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  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 12, Dr. Beatrice Wiafe

    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. BEATRICE WIAFE ADDAI, MD, PhD, GHANA – Advocate

    “We believe that in our own inimitable and special Ghanaian way, we could contribute to raising awareness of this disease, which affects us all in varying degrees — women, men and children.”

    “We have been working on demystifying such ideas about breast cancer among the population, especially women. We empower them with some basic knowledge about the disease, which is all aimed at early detection so as to reduce suffering and deaths from breast cancer.”

    “When it comes to breast cancer, the women of Ghana have been fed endless myths and misconceptions.”

    When it comes to breast cancer, the women of Ghana have been fed endless myths and misconceptions, thus preventing them from seeking early medical treatment. I knew that it was crucial for these women and men to be educated about breast cancer, encouraged to get screened and provided with treatment options. More than 2,000 Ghanaian women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, many in late stages of the disease. With help, I’ve made it a personal mission to change this.

    As a breast surgeon, consultant in breast cancer management and the Chief Executive Officer of the Peace and Love Hospitals in Accra and Kumasi, I saw firsthand what basic knowledge about the disease can do – which is all aimed at early detection to reduce the death rate of breast cancer patients. In October of 2002, I founded Breast Care International (BCI), a leading breast cancer awareness and research organization in Ghana, to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer programs throughout the country. Women are being taught how to do their own breast self-awareness, and they are given access to clinical screening, diagnosis, counseling, treatment and rehabilitation as far as breast cancer is concerned.

    After talking loudly and to enough people, I thought it was time to bring the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to Ghana, as we believe that in our own inimitable and special Ghanaian way, we could contribute to raising awareness of this disease, which affects us all in varying degrees – women, men and children. Komen has granted more than $462,000 in funding to Ghana for programs that educate Ghanaian women about breast cancer, encourage screening and provide treatment. Last year’s Komen race was filled with more than 12,000 walkers and runners who were all there for the same reason – to end breast cancer.

    We’ve come so far, but we’re not anywhere close to being done yet. Ignorance is killing our women and we have to fight it by empowering them with knowledge about the disease. My goal is to challenge the Ghanaian women to disabuse their minds of the misconceptions and to show them that we’re here to provide support, resources and access to care.  We will not stop until there is a cure for breast cancer.

    Read other impact stories.

  • Race for the Cure Recap – Charlotte, Florida Sun Coast, Houston, Lexington, Lubbock, Northeastern New York, Denver, Italia, Nebraska, Northern Nevada

    Across the globe, people were gathered in their pink this past weekend to support local breast health programs. Check out some of the highlights from the Races this past weekend.

    A beautiful day In Charlotte, NC, greeted more than 16,000 people for the Affiliate’s 16th annual Race. One of the many highlights was the attendance of Carolina Panther DeAngelo Williams who led a large team with #32 on their Race shirts. The Charlotte Observer features local survivor Amy Patwa, who is battling stage IV breast cancer, and her Race team of 70 individuals – “Team Patwa.” The event has raised more than $1.1 million so far, and fundraising is not done yet! Fox Charlotte and WBTV share highlights from the event.

    It was a busy Saturday morning in St. Petersburg last week for the 14th annual Florida Suncoast Race. After two days of torrential rains, the skies cleared over Vinoy Park and almost 6,000 gathered for a very memorable event. Some attendees even got to watch dolphins play along the Race route! WTSP shares some incredible memories from the event.

    The Houston Chronicle reports that nearly 30,000 people signed up for the Houston Race last Saturday. Along with remembering family and friends, participants also had fun. The scene included men in pink tutus, 13 members of the Houston Texans cheerleading squad on the family walk and much more. Culture Map Houston and Your Humble News covered the event.

    More than 5,500 participants gathered for the Komen Lexington Race on Saturday. Lexington Patch encourages locals to attend the event, and Kentucky.com shares the story of one a local breast cancer survivor, Sharon Givens. Givens, who was used to being the independent and collected one, was forced to face a breast cancer diagnosis herself back in May.

    Despite the cold weather in Lubbock, more than 6,000 people turned out for the Lubbock Race. Several local middle schools and high schools attended, along with a drum line leading in Survivors, and cheerleaders with pink pom-poms cheering all along the Race course! Attendees also enjoyed all kinds of food and samples to participants (including breakfast burritos made with pink tortillas) at the sponsor expo. KCBD was at the event, talking with attendees about their personal connection to the cause.

    Thousands of people in pink descended on Albany’s Washington Park on Saturday for the 18th annual Komen Northeastern New York Race. Your News Now Hudson Valley and The Albany Times-Union covered the event and also shared some great photos. The Executive Director of the Affiliate said the day went really smoothly and everyone had a wonderful time.

    The Komen Denver Race on Sunday brought in more than $3 million and nearly 40,000 people– one of the largest Komen Races in the country! The Denver Post covers the event, and highlights mother-daughter survivor duo, Catherine Meng and Ashlie Hill. Top News US and Denver Westword Blog share highlights and photos from the event.

    Across the Atlantic, Naples, Italy, was filled with passionate Komen supporters, as more than 7,000 gathered for the Komen Italia Race, including 400 survivors appropriately named “Donne in Rosa” (Ladies in Pink). The two days leading up to the event, the Affiliate hosted a Health Village where approx. 4,000 free health exams were performed and 15 suspected cases of breast cancer were detected.

