Thursday, February 2, 2012

"The Accidental Re-Branding of Komen"

They didn't see it coming and for that I am truly angry and very sad. When the press release hit with the news that Susan G Komen had pulled funding from Planned Parenthood, it ignited passions in people about issues not at all related to the End of Breast Cancer. It flamed the fires of the abortion debate and possibly irrevocably tied Susan G Komen to that debate.

All of this happened, I believe, because they were ignorant or arrogant enough to think the logic of what they were doing outweighed the emotion that would follow. They felt (or acted) as if they did'nt have to address the whys of what they did. In that void of communication those surprised and angered took over the conversation, and those who portrayed this as a major victory for pro-life passion joined in.

The conversation flew straight off of the facts, that 1 in 8 women will battle Breast cancer and of those 1 in 8 will die, and square onto a political agenda, far right vs. far left schemes. There was no talk about the community outreach that is being done through Susan G Komen, just that Susan G Komen had abandoned under insured women and left them standing at a closed Planned Parenthood door (which of course is not the case.)

You and I know, once the conversation swings in one myopic direction, there is a whole world not being seen. Especially when that shift happens in a blink of an eye. I thought, since I have received more than one call and email of concern I would give you my take on Susan G Komen and why I will continue to walk for them despite their inexcusable debacle in regards to Planned Parenthood.

I am a 16 year survivor of a disease that would have killed me had it NOT been for the work Komen had done on several different fronts. Their work at awareness brought me the knowledge that self-exam was important. Had I not found the lump I did, I would be dead. I was part of the first wave of folks using a chemotherapy drug whose research had been paid for in part by a Komen Grant. I would not be alive today without chemotherapy. And Komen has given me an avenue to express my passion and determination to end Cancer. In the process of walking all those miles, I gained a belief in myself that I do not imagine I would have gotten in any other way. For that I will be forever grateful.

The community that I walk with at Komen has never been political. I walk next to people who are “pro-life” while I have always been “pro-choice”. The walk has never been about that, it has been about ending Cancer. It will always be about that for me. I do not intend on anyone hijacking this organization for political purposes and in the process leave my daughters to face a world where Breast Cancer has the control. I will not allow that.

Facts: Komen invested over $93,000,000 in community grants and services. Of that $680,000 this past year was given to 19 Planned Parenthood facilities. Avon didn’t fund Planned Parenthood. Komen did 5 years ago and that took gutts other organizations didn't have. They knew they would take flack for giving any money to Planned Parenthood but they did it anyway because at the time it was the best way to get these services to women. They lost support from some who felt Planned Parenthood was the devil. In the past few years however, as Komen sought to fine tune their community outreach, hoping to improve the directness of their grants to support of services, they helped fund and create many other community programs including mobile mammograms. These vans go into communities where these services are not available either due to no insurance or lack of education. They provide free or low cost mammograms and save lives. Planned Parenthood would refer out the clients they saw, so the service is less direct.

Non-profits review grant money yearly. This is not unique to Komen. It was the surprise of the announcement that sent people reeling. The press release hit and Planned parenthood in a defensive move tied the decision to pressure from the right wing thereby igniting those with other points of view. Komen did not help that perception by saying a change in policy that, no grants can be given to organizations who are under local, state or federal investigation was the reason for the withdrawal of funding from Planned Parenthood. There are many reasons why Planned Parenthood is valued by many people and the senante investigation is by its nature political.

Planned Parenthood provides many more services (unrelated to Breast Health) including screening for other women’s cancers, reproductive choice to name only a few. I believe Planned Parenthood to be a vital service to an under insured world. I support them and have donated to them. Their core mission is not just Breast Cancer. Right or wrong, it is also, and has been for as long as I can remember,a polarizing political group that brings out people’s anger or support with passion on both sides.

I want Komen to be non-political and I believe it has been. Breast Cancer doesn’t care if you believe in abortion or global warming or tax cuts for the rich. When I stand next to a fellow survivor I have no idea where they came from or “who” they are. They have fought an enemy who tried to take their life and are living to tell the story. But Komen has become political whether they like it or not. They have made a number of truly stupid choices. Choices like hiring Karen Handel a conservative pro-lifer who is VP in charge of policy. She needs to go. Even if she never pushed an agenda (which I doubt) she needs to go because the perception that she may have is enough to give her the boot. Komen should reverse the new policy regarding funding organizations under investigation. There are some fundamental American values like innocent until proven guilty that should come into play. Otherwise this will happen again because of someone's political motives. Komen should demonstrate their commitment to the underserved by sharing the impressive and extensive list of community programs that have been funding. The link following is just in the Washington DC area listing of some of the mammogram facilities funded by Susan G Komen. http://www.aahd.us/site/static/pdfs/komen/MammoFacilKomen2009-10.pdf

No longer will fundraising or the work we seek to do be as easy as it was, relying on the Komen brand to build awareness and save lives. No, now we have to refocus to the mission and remove any hint of politics and work fervently to keep it that way. Komen needs to listen to those people whose blood, sweat. tears and blisters made them the most successful grassroots organization in history. We are saying; don’t leave us here to explain this misstep to our supporters. Fix it. I intend to be part of that fixing. But I can’t do it from outside.

I didn’t give in to Cancer. You gave me tools I could use to fight it. I will not give in to this challenge either. I will not give up on Susan G Komen, I will fight to protect it and better it. I will never give in until this is a world without Breast Cancer. Help me, help you, you need to react.

I hope those of you who have supported me in the past can see beyond the anger of the moment. I hope you will write to Komen tell them how you feel, and if you support Planned Parenthood donate to Planned Parenthood. (Planned Parnethood has already made up all of the Komen money and more). When you donate to Planned Parenthood do it because you support their mission which does things Komen can't. And when you donate to Komen, donate to them for the work they do; Research, education, community outreach, services. 84% or every dollar going toward finding a cure and saving lives.

Thank you all for your support over the years. There is so much more that needs to be done. I hope you can still support me and my fight to end this disease. Now, having said that, you are welcome to share your thoughts, but me… me I need to get walking.