Note to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood: Never Underestimate the Power of a Breast Cancer Survivor

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
—Dr. Seuss

I try not to blog about controversial issues, but this week’s news story about the conflict between the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood has forced me to reconsider, at least for today.

My sister and I have supported the Susan G. Komen Foundation for years.  Since my sister’s diagnosis twelve years ago, since my diagnosis eight years ago, and my sister’s death in 2005, I have believed that Komen’s support of women with breast cancer was worthy of my donations.  The walks have been important to my family because much of the money was kept locally to support diagnosis, treatment, and research in our area.

The important thing to remember about all of this is no one should underestimate the power of a woman who has had breast cancer.  We are vocal, passionate about survival, and determined.  We will never stop our support for services for women wherever those services are offered.  Anyone who sat in the room with my sister during her final ten days of life would never insert politics into the issue of providing services for women that could save their lives and spare them the agony I witnessed my sister undergoing at the end of her life.

This is one more examples of how our dysfunctional Congress affects us all negatively.  I hate to see women react emotionally to the point where they say they will no longer do the Komen walks or support Komen in their efforts to provide grants for breast cancer research.  I wish more than anything something could have saved my sister’s life, but at least I can hope that there are women whose lives will be saved by early detection, by better treatment, and by environmental changes that will prevent breast cancer.

I have seen in the past two days how people, including New York City Mayor Bloomberg, will step in and support free mammograms and treatment for women without insurance.  Good can always come out of bad.  In the past few days Planned Parenthood has received more in donations than they were receiving from a Komen grant and abortion is not the reason for this increased support.  The mixture of politics and emotional issues such as breast cancer is a volatile one, so we cannot allow the controversy over abortion to take away financial resources that could save lives.  We can prove to Congress and to the Komen Foundation that we will do what they will not.

I don’t know if Nancy Brinker did the right thing.  If the Komen Foundation cannot support organizations under investigation and if our Congress is currently investigating Planned Parenthood for misdirection of funds, then it seems obvious that Komen has the right to withdraw funds, even temporarily, until the issue is resolved.  But for women to withdraw support for Komen and refuse to buy pink or participate in walks as many women are now threatening to do is to miss the core of the issue.  Women die of breast cancer.   We cannot allow any woman to die because she could not afford a mammogram or treatment.

I hope women will continue to support women diagnosed with breast cancer in any way they can, put aside political issues, and reach out in any way their hearts tell them to.  I am not planning to withdraw my support for Komen at this time, although I will continue to keep up with developments as they occur.  Perhaps the Komen Foundation will reverse its decision in the coming weeks.  My sister supported the Komen Foundation and if she were alive today, I believe she would continue that support because I know for her the only thing that matters is life.