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An article in honor of February as the National Cancer Prevention Month, represented by a purple ribbon
Shockingly, Florida ranks last in the U.S. for the number of women under 65 who have insurance. They are so vulnerable to death from cancer because such a lack of insurance delays diagnosis and treatment with catastrophic results. Worst of all, one out of three women diagnosed are in the last stages of their cancer diagnosis, which is more difficult to treat, leaving a much smaller chance of recovery.
Such issues took on greater prominence when Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis was diagnosed with breast cancer. This subject is especially important since the Covid pandemic has triggered an 87% decline in breast cancer screenings and an 84% decline in cervical cancer screenings.
But there’s hope because three powerhouse Florida women stepped up to offer care and relief in an organization that is on its way to becoming a national model for women’s health. In 2018, Nancy G. Brinker, Julie Fisher Cummings and Laurie Silvers founded the nonprofit Promise Fund of Florida in Palm Beach County, where they reside, to reduce the number of deaths due to late-stage breast and cervical cancer.
Founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, author of the bestseller and story of her life, “Promise Me,” inductee to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, former Ambassador to Hungary where she instituted the first Bridge Walk for Komen in that country, and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 presented by President Obama, Brinker brought her experience and acumen to the organization.
Once again, Nancy stepped up her commitment to philanthropy for us and has transformed an issue not mentioned in polite conversation when I was young but is now a topic commonly discussed even in international circles. Her leadership role should come as no surprise since her mantra has always been, “The very first step toward giving to others is grateful recognition of our own assets.”
About The Promise Fund of Florida
The Promise Fund seeks to save lives through early detection by utilizing patient navigation, raising community awareness and forming viable partnerships critical to patient care. The navigators guide individuals through the process and provide one-on-one assistance all the way from screening, diagnosis and treatment to completion of care.
The Promise Fund partners with community-based organizations that connect at-risk individuals with health care providers for breast and cervical health screening and services. This includes mammograms, pap smears, clinical breast exams, diagnosis and treatment. Patients are linked to resources that assist them with child care and other obstacles preventing screening and treatment, which improve their quality of life and save health care dollars.
Regular, ongoing community outreach and education at health fairs, nonprofit community events and faith-based groups raise awareness of the importance of early detection screenings and access to quality facilities for those requiring diagnosis and treatment. The Promise Fund partners with organizations to streamline care services and determine affordable pricing for low-income residents who are uninsured or under-insured so they receive access to essential services.
The Promise Fund is also active on the local, state and federal levels to influence public policy that will result in effective disbursement of health care dollars to help those most at risk.
The Promise Fund is especially proud that last year they educated, screened and navigated 16,000 in Palm Beach County out of the 80,000 under resourced women with no insurance and no medical home. The Promise Fund Mammogram Screening Center at Found Care, one of the federally qualified health care centers, opened last year, and a Capital Campaign is about to be launched. Because the hospitality industry is the largest employment sector in the U.S. and has one of the largest impacts on people across Florida, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) supports the Promise Fund’s work and efforts not only in Palm Beach but across the state.
The Promise Fund holds various fundraisers throughout the year like the Florida’s Pink Tie Guy’s Dash and Dine, Pink Boots on the Ground Celebration and the Palm Beach Annual Bridge Lighting that glows in a bath of pink color. The Promise Fund also responded to the Covid crises by donating $5,000 to the Town of Palm Beach’s Coronavirus Emergency Fund for the Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Response.
The Promise Fund is proud that people’s giving is inside their local communities. However, last year, the Promise Fund partnered with the Qatar Cancer Society. The Promise Fund’s efforts are becoming nationally and internationally recognized because it is particularly focused on navigation in community health. Such a model is indeed worthy of replication, and what a thrill it would be to have chapters of the Promise Fund in every state in our country.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Nancy Brinker about the Promise Fund because I was aware of her immense success of Susan G. Komen for the Cure since many Walks for the Cure were initiated in Washington, D.C., where I reside part-time. I was most curious to ascertain why this dynamic woman wasn’t satisfied with international accolades and achieving worldwide recognition. I wanted to know what keeps her infused with energy and commitment to the cause, and her forthright honesty and enthusiasm are effusive when she speaks.
She had built the Susan G. Komen Foundation for over 40 years to make it the world’s most renowned breast cancer charity, all to fulfill a promise she made to her sister Suzy in 1980 when Suzy was fighting breast cancer that ultimately took her life at age 36. Nancy remembered Suzy saying, “Where a woman lives should not determine whether she lives.” And Brinker became upset that women of diversity were dying of breast and cervical cancer at an alarming rate and were dying right where she lives in South Florida.
“Our goal is to reduce early deaths from breast and cervical cancer in our community,” Nancy said. “The Promise Fund is the way to do it. Every year on October 31, I’m reminded of my sister’s birthday, and although progress is being made, my promise to her to end cancer is not yet achieved. But in my heart, I know it will one day. That’s why I will never yield in this fight until my promise is fulfilled. There is no greater power of women standing united, ready to help one another.”
Over the years, Brinker has inspired both women and men, particularly when men like Senator Edward Brooke, KISS drummer Peter Criss and Cleveland Browns fullback Ernie Green fought their own battles with breast cancer although male cases only comprise 2%. Even Brinker’s son Eric shares his advice on supporting loved ones who have been diagnosed with breast cancer as Nancy herself battled it.
The Promise Fund is proof positive of Brinker’s commitment to this cause and should be ours as well throughout all of Florida and beyond. When Palm Beach resident Irving Greenberg said, “The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle,” he must have been referencing the Promise Fund.
To learn more, see promisefundofflorida.org.
National Cancer Prevention Month of February includes these dates:
- Feb. 4—World Cancer Day
- Feb. 14—National Donor Day (for donating one’s hair, an organ, or bone marrow to a person with cancer)
- Feb. 15—International Childhood Cancer Day
- Feb. 28—Working Together to Treat Rare Cancers