Why I support and will continue to support Susan G. Komen

I’m often asked for my input and opinions on Susan G. Komen. These questions come from team members, supporters, family and friends and are typically prompted by a negative article or piece of news. Let’s just set the record straight, I don’t think the organization is perfect. They’ve had their PR troubles and they’ve done stuff I don’t always agree with but guess what, I don’t know an organization out there that is perfect. And I’m a firm believer; you have to take the good with the bad. That’s just life. If you look for perfection, you’re going to be disappointed.

Just to be clear, I don’t work for Komen and I’m not on their board (although I think I would be a great candidate). I’m just a supporter who found my passion after a diagnosis with breast cancer at age 36. I’m walking my 7th 3-Day and my team has raised nearly $700,000 for Komen. My agency, Brogan & Partners, supports the Detroit Race for the Cure as their pro-bono advertising agency. No one hired me to give positive or negative feedback. I just want everyone to know the facts and base their opinions on the truth.

So let’s talk about all the good things Susan G. Komen has done and is doing today in the fight against breast cancer. Since 1982, they’ve invested more than $2.5 billion dollars with $804 million of those dollars funding over 2,200 research grants. Just last year, they invested $49.5 million dollars in 124 new research projects.

The latest negative article points to their lack of attention to Metastatic—late stage breast cancer. Susan G. Komen has spent more than $91 million dollars on metastatic research funding over 200 grants. They’ve partnered with metastatic organizations for years and just last year, Komen joined with 15 organizations to form the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance.

Of particular interest to me is their work in Triple Negative Breast Cancer. In 2006, just one year before my diagnosis, triple negative was identified as a distinct sub-type. While I did not have triple negative breast cancer, I’ve seen this disease impact many of my friends, some who are sadly no longer with us today. Since 2006, Komen has invested more than $74 million dollars across over 100 research grants. In 2009, Komen joined forces with the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and pledged an additional $6.4 million over five years to fund research to support the discovery of new treatments. Unfortunately, this cancer has a greater chance of metastasizing and so the importance of understanding this cancer and better treatments is monumental.

And we can’t ignore the tremendous work in early detection—more than $33 million to find better technologies for breast cancer screening, as well as educational strategies to increase the number of women who participate in breast cancer screening. They reach out into the community and fund screening, education and treatment for low-income and uninsured women nationwide to the tune of $218 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2013 alone.

Many are offended by the happy pink ribbons and sea of pink that emerges every October. I’m not one of those people. I like what the pink represents and it makes me happy to know the support I have. And walking the 3-Day for me is an opportunity to celebrate my survivorship and also remember the friends I’ve lost in this battle.

I will continue to support Komen, to walk the 3-Day, to rally team members, to share my unsolicited marketing advice, to help the Detroit Race for the Cure. And I hope you will all join me. We need Komen. We need the dollars they raise. We need them to keep providing grants to other breast cancer organizations. We need them to keep forming partnerships. We need them to continue fighting on our behalf and for our mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins and friends. And as long as I can, I’ll be there supporting their work, participating in their events and sharing my love for an organization that has done so much in this fight.

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The 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure

Another 3-Day has ended but the memories of my 5th journey will last a lifetime. It was a beautiful weekend with sunny skies and temps in the mid 70s. After the hot Michigan summer, we could not imagine a more perfect weekend. Sharing this weekend with my family—my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, cousin Lizzy and most importantly, my 12 year old daughter, Lacey, was an experience I will never forget. Jon joined us for opening ceremonies for the first time standing with me as Lacey carried the “generations” flag into the ceremony.

The event was nothing short of amazing. I walked with friends (both old and new), spent time with family, laughed and enjoyed the crowds cheering us along. My boys came out to cheer on Friday and Saturday. My coworkers cheered us on early in day one, and my grandmother was at a cheer station in downtown Farmington to greet us as we neared the end of the first day.

As I enjoyed the sunny skies and the company of friends and family, my mind drifted to the beautiful women whose lives were tragically cut short by this disease. I mourned for their mothers, sisters and children who will not have the opportunity for the shared experience of a 3-Day weekend. I thought about all the other experiences they will miss. The fight is far from over.

Michigan raised 3.2 million dollars this year—75% of that money will fund life-saving research and the other 25% percent will fund programs in our state. It’s an impressive sum of money but there is so much work to be done. Ta Ta Breast Cancer is signed up for 2013, and I encourage you to join us in this fight. We’ll train together, fundraise together and share the weekend of a lifetime together. I promise you an experience you will never forget.

Five years as a breast cancer survivor!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since one phone call changed my life in such a profound way. It was 9:30 on Thursday night, August 2, 2007 when I got the call. The tiny lump that had been removed 3 days earlier was breast cancer.

