I’ve been a parent and/or teacher for over twenty-five years, so I have been in charge more than a few times of dividing things up in order to be sure everybody gets their FAIR SHARE!
As an elementary teacher, I’ve heard the wails of students countless times uttering the words, “But that’s not fair, Mrs. Stordahl.” (You can almost hear them saying it yourself, right?)
When my own three kids were growing up, believe me, each one knew how much ice cream, TV time, allowance or attention the other two were getting. They knew exactly how many gifts were under the Christmas tree for each of them. They had an uncanny ability to calculate equality, or the lack thereof, in a single glance. Kids just naturally keep track of stuff like that.
Even my dogs keep tabs on who gets what. If one of them hears the dog food or biscuit container being rattled around, they are both immediately in the proper “sit” position directly in front of me, patiently anticipating what I’m sure they perceive to be their “fair share.”
My students and my own children were not being unusually greedy; they were just looking out for their own interests. They were just being kids. Eventually, after hearing phrases like, “Life isn’t always fair,” they learned to adapt and adjust to inequality at least some of the time, but that’s a process that evolved over time. And the dogs, well, they’re dogs.
I do not mean to trivialize the point I want to make with these analogies or over simplify, but getting a fair share is not a difficult concept.
The point I want to make is, in my opinion, more dollars raised by all cancer fundraising organizations need to be earmarked for research. Only through research will cures be found.
I’m all for education. I AM an educator. I’m all for improved screening, early detection and awareness, but again, only through research will cures be found. Isn’t that what everyone wants? In my opinion, research does not seem to be getting its fair share.
A startling statistic I recently became aware of is that generally speaking, only 2% of cancer research dollars is allocated for stage IV cancer research and stage IV breast cancer is a subset of that. One must accompany this latter part of the statement with the fact that 90% of breast cancer deaths are a result of a cancer developing into stage IV metastatic breast cancer. So less than 2% of research dollars spent on metastatic breast cancer, which counts for 90% of breast cancer deaths, doesn’t quite seem right to me. Again, it doesn’t seem like a “fair share” of the pie dollars.
I also get agitated when I learn a powerful and well-respected organization like Susan G. Komen for the Cure (“Komen”) designated only about 25% of their “Net Public Support and Revenue” to research during the period from 2004-2009. Again, though this adds up to lots of dollars, it still seems inadequate, especially since they emphasize heavily the word “cure” in their self-promotion. Their motto, “Komen, Race for the Cure and every life deserves a lifetime,” is an admirable one, but if they proclaim to be emphasizing a cure, should they not also be allocating more than 25% toward research? To me, cure and research go hand in hand. Both require dollars, again, more than 25% in my opinion.
I am definitely not against Komen. I applaud them for all their hard work and for having such a noble mission. I am deeply grateful that partly because of their efforts breast cancer awareness has increased, earlier detection, along with improved education, is more heavily promoted and countless dollars have been raised. Many women, as well as men, owe them a great deal. I want them to continue the great work they do. I am counting on them to do just that.
What I would like is for Komen, as well as other organizations, to reevaluate, or at least take a look at the messages they are perhaps unintentionally sending. Do they really want to send the message they are so heavily focused on one end of the spectrum (Komen-education 36%, screening 11%, both for the same time period mentioned above)? Do they really want to send the message they are not concerned about stage IV? Do they really want to send the message cure and research are not tightly linked? Because in my view, those are the messages they are sending.
Analyzing numbers and figures is not something I do much. I want to thank Anna from The Cancer Culture Chronicles blog for doing that. Her blog is the source of the above mentioned figures, taken directly from Komen’s own fiscal reports. If you have not read her three posts entitled Komen By the Numbers and Komen By The Numbers: the Context of Research and Komen By The Numbers: Education in Focus, I hope you take some time to do so. They are pretty eye opening. Though admittedly, I am not skilled at analyzing the numbers like Anna, when the facts are put in front of me, I can add things up and draw conclusions of my own.
I want to emphasize that organizations like Komen, as well as many others, are wonderful resources for families coping with a cancer diagnosis. Such organizations need our continued support. They also all need to be accountable. They perhaps need to consider retooling how their dollars are divided up. They need to consider designating a fair share to research and a fair share of those dollars to metastatic breast cancer research.
It’s only fair. It’s only right.
My kids and students adjusted to the fact that “Life isn’t always fair.” They outgrew their need for constant equality. Women with stage IV metastatic breast cancer can’t merely outgrow, accept and adjust. There is no stage V. They need a cure.
The last point I’d like to make is there are a couple simple things each of us can do. First of all, keep giving to the organizations of your choice, but when you sign the check, do more than fill in the amount and sign your name. (This is perhaps not a time to use the credit card). Make a comment. Tell them what you would like YOUR donation earmarked for. Ask where YOUR dollars are going. Ask how they will be used. Maybe if more people did these simple things, someone would pay attention.
Maybe then research would get its fair share.