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  • Making an Impact in Panama: New Grants Announced

    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    The culmination of our trip to Panama was a special dinner reception where we unveiled $250,000 in new investments in the country.  The grants are the first of a three-year $2 million partnership with the Caterpillar Foundation to increase breast cancer awareness and improve screening and early detection outcomes in low-resource communities in Latin America.  Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women in Panama.

    We were also honored to be joined at the dinner by the First Lady of Panama, Marta de Martinelli, who discussed how proud she was of the work happening in Panama and thanked Komen and Caterpillar for our commitment to the country. Our President Elizabeth Thompson provided an overview of our work in the area, as well as the rest of Latin America, and noted that this announcement came on the anniversary of Suzie’s death.  Carlos Caetano, representing our friends from Caterpillar highlighted the importance of our partnership and how meaningful this work was to Caterpillar.

    The new grants were awarded to local NGOs Fundacian Casita de Mausi, FundAyuda and Association National Contra el Cancer, and will support public education campaigns, breast self-awareness training, training for medical practitioners and infrastructure improvements, with the goal of increasing screening rates and ultimately, saving lives.

     

  • Making an Impact in Panama: Day 2

    Panama Day 2 - Roundtable

    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    Our visit to Panama continues to help us better understand the challenges they face throughout the continuum of care.  The conversations we are having with local experts this week will help inform the direction Susan G. Komen must take to support education and awareness programs in this country through our grants, research and advocacy initiatives.

    On Day 2 we convened local government officials, private institutions and non-government organizations for a series of roundtables to talk about the state of breast cancer in Panama.  Our first discussion centered on the specific difficulties of addressing awareness, prevention and treatment of breast cancer in Panama.  We had a great open discussion about the challenges, as well as the current efforts underway in the country.  Participants set the stage for future partnerships and laid the groundwork for Komen to lead the work necessary to engage in advocacy at the local level in order to drive change nationally.

    Another highlight of the day was when our president, Elizabeth Thompson, was interviewed by the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa.  Liz was asked how she leveraged her background and experience in science and communications to lead the world’s largest grassroots organization working to decrease breast cancer mortality on a global scale.  She also discussed how Komen is attempting to make an impact on the disease through our research and our global strategy, including the success of the Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness in Panama.

    Following the roundtable, we held a celebration luncheon for our newest partners in the region – more on that later.  This provided an opportunity for everyone to network, learn about what we have planned in Panama in the next year.  The luncheon also provided an informal venue for Komen to orientate grantees on policies and procedures, monitoring and evaluation and technical assistance opportunities.

    This has been a great trip so far, and we look forward to sharing our big news soon.

    Catherine Oliveros
    Regional Director of International

     

  • A Bittersweet Day

    Suzy and Nancy G. BrinkerToday, August 4th, is the one day of the year that I celebrate and mourn. This is the day Suzy died in my mother’s arms thirty-one years ago. When I reflect on the depth and breadth of the work the Susan G. Komen organization and our extended family have accomplished each and every day since that time, I am overcome with pride and celebration of the lives we have saved together.  The grief and loneliness from the untimely death of a loved one is hard for all of us to live through, but I am comforted that our collective efforts have made an incredible difference in the lives of so many.

    I want to thank everyone in the Komen family for the passion, the love and the hard work that you have poured into our mission. We have the boldest community of survivors and supporters that year after year have helped us make a big impact on the lives of others.  I cannot help but believe that Suzy would be so proud that her name still sits atop our incredible organization and so happy her life and the promise she asked me to make is shared by so many.

     

  • Making an Impact in Panama

    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    I write from Panama, where Susan G. Komen President Elizabeth Thompson and I have traveled to meet with our in-country Komen team and with our partners, new and old, who are making a real difference in the lives of women in this country.  Later this week we will have some exciting news about how we are going to be able to help three new NGO partners.

    Today, though, we got to see firsthand what one of them – Casita de Mausi – is doing to help local women.  Casita is a home for cancer patients receiving treatment at the Instituto Oncologico Nacional (ION), their National Cancer Institute.  The patients range in age, some as young as 18, and type of cancer diagnosis – breast cancer being common for women, while stomach and prostate are for men.  They are often low income and uninsured. Yet all patients and one family companion can expect to receive at least a 3 day stay with a clean comfortable bed, 3 meals a day, social support and lots of love from the staff of the home. These patients travel hours and sometimes days to get care at the ION since they can’t receive treatment anywhere else.  The support from Casita enables them to complete their treatment.

