Guest post from Kendall Bergman, Program Manager, Scientific Programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure
After managing Komen’s grant to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank at IU Simon Cancer Center beginning in 2007 with an initial award of $1M and increasing to $7M to date, I have to confess I feel at a loss for words to accurately and effectively describe to you my experience this past weekend as I attended, participated in and volunteered at the Komen Tissue Bank’s two day collection as part of its Super Cure activities leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, February 5. For a point of reference you might find it interesting to know that the tissue bank has never collected more than 150 core biopsies in one day. However, this weekend they lived up to the challenge of collecting close to 700 specimens over two days. More than 600 volunteers showed up, including surgeons, nurses, survivors, family members, women, men, and young people. During volunteer sign-up, the tissue bank staff had to let some of those interested know they weren’t needed. Women showed up to donate their tissue by the droves. I count myself lucky to be part of that donor crowd now. My normal tissue was taken on Saturday, January 28 and I honestly have to say it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I was emotional afterward and stayed pretty much on the verge of tears all day.
I wish you could have been there with me to see the volunteers walking the donors throughout the process beginning with the consent process, progressing to leaving a few vials of blood, and culminating with the actual tissue removal. I wish you could have seen the faces of the women as they walked out of the examining room to encounter a hall full of volunteers clapping and cheering for them. I wish you knew Sue Clare, Anna Maria Storniolo, Connie Rufenbarger, Jill Henry and the entire tissue bank staff. Their apparent limitless passion, energy and perseverance is inspiring, humbling and compelling. Over the past few days I continue to comprehend that one day it’s quite possible a scientist in Bosnia or Norway or Ghana may one day need a normal tissue specimen and will be able to access mine virtually…in order to complete his or her research and move all us closer to a world without breast cancer.
Tears immediately come to my eyes all over again and I find words don’t suffice. The experience was akin to summer camp. Remember what it’s like at the end of camp? You’ve gotten to know these other kids and the counselors and they’ve become this make-shift family that you don’t want to say good-bye to and at some level you know you’re never going to be the same again. This weekend in Indianapolis I became reconnected with old friends, made new friends and know that I am forever altered…for the better. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity afforded me through my work at Komen. As the saying goes, I wouldn’t trade my experience for all the tea in China.
To read more about the Komen Tissue Bank and our relationship with it, please visit here. For more information on the tissue bank’s relationship with the Super Bowl and all of the Super Cure activities, please visit here. To read about Indy’s Super Cure wrap-up the IU Simon Cancer Center Web site, please visit here.
The 2012 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure series kicked off in a exceptional way this past weekend with the 2nd Bahamas Race for the Cure in Nassau. With a population of only 300,000, the Bahamas is a close-knit community of generosity and support. This support is called up when a family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that strikes on average 20 years earlier than in the U.S. and leaves many families without mothers, daughters and wives. In only two years, this Race has become a rallying cry for Bahamians that they’ve had enough and will not tolerate death from breast cancer.
As participants were gathering in the darkness on Church Street, a young boy, no older than 12, took to the stage to honor his mother, a 2-year survivor celebrating her birthday at the Race. In the crowd were many young survivors, some holding babies and others with young children in tow. These strong women were surrounded by more than 1,000 co-survivors and supporters from the Bahamas, Canada and the U.S. The energy was palpable as the gun was fired and the crowd made their way across the Atlantis Bridge to Paradise Island as daylight was breaking.
Arriving at the waterfront on Paradise Island, the participants gathered to honor the 100+ survivors in attendance. The most memorable moment of the morning came as the survivors made their way to the stage to be serenaded by a local gospel group and show the Bahamian face of breast cancer survivorship from one year to 25+.
Susan G. Komen’s partnership with Marathon Bahamas to execute this event is a special one that will continue to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer programming for many years to come. There is much work to be done to improve the lives of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the Bahamas, but by working together with local NGOs such as the Cancer Society of the Bahamas, Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group, Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative Foundation, progress will be made.
The first official “pink lighting” of the year occurred this evening (Friday, Jan. 13), when Komen founder and CEO Ambassador Nancy Brinker joined the mayors of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach to light the Royal Park Bridge linking the two communities. “We light this bridge to celebrate 30 years of working together to change the world,” Brinker said. “Together, we are committed to leaving a legacy of a world without breast cancer, one of the brightest lights the world will ever see.” The lighting is a prelude to Saturday’s Perfect Pink Party in Palm Beach, which raises funds and awareness for Komen’s global breast cancer research program and local community health and patient support programs in the region. Komen’s South Florida Affiliate, based in Palm Beach, has provided $16 million in funding for education, screening, outreach and treatment programs for medically under-served women in the region since it was founded in 1991.
We were delighted Thursday evening to honor two of the nation’s top breast cancer researchers with Susan G. Komen’s Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction. It capped a big week of exciting breast cancer research news at the biggest breast cancer symposium of the year — the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
This year’s Brinker Award winners are (from left), Dr. Carlos Arteaga of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Armando Giuliano of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Arteaga received the Brinker Award for Translational and Basic Science for identifying several key proteins that have led to many new targeted therapies for women with the disease. Giuliano was honored with the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research for his groundbreaking work that has led to less invasive surgical treatments for breast cancer. Each also delivered lectures about their work at the Symposium. More than 7,000 researchers, practitioners and advocates gathered in San Antonio for the 34th Symposium.
In remarks to the awards audience, Komen President Liz Thompson highlighted the results of a Komen-funded Institute of Medicine study, also released at the conference, into environmental factors in breast cancer, and said Komen is challenging other breast cancer research funders to join Komen in further environmental research. The Institute of Medicine study identified several lifestyle factors with proven links to breast cancer — among them obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol use — and recommended long-term studies to get more conclusive evidence on how chemicals and other substances contribute to breast cancer risk.
December 1, 2011 Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer News, Global, Komen Leadership News, Komen Programs, Mission
Today is World AIDS Day and Former President George W. Bush took the opportunity in Tanzania to discuss the work of the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon initiative for breast and cervical cancer in developing nations. Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the State Department, UNAIDS and the George W. Bush Institute announced the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon initiative in September, with a goal of using existing platforms for AIDS screening to include cervical and breast cancer education and screening.
For today’s activities in Tanzania, Komen executive vice president and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee joined a delegation touring the Tanzania Cancer Hospital and attended a satellite event that included President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Bono and other world health leaders and activists. Mr. Bush said that we cannot let a woman survive AIDS only to die of cancer and recognized Komen for our work as a partner.