Komen Community Challenge: A call to Action for Breast Cancer Awareness
Close the Gap: Judith Giuliani, wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani, at a Komen Community Challenge event yesterday in Lebanon, NH
“This ain’t no tea party…
“This is the war on breast cancer. We’re bringing it to Capitol Hill, and then we’re heading clear across the country. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is taking its special brand of pink ribbon activism on the road in a powerful grassroots effort to ‘Close the Gap’ in access to quality health care, research and information. Over the next 25 years, five million Americans could be diagnosed with breast cancer–and because there are gaps in our system, this diagnosis will be deadlier for some than for others. That's wrong.
“So as we mark our 25th year, the Komen Community Challenge is hitting 25 cities, reaching tens of thousands of people at town hall meetings, roundtables, lobby days, and summits. We’re rallying to make breast cancer a national priority, to help ‘Close the Gap’ in funding that keeps thousands of women from receiving life-saving breast cancer care. In order to do this, we extend the Challenge to draw 25 million new people into the fold. We must–because in the next 25 years, 25 million people worldwide could be diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Those stirring words come from the Web site of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest and most progressive grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists. They set the tone for a leadership summit I attended yesterday, part of the 25 nationwide community challenge events Komen is organizing this year.
With Presidential candidate wives Judith Giuliani and Elizabeth Kucinich in attendance, and the Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, CSPAN, and the New York Times covering the event, it was one of the highest-powered affairs ever held at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, N.H.
Staking out my seat 30 minutes before the start of the program, I stared at the huge film cameras and masses of electric cable parked in the center of the comfortable auditorium. Dark suits (both men and women) were the uniform of the day for most, as Capitol Hill representatives of all of Vermont and New Hampshire’s senators and congressmen made an appearance. Nationally noted oncologists and cutting-edge researchers from the cancer center sat side by side with their breast cancer patients in the crowded rows; we chatted amiably until Susan DeBevoise Wright, wife of Dartmouth College president Jim Wright and a 10-year survivor, kicked off the introductions.
Susan Wright, "First Lady" of Dartmouth College, is a 10-year survivor who nearly died of pneumonia while participating in a cutting-edge clinical trial during treatment. Wright said that of the many hats she wears (above), "breast cancer survivor" is one of the most important.
Speakers included officials and doctors from Norris Cotton; Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Komen for the Cure, as well as a 5-year survivor; Dr. Dwight Randall, senior scientific advisor at Komen; and, of course, Giuliani and Kucinich. Moddelmog spoke first, stressing the importance of political activism in the fight to eradicate breast cancer.
Hala Moddelmog, President and CEO of Komen for the Cure.
“There are currently 2.4 million breast cancer survivors in this country. 1.4 million men and women participate in the Run for the Cure; 50,000 do the 3-day. Another 100,000 have signed on with us as public policy advocates,” said Moddelmog. “We have a little machine here, a mini-union, that can really sway votes. Women who’ve been touched by breast cancer seem to get pretty enthusiastic about this,” she said. Holding up stacks of postcards from the 15,000 New Hampshire women who’d already joined the “I Vote for the Cure™” initiative, Moddelmog stressed the urgency of standing up and making ourselves heard NOW. And it’s as easy as this: Send an online petition to presidential candidates to make breast cancer a priority in their campaigns. All it takes is a few keystrokes. Especially at this stage of the game, while everyone’s still in the running, candidates really DO pay attention to our individual and collective voices.
Judith Giuliani, wife of Republican candidate and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, urged us to “Turn compassion into action. Beating cancer takes more than just science. That’s why I Vote for the Cure is so important–everyone deserves a voice on Capitol Hill.” Speaking of her husband, the 52-year-old former nurse concluded, “Rudy understands. He’s a cancer survivor. He understands how it shapes your life. He’ll bring Presidential support funds, and his special brand of leadership to the office. If Rudy is elected president, you will have two advocates in the White House.”Elizabeth Kucinich
Elizabeth Kucinich, 30-year-old British-born wife of democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich, focused her attention on her husband’s universal health care plan. With four family members having had breast cancer, and another in active treatment, Kucinich is obviously very sympathetic to the cause. “We need single payer universal health care; we need to break the hold insurance companies have on the medical system and on patients. If you’re running to be the leader of the free world, and you immediately default to the position that you can’t break the hold the insurance companies have on health care, then you’re not an adequate person to run this country,” she said.
“We currently pay $2.2 trillion for health care; 1 in every 3 dollars goes to the for-profit system: executive salaries, marketing, and administration. Take that money and roll it into a health care system, and we have enough money to pay for everyone’s basic care, plus drugs, vision care, long-term care, and hearing care,” she said.
“It’s not about raising taxes,” she concluded. “It’s about allocating funds to provide a service to people, not to corporate interests. We are absolutely dedicated to eradicating cancer. And to providing health care to the people of America through an administration that answers to the people.”
Moddelmog, who’d been prepared to engage Kucinich in some dialogue, simply said, “You hit it right out of the park. I have no questions for you. Thank you.”
Browsing through the Komen Web site yesterday evening, after the event, I came across these words; “We are the face and voice of the global movement. As local activists and global citizens we will mobilize millions to put an end to this dreaded disease–forever.” And as a result of the leadership summit, I now realize that it’s “we” as in you, and me, and all of us with an interest in eradicating breast cancer worldwide. WE can do it. Let’s make sure that the next administration has as its focus a well-funded search for the cure. Komen is doing its part; it’s time for us to join the battle.
View information on where and when the Komen Community Challenge events are being held.
Dr. Dwight Randall, Komen's scientific advisor.