Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Anna Monica / L’Observateur / October 25, 2000

Nancy Brinkman made me cry as I was reading the story she wrote about her sister, Susan G. Komen. Komen’s name may sound familiar since you havebeen hearing it for the entire month of October and even before. It is in hername a great war against breast cancer is being fought. Nancy, inspired bySusan’s deep desire to help others, even as she was dying of breast cancer, was to always remember her sister saying “Nan, as soon as I get better, let’s do something about this.” Thus, the Komen Foundation came into existenceand is perhaps the best known and one of the most dedicated institutions devoted to preventing and fighting breast cancer “by advancing research, education, screening and treatment.” Nancy is the founding director.

Surely you have seen the segment on TV about breast cancer where a woman answers the telephone and her face turns to a look of surprise, fear and concern. The segment goes on to give stats on how many women arediagnosed with it (one out of eight or nine) and how many die each year. Thenews isn’t uplifting, but it isn’t meant to be. It’s a warning for women, and,also to men, that we must ever be alert to the warning signs of possible breast cancer.

Susan Komen was only 36 years old when diagnosed in 1980 and left behind a husband and three children when she lost the battle three years later.

Nancy, who established the foundation in 1982 with only a few hundred dollars of her own and a promise from friends, discovered her own breast cancer two years later. She had felt that Susan’s treatment was neveraggressive enough so Nancy sought the most advanced treatment options possible for herself. To date, the Foundation has raised more than $90million, with the key to its success being the Race for the Cure, a fitness run/walk Nancy created and which has become the nation’s largest 5K event.

The series has been held in 86 cities throughout the U.S and Nancy has wonnumerous awards for her innovative work in this field. The Foundation is atremendous legacy of love between Nancy and the sister cancer took from her loved ones much too soon.

You can find more information on the Komen Foundation, as I did, on the Internet if you are interested. However, all of us certainly need to continueto be interested in our own health and especially the prevention or early detection of those diseases which threaten our lives. For breast cancer, itis strongly recommended that we do self-examinations, know that especially after age 40 we need those mammograms and also realize that the risk increases after age 30. There is plenty information out there on thesubject.

The cancer I experienced was not breast, but ovarian, which, unfortunately, has no screening test as breast cancer does. Nonetheless, it seems likenothing strikes fear in our hearts as does the word “cancer.” NancyBrinkman’s statement that the most difficult concept to grasp about cancer is the fact that when it is first detected, the patient feels just fine is so very true.

As one who has been through a cancer fight, I would encourage screening through self-exams and mammography, which is very simple. I would alsoimplore you to not let fear keep you from doing this. Early detection can bea lifesaver, not just for a cancer patient, but for the patient’s family. Thelast words Susan Komen said to her sister was “goodbye, Nanny, I love you.” If we use obtainable means to stay healthy, perhaps it would be a long time before we bid goodbye for the last time to those who love us.

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