National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Honors Those Fighting Breast Cancer
The story of a generation’s worth of progress in the breast cancer movement will be told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates as Susan G. Komen for the Cure launches a “31 Days of Impact” web storytelling series to mark National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The “31 Days” web series launched Oct. 1 at komen.org/IMPACT with the story of Kimberly Cain, who was uninsured and could not afford proper health services when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “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.”“We hear statistics all the time about increased research funding, near-100 percent five-year survival rates for early stage cancers and vast improvements in treatments for metastatic disease, all made possible by this movement. But the numbers don’t tell the full story of the movement’s true impact on women, men, families and communities,” said Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “We are setting out to tell those stories through the experiences of the people who have benefitted, and will benefit, from this extraordinary cause.”
Throughout the month, the series will profile survivors, Komen research grantees and community health advocates, as well as partners in developing countries where Komen focuses its global work. They include:
- Dr. Amelie Ramirez, a Komen-funded researcher at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio who is conducting critical work with the Latina population, of which breast cancer is the number one cancer killer. As the associate director of cancer health disparities at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, much of her research has been supported by $1.3 million in grants from Susan G. Komen
- Etta-Cheri Washington, a patient navigator in the Washington DC area who, with the help of Komen grants, is committed to saving the lives of women in DC. Her local organization, DC Pink Divas, connects area women to medical and educational resources. Washington adds, “The DC Pink Divas and I have made it our mission to start a ripple effect among the women of Ward 8 by empowering sisters to recognize their needs, educating them so they can take action and plan breast cancer prevention activities, and impacting them enough so they venture out on their own and share their knowledge with others.”
- Dr. Beatrice Wiafe, a physician in Ghana, Africa, who with the help of Komen, is making great strides in increasing early detection and helping save thousands of lives. Komen has granted more than $462,000 in funding to Ghana for programs that educate Ghanaian women about breast cancer, encourage screening and provide treatment. Dr. Wiafe says, “Ignorance is killing our women and we have to fight it by empowering them with knowledge about the disease … and to show them that we’re here to provide support, resources and access to care.”
Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982, two years after the death of her sister, Suzy, from breast cancer. Before she died, Suzy asked Nancy to promise to do all that she could to end breast cancer so that others wouldn’t suffer as she did.
“It’s hard to believe today that there was such shame and silence around this disease when we started,” Brinker said. “You couldn’t say ‘cancer’ in polite company, and certainly not ‘breast cancer,’ and so many women suffered in silence. The people who joined us in 1982 said, ‘Enough!’ and their efforts – in just one generation – have brought more options, more hope, and more promise for ending this disease than at any time in our history.”
Komen alone has invested more than $2 billion into research, community health programs, advocacy and global programs. The organization and its 119 Affiliates have provided screenings, treatment help, financial and social support to millions of women by funding $1.3 billion in community health and education programs over Komen’s 30 years – 1,700 programs last year alone.
“We provide the funding for co-pays, surgeries, groceries, living expenses, free screenings and aftercare support for uninsured and low-income women,” Brinker said.
At the same time, Komen has provided more breast cancer research support than any other nonprofit, second only to the federal government, with $740 million invested since 1982. Currently, Komen alone is funding 500 research grants totaling more than $300 million at institutions worldwide.
“When we started, we thought of breast cancer as one disease, with one set of treatments,” Brinker said. “We’ve learned so much, and we’ve been so proud at Komen to play a role in new treatment approaches that have made breast cancer survivors the largest population of cancer survivors in the United States.
“Our first 30 years have taught us that so much can be done when people join together in the fight against this ancient and devastating enemy,” Brinker said. “We know that the next 30 years will make even more progress possible. We hope one day soon to have vaccines against breast cancer; to understand how it spreads and how to stop it in its tracks, so that we can eliminate metastatic and aggressive disease; and mostly, to fulfill our collective promise of a world where no woman or man has to fear breast cancer ever again.”