Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Susan’s Legacy

When Susan Komen was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, neither she nor her sister Nancy Crinker knew things they wish they had known. Since it was their family doctor who diagnosed Susan’s cancer, she never thought to get a second opinion. For example, when this doctor brought in a surgeon who pronounced Susan “cured” after surgery, Susan was happy because that’s what she wanted to hear. Unfortunately, it was only five months later when Suzie found a lump under her arm. A biopsy indicated that the cancer had spread to Susan’s lymph nodes and right lung.

As she continued to fight, Susan was inspired when former First Lady Betty Ford went public in 1978 with her breast cancer diagnosis. “If she can fight, I can, too,” became Susan’s attitude.

Before losing her valiant battle, Susan told Nancy that she wanted to help other women by working on a breast cancer cure. Nancy’s response was to found Race for the Cure(R) and the Susan G. Komen Foundation in 1982. Since its inception, the foundation has been involved in every aspect of breast cancer intervention.

Starting with early detection, the survival rate in 1982 for women whose cancer was found early was 74 percent. With 70 percent of women 40 and older now getting regular mammograms, the survival rate is now 99 percent, and the incidence of breast cancer has been reduced by 33 percent.

Moving on to funding, the federal government currently allocates $850 million to breast cancer initiatives compared to $30 million in 1982. Additional funding sources include: the Astrozenica Foundation, the Men Against Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Komen Foundation’s allocation of close to $1 billion in grants.

Global community outreach, advocacy, and health education are additional ways the Komen Foundation has been and continues to race for the cure. More specifically, regarding leadership, this foundation not only has affiliates nationwide, but also in 50 countries.

Though no one would minimize the significance of these milestones, but everyone would probably agree that there is still work to be done. If the past 30 years are any benchmark, it is likely that Susan’s legacy will last for many more years, and hopefully be victorious in racing for a cure.

Sources: www.komen.org, www.nbcam.org, and www.whitehouse.gov

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