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  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 3, Donna Sanderson

    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.

    DONNA SANDERSON, SACRAMENTO – Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate

    “We work with people of all different cultures at the Sacramento Komen Affiliate. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate – rich, poor, African American, or Caucasian – it’s pervasive.”

    “When dealing with breast cancer, everyone has their most difficult time. Mine was when I was done with treatment. During treatment, I had the attention of an entire team of health care providers – once it was over, that all went away.”

    “Our goal, when visiting developing nations, is to bring awareness and educate communities about the realities of breast cancer.”

    In the late 1950s, when I was a young girl, the word “breast” and the word “cancer” were taboo. People simply didn’t talk about cancer. My earliest memory of cancer was when my mother and sister were conversing next to the room my aunt was in. She had what they referred to as the “big C.” Today, with the efforts of organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we have made great strides towards bringing awareness to breast cancer – from the United States to countries like Uzbekistan and Tanzania.

    When I first started volunteering for Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1997, I was 45 years old and, admittedly, didn’t know much about breast cancer. Two months later, I was diagnosed. There was a lump in my breast for a few years that was benign; at my scheduled yearly mammogram they discovered a second malignant cyst hiding behind that lump. I had a mastectomy, followed by treatment including chemotherapy. At the time, the Komen Sacramento Affiliate offered emotional support and referrals to support groups. Since then, the cause has been personal.

    Throughout my 15 years with the Komen Sacramento Affiliate, we have had many successes. One of my fondest memories was ten years ago when we started a mobile mammography unit – a unit that is still used today by St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Sacramento. I also led a state-wide collaborative among my fellow executive directors across California, a partnership that has resulted in state initiatives to advance breast health. Beyond the state of California, I’ve worked with Komen to make a difference in developing nations where, like in the U.S. in the 1950s, speaking about breast cancer is taboo.

    As the International Race Ambassador of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I traveled to Tanzania in 2008 and Uzbekistan in 2012. In both countries people don’t talk about cancer. Even worse, cancer brings shame to a family and people believe that you bring it upon yourself. We were there to bring awareness and educate communities about the realities of breast cancer.

    In Uzbekistan, we started the first Race for the Cure in the capital of Tashkent, which drew more than 20,000 participants. We brought together government officials, Uzbek celebrities, public figures, ministers of health, and leaders of the Muslim and Christian faiths. We spoke about the state of breast cancer in their country and what could be done – and we planned to accomplish it with the funds raised.

    From Uzbekistan to here in Sacramento, volunteers, survivors, and staff form the “Komen family.” Once you are involved, you have friends for life – friends who are passionate about the same issue. My colleagues and I always say that you may go away for a while but you never really leave Komen. As a former retiree who still volunteers and is serving as an interim executive director as they find my successor, I’m a case in point.

    Read other impact stories here.

  • 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.

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 1, Kimberly Cain

    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.

    KIMBERLY CAIN, DENVER – Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate

    “In addition to my fear that I may have breast cancer, I was uninsured and knew that I could not afford proper health services.”

    “With the help of Komen Denver and its grantees, I was able to fight the disease and win.”

    “Today, I am cancer free, healthy, and working hard to support me and my son.”

    Without Komen, I would have lost my life. When I first realized that something wasn’t right with my breast, I knew that I needed to take action. In addition to my fear that I may have breast cancer, I was uninsured and knew that I could not afford proper health services.

    I was familiar with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, an organization with a mission to help end homelessness in my city, but I didn’t know that they provided lifesaving health services funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I later learned that the Komen Denver Affiliate had granted the organization more than $444,000 in community grants since 2004 – grants that help women, like me, who are unable to afford breast health services like routine breast screenings, breast health education, and mammograms.

    My fear became a reality when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was one of the hardest moments of my life. But, for me, cancer was a test of my will. I was referred to the Women’s Imaging Center and St. Joseph Hospital for final diagnoses and treatment – services that were also paid for by Komen funds. With the help of Komen Denver and its grantees, I was able to fight the disease and win. Today, I am cancer-free, healthy, and working hard to support me and my son, Andale. He gives me strength every day, and when I look into his eyes, I can’t imagine what would have happened to him if I hadn’t received these lifesaving health services.

    Through my battle with breast cancer – from my diagnosis to my treatment – my son and my mother, Ollie, were there to support me. With their support, and the support of Komen, I was able to overcome this disease. And I know others can too.

    As a survivor, I am dedicated to spreading awareness about breast cancer in my community. I recently participated in a campaign to help raise awareness of the Komen Denver Race for the Cure. My goal was to help increase participation and raise funds – 75 percent of those funds go directly to the local community in the form of the grants like the ones that saved my life, and will continue to save the lives of women in the Denver area.

    It’s important that I give back in any way that I can, and I continue to share these words of advice with others facing the disease: Never give up hope. Stay open-minded. Stay strong.

    Read other impact stories here.

  • The Concordia Summit: Making an Impact through Public-Private Partnerships

    Yesterday I was honored to join President Bill Clinton and Sen. John McCain among the speakers at the 2nd Annual Concordia Summit. The Concordia Summit was founded to put the innovative ideas of public-private partnership into action.

