Monday, January 16, 2012

We Will Never Give Up!

It started with a promise from one sister to another. The last time Nancy Brinker saw her sister Susan G Komen, Suzy said "I know you can do something about this. I know you can raise money for research and help other women." Nancy Brinker promised her sister she would do everything in her power.

That was over 30 years ago. What was the world like for women with Breast Cancer then. Suzy Komen at 38 felt a lump in her breast. The Doctor she saw was her family Physician. He performed a biopsy and spoke with her about a mastectomy. Suzy was scared about that. She opted to do nothing (perhaps hoping the biopsy had removed the cancer.) At that time in Peoria Illinois there wasn't a Cancer Center, and well, you didn't talk about Breast Cancer. Of course, as you can guess to do nothing was not the right choice. And she eventually met a surgeon who, as good looking as he was, and as charming as he was, proposed a surgery that left her skin intact so that an implant could be put in 10 days after the surgery. But the cancer continued to grow - now in her lymph nodes and lung. Suzy Komen finally ended up seeing Doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. They put her on a nearly lethal course of Chemotherapy and radiation. She lost her hair. She lost weight from the nausea. And when it was obvious she was going to lose her life, she turned to her big sister and asked her to do something about Breast Cancer. Not for herself, but for everyone else.

And Nancy Brinker has done what at the time seemed impossible. She helped to grow Breast Cancer Awareness to a place where it is no long something to hide. It is something to discover early, treat early and defeat. How did she do this. One person cannot change the way society thinks, can they?

No she hasn't changed things by herself, we have changed things. Because when she made that promise to her sister, she made that promise for all of us. She made the promise to other Cancer Survivors, people like me. I have made the same promise to our daughters, and their daughters. When you walk in a 3 day, you are walking along side people who are honoring a promise. Perhaps to their mother, to their friend or to themselves. We are Susan G Komen.

The world today is a far better place for women with Breast Cancer. For many women their choices were few back years ago. Many insurance companies didn't cover the treatment or prevention of Breast Cancer. After all it was easy to not cover it if people wouldn't even admit to having it.

Walking in the 3 day I have seen more words for Breasts than I can count. People use them as their team names, carry signs and boldly wear bras (even men) on the outside of their walking gear. Before Susan G Komen we probably would have all ended up in jail!

Its harder for Insurance companies to avoid paying for treatment and prevention, but it still happens. I do not want a Mother to have the choice of getting treatment or feeding her children. Back then women were often left by their spouses to face this Cancer on their own. The husbands didn't want damaged goods. They certainly didn't want the stress or shame. But now, husbands still leave their wives after they have Breast Cancer, I just have to believe that leaving isn't "understood" like it used to be. Back then, if a woman had Cancer they could lose their jobs. Today, that would be a much more difficult thing to do, but it still happens. Back then because women didn't do "self exams" or have regular mammograms, the Cancer that was discovered was discovered much later in its course, and the mortality rate was higher as a result. Back then the aggressive treatment would be a radical mastectomy and leave women scared and sometimes deformed. Today for some women they can avoid the most aggressive Cancer because they can better diagnosed which type Cancer they have. One woman may not have to have chemo, another might have to have a double mastectomy all her lymph nodes removed, develop lymphedema, lose the use of her right arm, whose loss will keep her from practicing hands on medicine (This is what happened to our National Spokesperson Dr. Sheri Philips 3 years ago). Before a woman diagnosed with stage IV Breast Cancer had a 2% chance of living beyond 5 years, today it is 25%. Today, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetimes with Breast Cancer, of those 1 in 8 will die.

Since Nancy Brinker made her promise to her sister much has been done, but there is so much more that still needs to be done. Who will the 1 in 8 be, your mother, your friend, your sister, you?

At the closing ceremony during the 3 day there is the final moment when the flag that says "A World Without Breast Cancer" is raised.

"Like mountain climbers who plant their flag to symbolize the attainment of the summit, this flag is a proof that we were here."

The words that are spoken during this moment ring in my ears every time my commitment to this cause is questioned. The faces of people we lost flash before my eyes. The future of our daughters come in clear focus.

"Living, breathing and shouting with every step"

and I scream with the crowd....

"We will never give up, WE will NEVER give up, WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP!"

And that my friends is my promise to you. I will never give up until this is world without Breast Cancer.