It’s hard to believe that it’s already Thanksgiving. The past two and a half months since I joined Susan G. Komen as president and CEO have been nothing short of a whirlwind.
A few weeks after I officially came on board, the country turned pink as we kicked off National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s an important time of year for our breast cancer mission. The pink cleats, pink supermarket products, Komen Races, and even the pink airplanes do more than raise awareness; they help to raise the funds that make it possible for Komen to fund more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit (at $800 million since inception, second only to the federal government). They also make it possible to serve hundreds of thousands of low-income, uninsured and medically underserved women and men across our nation and around the world. When there are gripes about “too much pink,” remember that pink makes it all possible!
Each day, about 1,000 women will get a free mammogram, thanks to the funds you raise to support our screening programs. Another 136 will get some form of financial or psychosocial support in our communities, thanks to your support of our community health programs nationwide. Some of our Affiliates will help to put groceries on the table for a woman undergoing treatment. Others will pay for transportation to treatment. Others will pay insurance co-pays and even for surgeries for those who don’t have insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid or other government programs. Komen helps to fill those gaps for tens of thousands of women every year.
In January of 2012, as I participated in the Susan G. Komen Metastatic Roundtable, I never imagined the experience would lead me halfway around the world. The findings of the Roundtable and Komen’s sustained drive to improve the lives of those living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) led to a unique opportunity for me to present our work at the Second International Consensus Conference for Advanced Breast Cancer (ABC2) held in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this month.
The purpose of the meeting was to bring leading medical professionals and patient advocates from around the world to build on a 2011 Consensus Conference in developing a set of guidelines for the management of advanced breast cancer (MBC) in diverse health care settings globally. There were over 1,000 attendees from 71 countries at ABC2. This included 68 patient advocates, many of whom received travel grants funded by Komen.
The conference was chaired by four of the leading researchers in the field, including Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Eric Winer. The 40-member consensus panel consisted of researchers and oncologists including Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor Dr. George Sledge and five Komen Scholars, as well as several patient advocate members.
In 2008, we were very proud to have expanded the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® series beyond its domestic Komen Affiliate network by establishing successful partnerships with leading nonprofit organizations from around the world to organize Race for the Cure events outside of the United States. The International Race series has changed the way communities around the world view and react to the words “breast cancer” and how breast cancer survivors are regarded in their respective countries.
While each International Race is unique, they all have the common goal of increasing breast cancer awareness, providing a sense of hope and community to those who have suffered from the disease and educating the public and local governments about breast health. Race events create a positive environment in which breast cancer is put in the public eye. Despite local taboos, we have seen the power of women around the world breaking the silence about breast cancer. On Race day, brave survivors acknowledge their disease and continue to dispel myths about breast cancer, serving as ambassadors for the cause. As a result, other survivors feel hopeful and women are empowered to take control of their health.
But the impact of our International Race series doesn’t stop on Race day. Thanks to these events, local survivor support groups have been established, access to screening, diagnosis and treatment has been increased, breast cancer awareness programs for key target groups have been created, and patient support programs continue to grow.
Guest post by Jerome Jourquin, PhD, Scientific Grants Manager, Michelle Martin-Pozo, PhD, Manager, Scientific Grants, and Ami Patel, Research Project Manager.
On a cold but sunny Saturday in late October, the Volunteer State added a new color to its beautiful Autumn hues: pink. From Memphis in the West, to Knoxville in the East, Susan G. Komen Races for the Cure in Tennessee were about to start, celebrating breast cancer survivorship while also honoring those who lost their battle with the disease. Meanwhile, unknown to the several thousand gathered at the starting line, the participants and spectators to the Greater Nashville Race for the Cure were about to become part of a unique and never-before-accomplished milestone.
Like many other places in the country, Nashville is armed with dedicated Affiliate staff and passionate volunteers. It is also a city that we, Mission Team members Jerome Jourquin and Michelle Martin-Pozo, both proudly call home. Joined this year by our Mission colleague from DC, Ami Patel, we geared up to welcome Race participants and provide information about Komen’s Research Programs, while also partnering with the Affiliate staff and the local Race Committee to highlight Komen-funded scientists.
“My first four 3-Day walks were in Michigan – but I knew from the very first walk that I wanted to do all 14 in one year. That year was 2012, and what a year it was.”
“It’s more than just walking – when you’re sharing 60 miles over three days, there’s an incredible camaraderie that’s established. There’s a saying about the 3-Day: ‘You’re never alone unless you want to be.’”
They say a journey begins with a single step. More than five million steps later, I’m still walking in the journey to fight breast cancer – and I’ll keep walking until we find the cures! When I lost my first wife to breast cancer in 1999, I decided immediately that I wanted something positive to come out of that, so I donated money to her hospital, the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, with the requirement that they buy a bed for every room so that caregivers could stay with their loved ones. And I kept looking for other ways to give back.