“I truly believe that one woman can make an impact and save the lives of women who are often voiceless.”
“My journey as a breast cancer patient reinforced the importance of patient-centered and culturally competent health care. I made a promise to become a good doctor, for my sister, but surviving breast cancer made me the best doctor I can be for my patients.”
“This year my journey came full circle when I was honored to be nominated by the DC Pink Divas and selected as the 2013 Susan G. Komen Survivor of the Year.”
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor. I was determined to save the lives of girls in my community. You see, while growing up in South East Washington, DC I lost my sister at just three years old. My sister was born with a heart condition the doctors in our community could not treat and at only four years old she suffered a stroke and died. My mother says it took me two years to realize that my big sister would never come home to play with me again and from that moment on, I vowed to be a doctor to make sure no more little girls went to heaven.
Susan G. Komen® is committed to ending breast cancer forever by empowering people and energizing science to find cures, and has been dedicated to funding breast cancer research – investing more than $800 million – since our inception in 1982. However, Komen cannot fund the fight alone. This is why on September 18 we joined over 170 supporting organizations, represented by nearly 300 participants, in Washington DC to attend the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day. “More Progress, More Hope, More Lives” was our battle cry – a booming and passionate echo from the Rally for Medical Research held five months earlier. Again, we urged Congress to invest in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and to make medical research a national priority. On that day, armed with hearty statistics and compelling survivor stories, we met with Congressional staff members, to plead our case.
Big or small, Race day is special for all. Whether you walk or run, or just come for some fun, we’ve got something for everyone this fall!
In addition to uniting supporters and survivors, the seven Races held on the second weekend of October each had something that helped make it a memorable day.
Mid-Missouri featured Chicago-based entertainers, Charizma, at their Race on Saturday, October 12. The venue change to Peace Park in downtown Columbia was welcomed by all – runners, walkers, volunteers, sponsors and local residents. And the 30-minute rain shower at 6 a.m. was barely noticed by participants who enjoyed the day with the very special entertainment.
Also on Saturday, racers at the 21st Annual Komen North Central Alabama Race for the Cure® had the opportunity to get “pinked” as they crossed the finish line at Birmingham’s downtown Linn Park. The race course divided into two lanes and volunteers held signs that let racers know which lanes allowed them to get doused with washable pink cornstarch as they crossed the finish line. Organizers of the event say that this new feature especially appeals to “kids and adults who are kids at heart.”
Getting “pinked” was also a new addition to the 17th annual Komen Race for the Cure in Wichita Falls. The “Tunnel of Pink” was an optional additional event at this year’s Race, advertised as a way for participants to “get their pink on.” Over 3,000 runners and walkers participated in the Race, making it the largest footrace in Wichita Falls.
When I first learned that I had breast cancer, it was 1987 and I was 39 years old. I was in good health, had never smoked and was a distance runner. I was not overweight, had nursed my three babies, had good eating habits, and had no history of breast cancer in my family. How was it that breast cancer decided to pick me out?
The protocol at that time was to remove the breast and check the lymph nodes. Our doctor said that if the lymph nodes were clear, then chemotherapy and/or radiation were not needed. My nodes were clear, so the mastectomy was my total treatment at that time. Life went on and the years rolled by, and I had almost stopped worrying that I would have a recurrence. Then, in 1996, nine years after the first bout, I had a chest wall recurrence.
By this time, treatment techniques had become more advanced, and in addition to having a portion of my rib and pectoral muscle removed, I had both radiation and chemotherapy. After that, I was put on tamoxifen. It was apparent that, thanks to advances in research and new drugs, were beginning to emerge.
By the time of my recurrence in 1996, I had become an avid golfer. I found out through Golf Digest Magazine that Susan G. Komen was going to start Rally for the Cure. My family and I had been running in the Race for the Cure in past years, and I knew just how instrumental Komen was in research and progress in the fight against breast cancer. I decided that I would organize a Rally at our golf club. It seemed to me that I now could fight back against this terrible disease in my own way.
Maria had been feeling pain in her chest for some time, and some of her family members had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she was facing a difficult financial situation, she knew she needed a mammogram, so she called the Susan G. Komen® Breast Care Helpline for help.
It’s hard enough for some individuals to ask others for support, but even harder to call and ask for financial help. But Maria took charge of her health, and bravely called the helpline to inquire about any free services that might be available.
She, along with hundreds of others who call the helpline, was found to live in a community without a Komen Affiliate or locally-funded grantee.
“We get really upset when we get a caller from an area where there is no local Komen Affiliate office, state funding has been depleted and there are no local resources available to provide to the caller,” said a helpline specialist.
The helpline searched through resource after resource and found nothing in Maria’s area to help. But they refused to accept that nothing could be done. Instead, the helpline specialist called the Tennessee Department of Health to inquire once more about any possible assistance, pleading Maria’s case.