    WOWT News 6 reports that downtown Omaha was turned pink on Sunday when more than 15,000 turned out for the 19th annual Komen Nebraska Race. Organizers reported that fundraising dollars from both the Kearny Race and the Omaha Race topped $270,000 in donations – funds that will make a critical impact for local women and men. LiveWellNebraska also shares highlights from the Race.

    A brisk, sunny day greeted enthusiastic runners and walkers to the 14th annual Northern Nevada Race at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.  Entertainment along the 5K course included rock bands, Hula and Tahitian dancers, Swami with Belly Dancers, Cirque du Soliel performers, martial arts demonstrations and Cure Leaders. Survivors marched across the stage, received a pink carnation, and a listened to a special song. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that the event neared record attendance, and KTVN highlights the impact and importance of the Affiliate’s work.

    Thanks so much to everyone who attended these events – your support makes these important programs possible. We’re looking forward to hearing even more incredible Race tales this weekend, so stay tuned!

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 11, Jeff Bennett

    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.

     JEFF BENNETT, PORTLAND, MAINE – Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate

    “Breast cancer knows no limits.”

    “Those of us who survive cancer should help others do the same.”

    “It’s time to realize that cancer is destructive and cruel. Every day, we lose 1,500 people in this country alone. Simply put – enough is enough. It’s time to make a change.”

    I had just finished playing golf with friends in July 2003 when I noticed something different with my chest. After not getting better for a few days, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor who recommended an ultrasound and mammogram. It was the biopsy and weeks of waiting when I knew something was not right – my doctor broke the news I never expected: “You have cancer.” I was stunned. Young, healthy, athletic, no family history; it made no sense. I was diagnosed with aggressive stage II breast cancer. My diagnosis was to say the least – unlikely.

    A team of doctors, scans, tests, more scans, more tests, surgeries, more surgeries, and chemotherapy treatments all come at you in a blur. Then 4-month follow-up visits for as far as you can see. I learned two things: that cancer knows no limits and I am one of the lucky ones. I’m lucky that I advocated for myself to get checked, lucky that I had access to quality care, and lucky that I had good health insurance. Sadly this is not the case for everyone.

    I immediately knew that I needed to become a breast cancer activist; I felt the “obligation of the cured” – the idea that those of us who survive cancer should help others do the same. I’ve turned to a lot of places to start to give back and one of the most important is through advocacy. Our voices are powerful and need to be heard.

    I started as a volunteer for breast cancer awareness by helping to organize the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bangor, Maine. I’m also a board member for Komen Maine and their Public Policy Chair – I want to ensure that I have a stake at making a true difference in how cancer is treated in this country, and Komen allows me to do that.

    One of the other impactful things that I do is speak to groups of people about my experience, letting both men and women know that this could happen to them and it’s time to take the issue of cancer seriously. It’s time to realize that cancer is destructive and cruel. Every day, we lose 1,500 people in this country alone. Simply put – enough is enough. It’s time to make a change. Whether it’s raising public awareness, raising money, initiating projects or demanding leadership accountability, together we can make a difference. I urge men to get regular physicals so they understand their health and women to get screened every year. Join the Fight – advocate!

    Read other impact stories.


  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 10, Etta-Cheri Washington

    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.

    ETTA-CHERI WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Patient Navigator, Pink Diva

    “I have made it our mission to start a ripple effect among the women of Ward 8”

    “I’ve realized the impact empowering one woman can have on an entire community”

    “With your support, we can save lives, Diva to Diva!”

    As a Washington, D.C. native, I have always been directly aware of the high rate of breast cancer afflicting the district’s women – nearly 10% higher than the national average.  There is a need to reach out to these women as they often do not receive the same access to care available to others. In 2009, I began my journey as a Patient Navigator at Capital City Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and set out to save the lives of women in our nation’s capital by connecting them to medical and educational resources. I hoped from the beginning that my work would change lives but as it turns out, my very first patient, Ms. Valerie Holtz, changed mine.  Valerie’s moving story and determination to battle her cancer with the best care possible truly opened my eyes to the value of patient education and empowerment.

    Like many other women living in Wards 7 & 8 in the District of Columbia, Valerie had little to no access to health care, faced discrimination and a tremendous lack of resources. Over the months while I navigated Valerie through the continuum of care – educating her on the health care system, finding a medical home and culturally competent care – I realized the impact empowering one woman can have on an entire community. Inspired by Valerie, and with the aid of a $200,000 grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, our team of navigators at Capital City AHEC took our initiative to the next level and created the DC Pink Divas.

    The DC Pink Divas Program provides hope to women who feel they have no one to turn to for answers and support. It began as a program that encouraged women to educate their friends and family about breast cancer detection, and empowered those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer – now with the help of the Susan G. Komen grant, we have expanded our City-Wide Patient Navigation Network to reach out to more than 3,000 women in one of the most underserved communities in the country. The DC Pink Divas and I have made it our mission to start a ripple effect among the women of Ward 8 by empowering sisters to recognize their needs, educating them so they can take action and plan breast cancer prevention activities, and impacting them enough so they venture out on their own and share their knowledge with others.

    Each year our team of Divas participates in the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure in order to continue raising the funds (of which 75% supports local breast cancer education, screening and treatment programs throughout the National Capital Area) necessary to expand our network and touch more lives. I am dedicated to continuing this tradition of bringing together people from all walks of life so that together, we can save lives, Diva to Diva!

    Read other impact stories here.

  • 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.