Get Your Pink On and
Prepare for a Fight
By Kathy A. Megyeri
Palm Beach resident, Nancy Goodman Brinker, is considered the leader of the global breast cancer movement. Today, Susan G. Komen, the organization that she founded in her sister’s name, has invested more than $2.9 billion in breast cancer research and programs. Their efforts have helped reduce deaths from breast cancer by 38 percent between 1989 and 2014. And they aren’t stopping until a cure is found.
The idea of stewardship was instilled in Brinker and her sister at a young age.
Brinker remembered their first fundraiser.
“My sister was eight and I was five,” she said. “We decided to give a show in our backyard to benefit polio research. We raised $64.“
“Suzy told me that I had to sing and dance and that she’d sell tickets. I sang the only songs I knew — Rosemary Clooney tunes. I thought I was wonderful, but when I was done, Suzy said that the next time, she’d sing and I’d sell the tickets.”
In 1980, Brinker’s beloved sister died of breast cancer – she was only 36.
Two years after her sister’s death, Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Breast
Cancer Foundation, now usually referred to simply as Komen.
“I started my efforts with $200 and a shoe box of names to contact,” she said.
That inaugural year, Komen awarded its first research grant for $28,000 to Dr. Gary Spitzer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In 1984, Brinker was diagnosed with the disease.
“Susan G. Komen was founded
with a promise to my sister
on her deathbed. By her side
through three brutal years
of surgery, chemotherapy and
radiation, I promised Suzy
I’d do everything I could to stop
the heartless progression and
social stigma of this disease,
even if it took the rest of my life.
And it has.”
~ Nancy Goodman Brinker,
Founder and Chair of Global Strategy,
Susan G. Komen organization
Just about everyone has heard of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which began in Dallas in 1983, and now takes place in over 150 locations worldwide. It is currently the world’s largest fundraising event for breast cancer education and research.
Runners and walkers typically don pink T-shirts, shoes, hats and headbands, and raise money to fund research and support cancer care.
Pink was Komen’s favorite color and in 1991 the pink ribbon made its debut as the national symbol for the cause.
Now every October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, just about everyone is thinkin’ pink with their pink apparel, jewelry, handbags and cell phone skins. And for the super enthusiasts, there are pink garbage cans, kitchen appliances, and sewing machines. Even NFL players and cheerleaders sport pink on the fields to help bring awareness to the forefront.
All this pink passion is a reminder that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. It’s a cue to be proactive by scheduling a mammogram and making sure to do monthly breast checks.
“As it is, even in the U.S., only about a third of the women who ought to be getting mammograms are getting them today,” Brinker said, “and we know from all the evidence that mammograms do indeed save lives. We have five-year survival rates of 98 percent for cancers caught early–those that haven’t spread from the breast. Once they do spread, those survival odds plummet to 23 percent.”
Komen began in Dallas; now they have affiliates in 120 American communities and in 50 countries.
“When I started, I hoped it would take ten years to find a cure,” Brinker said. “We’re not there yet, but we’ve made incremental gains in understanding biology and increasing awareness.”
“This is a fight we are in together, every day of every year, and that makes all of us stronger.”