Over the past three decades a driving force in that awareness has been an organization that put a name in front of the public to emphasize the urgent need for screening, treatment and research. Thirty years after her death the name of Susan G. Komen is known in 50 countries, where walks “for the cure” have inspired fundraising efforts of all kinds. Most of us know people who suffered from breast cancer, and it’s a simple matter in our minds to substitute their names for Komen’s as we register the need to conquer this type of cancer.
The efforts have not brought about a cure, but there has been progress. The Komen organization claims breast cancer mortality rates are down by 33 percent since 1991, and the five-7year relative survival rate for early stage breast cancer is now 98 percent compared to 74 percent in 1982.
Thanks largely to the organization’s success in calling attention to this particular type of cancer, funding for breast cancer research leads all other types.
Grassroots fundraising efforts are a big part of that, and caring people in our area are doing their share. In recent weeks, we’ve reported on a number of local fundraisers organized to help with the fight.
At Stemley Elementary School the Walk for the Cure has become a tradition, with students wearing pink and bringing in donations to help with the cause. Students at Central Alabama Community College’s campus in Talladega got involved with a bake sale. Walks were held in October organized by a group called FamAboveAll and Tampeko Modeling Management, and by Douglas Cornelius. A number of sports teams in our area wore pink socks as part of their uniform to show support.
Nationally, professional and amateur sports teams got involved, Jason Aldean held a concert for the cure, and the Association of 7-Eleven Franchisees also made a contribution.
The Komen organization has had its controversies. Last year it stopped, then restarted donations to Planned Parenthood for breast exams, bringing on criticism from political groups on both ends of the spectrum. Some have raised hackles over salaries within the organization. According to the organization’s latest tax filing, founder Nancy G. Brinker was paid more than $600,000 in 2011. The five highest people in the organization had a combined income of more than $2 million—a little more than one percent of the group’s total revenue of about $197 million.
But it’s hard to argue with results. The organization boasts spending more than $2.2 billion to research and life-saving community programs that are having an effect.
The organization started with a simple promise. In 1980 Brinker promised her dying sister to do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever.
Thanks to caring people like the kids at Stemley Elementary, the high school athletes wearing pink socks at their games, the college kids holding bake sales, and those organizing and participating in walks, runs and other events, progress is being made. There’s not a cure yet. Hopefully, some day there will be one. Until that happens, increased awareness is helping people live longer, and that’s a victory.