbekistan, a well-regarded NGO endorsed by the United Nations, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and through work done at the Seattle Cancer Care Institute. NBCA has been working since 2009 to provide breast cancer education, screening and treatment in Uzbekistan, where breast cancer kills about 1,000 women annually. Our participation is to help with an upcoming Race benefitting breast cancer programs in Uzbekistan.
We partner in more than 50 countries worldwide to erase the stigma of breast cancer that still exists in some countries, and to provide early screening and treatment for women who have few or no options today. Our work takes us to the Middle East, Africa, central Europe, Asia and Latin America, and to date, we have invested more than $44 million to these outreach programs and in research with global institutions.
If you have further questions, please contact us at news[at]komen[.]org.