Five years later, I look back on that moment. I had no idea what the next day or the next year would bring. I just knew I had a fight in front of me, and I was going to do whatever it took to win.  Exactly nine months later, the crazy whirlwind of regular trips to the hospital and the Rose Cancer Center was behind me. I was done with five surgeries and six chemo treatments. My hair started growing back and life returned to normal. But life was different. My outlook was brighter.  I’d emerged triumphantly from cancer but I knew there were far too many women who didn’t. My focus shifted from my own fight to theirs. I decided I had to continue to fight on their behalf—to honor their memories. I had to continue to fight so that no other woman had to experience the pain and suffering of saying goodbye to their families. Our fight is far from over.

I don’t ever regret my experience with cancer. It’s a rotten disease—the surgeries were painful, the treatments were tiring. At times, I had to let go of my primary role as a mother because I just wanted to sleep. Losing that sense of control was hard, but it taught me so much. It shaped me as a person, as a mother, as a managing partner at my agency, as a cancer fundraiser, as a mentor to newly diagnosed women. It changed the way I view life, the way I view my family, the way I manage my team and my priorities. It made me realize that there is nothing more important than smiling, laughing and having fun. It made me realize the value of making other people smile, of making other people happy, of lending a helping hand. Yes, I’m different than I was five years ago. My experience with breast cancer shaped me into the person I am today, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Previvors have powerful knowledge

I just finished watching a video from TEDMED 2012 of a presentation given by Dr. Ivan Oransky. In the video, he speaks about predisease states. The presentation seemed interesting, at first, as he talked about many preconditions and the underlying issues of over treatment that can cause unnecessary harm to patients. He raised some good points.

6 minutes into the video, he began his discussion of “previvors”. I’m saddened at his lack of knowledge and insensitivity to women and men who have a known genetic mutation. When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 36, I went through genetic counseling and testing. Through this counseling and testing, I learned of my BRCA 2 mutation–the mutation that significantly increased my lifetime risk of both Breast and Ovarian Cancer. I quickly became involved in a wonderful organization called FORCE. FORCE coined the term previvor, and I am so thankful for what this organization has contributed to the lives of both women and men living with a BRCA mutation. FORCE has saved lives by increasing awareness, providing support, providing education, and providing a community for men and women affected by a hereditary cancer mutation.

Sadly, I know too many young women that learned too late about this mutation. These were mothers, sisters, daughters and friends that left us far too early because of a cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Oransky, I encourage you to learn more before you laugh off the term previvor, before you suggest that Mark Burnett start another TV show. You are talking about beautiful women who are taking measures to save their lives. Beautiful women who deserve to live. I am lucky to know so many previvors who are living wonderfully productive lives because knowledge gave them the power to escape a cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Oransky, I hope you will learn more about hereditary cancer mutations, about previvors, and about this wonderful organization that continues to save lives.

Celebrating 41 years

On March 27, in just one week, I will celebrate my 41st birthday. Birthdays are meaningful to me–especially this one. I was 36 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. This year I turn 41 and celebrate 5 years of survivorship. I feel so lucky to celebrate another birthday. Sadly, there are far too many women that don’t make it to 41. Yes, breast cancer is still stealing young lives, and I am committed to do what I can to stop that in its tracks. For my 41st birthday or just because, please join me in my fight to put an end to breast cancer.

This year, I have two ways for you to help. Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered has just launched a hereditary cancer research fund–the goal of the fund is to specifically look at the issues surrounding hereditary cancer. I’ve said goodbye to many amazing women who have faced cancer because of a genetic mutation. The research is absolutely critical, and I’m asking for your help. The goal in year 1 is to raise $100,000 to begin funding this important research. With your help, FORCE can get there.

In August, as I officially celebrate 5 years as a survivor, I will also proudly walk with over 40 men and women on Ta Ta Breast Cancer in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. I am proud to say, we are under $70,000 away from raising $500,000 since I first formed the team in 2008.

Please help me celebrate 41 years. Many small donations will add up to so much for both of these organizations. Together, we can say goodbye to breast cancer forever.

Share your energy for Michigan

Every once in awhile, I use my personal blog to write about a topic that doesn’t have anything to do with cancer. Today is that day.

Earlier in the week, I attended the second annual IDEA: Detroit Conference held at the Fox Theater. The goal of the day was to bring together people who are passionate about our city and making a difference. The energy was exciting. As a businesswoman, I’m starting to see the changes in our city and in our state. I can feel the energy and the passion and believe our economy is turning around and great things are happening.

Over the past several months, I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to work with Business Leaders for Michigan as they’ve rolled out their “New Michigan” plan. I encourage you to watch the New Michigan video and feel the energy. If you live in Michigan, venture over to the Michigan Turnaround Plan Facebook page and take a view minutes to share your vision for a New Michigan in our “New Michigan Sweepstakes”. Optimism is contagious and showing pride in our great state will make a difference. As a side benefit, you can also win $500 and who couldn’t use a little extra cash?

Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood–my response

As a major supporter and fundraiser for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, many people are looking to me for my thoughts and opinions on yesterdays’ announcement  regarding funding to Planned Parenthood.

Let me start by saying I am not in favor of Komen’s decision. As a person deeply concerned about women’s health, I understand the immense value of Planned Parenthood. 

To further complicate a very politically charged issue, Komen did not handle this announcement effectively.   

Where did they go wrong?