    While there we did not see patients, as the home in the morning is usually empty for cleaning because patients are usually at the hospital early and new patients usually arrive in the late afternoon, we still had an amazing experience.  Walking into the home we immediately got a sense of the peace it provides its residents.  We met with the incredible Casita staff and immediately recognized how this happy and warm group could clearly make residents feel comfortable and at “home” during a difficult period of their life.  The staff work hard to give hope and provide safety to the people who walk in and out on a daily basis.

    Casita continues to dream. On their current wish list is a new stove, because the current one is in danger of burning the place down it is so old and damaged.  They also need a car or minivan to help them transport patients, as well as facilitate the process of picking up donations.  And of course, they would like to be able to help more people.

  • Indy’s Super Cure: A Win-Win for Everyone!

    Guest blog post from Jill Henry, Chief Operating Officer of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank at Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, the only known healthy breast tissue and blood repository in the world.

    Jill Henry and FriendsNow that professional football is back on for the fall, we’re excited about a partnership between the NFL’s Indiana Super Bowl Host Committee and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank at Indiana University’s Simon Cancer Center.  Called “Indy’s Super Cure,” the idea is to merge the fight against breast cancer with one of the largest and widely watched events in the country (the Super Bowl, of course, next Feb. 5 in Indianapolis).

    We announced the alliance in mid-July. It’s focused on three things: to increase the diversity of Komen Tissue Bank donors, concentrating primarily on women of color; to raise funds for research using Komen Tissue Bank samples; and to shine a light on the unique work that the Bank does to advance breast cancer research.

    The Komen Tissue Bank is the only known repository for normal breast tissue and blood in the world. We collected our first tissue samples in 2005 from women who had not been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Over time, we’ve collected samples from over 1550 tissue donors and over 6000 blood donors that will help researchers around the world compare normal breast tissue with cancerous breast tissue.  With technology soon available to send digital samples to researchers around the world, these comparisons could help unlock the answers to how breast cancer develops and spreads.  We hold regular collections (the next is Sept. 24 at the IU Simon Cancer Center) and we have many events planned for the months leading up to the Super Bowl to increase tissue donations and shine the spotlight on our work.

    The devotion and passion of women to this cause has been nothing short of overwhelming.  At our press conference, it was both heartwarming and heart-wrenching to see and listen to Traci Runge, who spoke to all of us about hearing of the Tissue Bank several years ago and rushing to donate her breast tissue, wanting to do something to help eliminate breast cancer from our lives.  A good friend of hers – a young woman like Traci, with children the same ages as hers – was already fighting the battle, prompting Traci to donate her healthy breast tissue to the Komen Tissue Bank.

    Three years later, Traci was herself diagnosed with the disease, and made certain she returned to donate again before her treatment started, making her samples quite valuable as the first examples of pre- and post-cancerous breast tissue. Traci appeared at the press conference but there was another, wordless story as well: she had just completed her chemo two days before the press conference – she was visibly weak as she sat in front of the microphone, but so determined to tell her story and encourage others.  Traci, along with Lisa Miller (another early tissue bank donor who has now also donated pre-and post-cancerous tissue,) has put a face on breast cancer research.

    Word is spreading about our Super Cure partnership, and it’s already having big effects in our small offices here at the Tissue Bank. Our phone rings more often, and we have had an increase in website traffic. We are thrilled and encouraged by the outpouring of support which is bringing in more volunteers, more donors, and higher general awareness.

    We are so excited about the promise of this wonderful new relationship which will help the Komen Tissue Bank take a monumental step toward understanding and defeating breast cancer. Susan G. Komen for the Cure was the first to see the potential for the KTB and took a risk with a research investment, which now looks ready to pay off a hundredfold.  We are so happy to be partners with them in traveling this new direction in breast cancer research.

    Please visit us at komentissuebank.iu.edu for more information, and check out our work in the video below!

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