    When I started this organization 30 years ago as a promise to my sister, Suzy Komen, who was taken from us by breast cancer, you couldn’t even say the word “breast” on television. A lot has changed since then and people often ask me why we’ve been successful. I believe much of it lies with our focus in breaking down barriers, and building bridges between communities and health care professionals, between governments and researchers, and between all of those who have a vested interest in fighting and defeating this disease.

    It is that same focus that makes public-private partnerships so important.  Simply put, these partnerships allow everyone to focus on what they do best.  In the process, things move more quickly, more people are helped, and in many cases, more lives are saved.

    The greatest example I shared yesterday is also one of the newest ones here at Komen – Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.

    Five years ago, I joined President and Mrs. Bush on a trip to Africa.  In Ghana, we visited a PEPFAR clinic, where I watched long lines of women waiting to receive HIV screening, treatment and education.  As I witnessed the excellent work done by that clinic, I was struck by how simple it would be to extend that work even further – to cancer education and screening.

    In sub-Saharan Africa, breast and cervical cancers kill over 100,000 women each year.  And that figure is most likely a gross underestimate – because many of these countries don’t even keep track with cancer registries.

    And in these countries, AIDS and cancer share more than a deadly nature – they also are stigmatized.  Women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer frequently become outcasts from their own families and support networks — left to suffer alone without palliative care.

    What is particularly frustrating is that it doesn’t need to be this way.  Thirty years ago, women were dying because we lacked knowledge.  Today, they are dying because we lack imagination.  We know how to help.  We just lack the resources and ideas on how to deliver that help.

    And that’s why the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign was created.  One year ago, we launched the program in Washington with Secretary Hillary Clinton, Michel Sidibe from UNAIDS, and President George W. Bush, who traveled to Africa twice in the past year in support of the campaign, and along with his wife Laura helped build a new cervical cancer clinic.

    A few weeks back I traveled to the Canada to discuss the remarkable progress thus far alongside Dr. Christine Kaseba, first lady of Zambia, the country where the PRRR program was first implemented.

    Dr. Kaseba discussed how the Women’s Cancer Center in the city of Lusaka has screened more than 15,400 women since last December – with nearly 3,000 of them showing positive indicators of cervical cancer.  Of those roughly 3,000 women, about half were treated with cryotherapy and another half were referred for advanced diagnostics and treatment.

    During that same time period, we have trained 27 health workers who are helping to staff 17 different clinics — providing screening and treatment for breast cancer.  And we are also supporting a community education effort to raise public awareness about the importance of early cancer screenings.

    This is remarkable progress in a short period of time.  So how has it been so successful? Public-private partnership.  I am grateful to have had theopportunity to share the wonderful work that Susan G. Komen does around the world with the audience at Concodia and I salute their work to bring  more NGOs and corporations together to focus on what they do best, because it is together when we gets results!

  • Race for the Cure Recap – West Michigan, Southeast Wisconsin, Idaho, Upper Cumberland, Chicagoland, Orange County

    From the Midwest to the Pacific, Komen supporters from across the country came together this past weekend to make a big impact in their local communities. Check out some of the highlights from this past weekend:

    MLive describes the scene at the 15th annual Komen West Michigan Race saying, “From feathered flamingos to brawny superheroes,” participants were excited to support the Race this past Saturday in Grandville, MI. The more than 5,000 participants were able to support the Affiliate while enjoying a warm, sunny day. WZZM reports that the event has raised $400,000 so far and the donations are still coming in! MLive also shares some great pictures from the event.

    In Milwaukee, Komen Southeast Wisconsin got some great support from local presenting Race Sponsor Kohl’s who turned the exterior store signs at local stores pink, encouraged Kohl’s associates to wear pink all week leading up to the Race and placed 12-foot-tall pink shoeprints outside of their corporate headquarters. On Race Day, WTMJ reports that an estimated 22,000 people turned out for the event!

    The 13th annual Komen Idaho Race in Coeur d’Alene, ID, became more personal for individuals such as Martha Armitage, who had run the Race many times, but this year, joined those in the pink t-shirts as a survivor herself. Just over 15,000 people joined Armitage and her friends on the beautiful and warm Race day, raising around $27,000. The CDAPress has more highlights from the event.

    The 4th annual Komen Upper Cumberland Race was held on Sunday in Cookeville. The Herald-Citizen shares some photos from the event which had about 2,500 people turn out in support. Adding to the fun were live music groups lining the Race route, keeping the participants’ spirits high and the excitement going mile after mile.

    Komen’s Chicagoland Affiliate had a very busy weekend, with Races in both Chicago and Lombard on Saturday and Sunday (respectively). MySuburbanLife reports that the Race in Lombard was a great success.

    More than 18,000 participants came together for the 21st annual Komen Orange County Race on Sunday. Inspiration and strength could be felt throughout the crowd, and speaker Betty de la Torre told the crowd, “I walked into Komen a frightened breast cancer patient. I walked out an empowered warrior.” The Orange County Register, Daily Pilot and ABC 7 share more details and photos from the event.

    The Komen Evansville Tri-State Race also took place this past weekend, and we’ll have more on that in our next Race blog, along with details about our upcoming Races both in the U.S. and around the globe, so stay tuned!