  • Komen decided to pull its Planned Parenthood funding just six months after the hiring of Karen Handel–who adamantly opposes abortion–as vice president of public policy. In my opinion, the politics of abortion has no place in a breast cancer research foundation and I think it’s a huge shame that Komen has let this issue affect its mission.
  • Komen took nearly 24 hours to issue its own statement with regards to this funding. This gave the press and social media time to explode. Susan G. Komen was not part of this conversation, and it should have been. When they did issue their statement, it was too little too late. They’re now mired in a public relations nightmare and it’s going to be hard for them to recover. Even though Komen still contributes money to many other healthcare organizations that provide breast cancer screening (as well as mammograms), they’ve done damage by cutting off the well-known and much beloved Planned Parenthood.

I’m certain, the team at Komen is locked in a room desperately trying to find a way to recover. At least I hope they are.

So why do I, a passionate supporter of Planned Parenthood, also continue to stand so firmly behind Susan G. Komen? Because you see, I’m not convinced I would have the opportunity to write this blog had Komen not contributed what they have to breast cancer research over the past 30 years. Would I be alive? Would I be living the life I always dreamt I’d live? Who’s to say? The drugs, the treatments, the awareness, the advancements–so many of them come down to what Susan G. Komen has done for us. I’m terrified at the numbers of people that are professing to never give them another dime. What will this mean to breast cancer research? How will it affect our daughters, sisters and friends? This really scares me.

I know there are other organizations raising funds for breast cancer research. One of them, FORCE, is near and dear to my heart. I believe these other organizations can contribute and I will support them. But today, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the strongest force out there. They are making a real difference in breast cancer  treatment. They are saving lives. We need them.
 
So, to the team at Susan G. Komen, please find a way to make this right. Do what you need to do to get your supporters back on board. I wish the answer was easy but we all know it’s not.
 
To my friends, supporters and fellow teammates–please don’t let this change your commitment. If you’re outraged by Komen’s decision, show it by making a donation to Planned Parenthood. But please don’t pull your support from Komen.

We need this research. We need this funding. We need to find cures and we need to save lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been awhile since my last post but it seems like today is as good a time as any to write a blog post. It’s Thanksgiving and, yes, I am thankful for so much.

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving 2007 when I had just recently emerged from a chemo haze. I was bald and not feeling so good but I spent time that day appreciating the great things in my world. Today, those great things are that much more magnified.

I’m thankful for over 4 years of survivorship. I’m thankful that post breast cancer, my life is full and enriched and I feel great. I’m thankful for a career I love with outstanding people who work by my side day in and day out going the extra mile to make our clients happy. I’m thankful for great clients who make work fun and rewarding. I’m thankful for the entire breast cancer community and the wonderful people I’ve met through this journey. I’m thankful for super friends who make life so much fun. And most of all, I’m thankful for my family–both immediate and extended–who bring me joy every single day.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wicked is coming to Detroit!

My favorite yearly fundraiser is approaching. Grab some friends or your kids (older than 8 recommended) and join us for a performance of Wicked–winner of 35 major awards. It’s December 20, 2011 at the Detroit Opera House. We have 3 different price points for seats and a portion of your ticket cost supports Ta Ta Breast Cancer in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. An added bonus–no ticketmaster fees and no mark-up on tickets. We pay group rate and you pay face value–a win, win for all.

Hope to see you there. Stay tuned for more information on Shrek coming to Detroit in Spring of 2012.

3-Day World

It always takes a few days to collect my thoughts and reflect on the emotional and overwhelming experience of walking 60 miles over 3 days. This year was my 4th 3-Day, and I loved it just as much as past years. I feel a great sense of purpose, comradarie and love over those 3 days–it’s a different feeling from everyday life. 362 days a year, we live in the real world and 3 days a year, we live in 3-Day world.

In 3-Day world, it’s perfectly acceptable for people to wear bras outside of their shirts, on their heads or anywhere else they’d like. In 3-Day world, words like boobs, jugs and breasts are part of our everyday vocabulary. In 3-Day world, we are happy to see a relatively clean port-a-pottie and not shy about discussing our bathroom experiences. In 3-Day world, we learn more about our fellow walkers than people we’ve known a lifetime. In 3-Day world, thank yous flow freely from everyone’s mouths and we feel like celebrities walking down the street. In 3-Day world, we are all sisters and brothers connected by a common bond to see an end to breast cancer. More than anything, in 3-Day world, we feel powerful and determined that with each step and each passing day, we are getting closer to beating this disease. And that is why we walk and we raise money and we never ever give up.

While I’m back in the real world, I hang on to the emotions, thoughts and feelings I experienced last weekend. I will never stop fighting on behalf of far too many women who’ve lost their battle this year and every year. I will never stop fighting for my daughter, my friends, my extended family and all of our future generations. I am confident we can beat this disease and happy to share this journey with so many others. One year from today, I will once again enter 3-Day world and experience my 5th journey. Join me and experience the life-changing journey of 3 days, 60 miles and one common goal.

With my mom and Aunt Bunny

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