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Cancer Research Deserves A Fair Share of the “Pie”!

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.

When you make donations, do you ask where your dollars are going?

Do you specify where you’d like your donation spent?

Do you think more donated dollars should be designated for cancer research?


Heather Flanagan

Tuesday 16th of August 2011

I enjoyed reading this post while doing research for my blog; I posted a blog on this subject too, so click link below to read and also I provided a link to your blog on my site, plus it will appear in Hope to create some awareness to the issue.

Your Friend, Heather Flanagan, Founder, My Breast Cancer Answers


Thursday 17th of February 2011

As someone with a rare cancer that has only become treatable within the last decade, I thank you for this post!

Research is the only way we can begin to beat this disease. When i was first diagnosed (5yrs ago this weekend) there was only 1 drug option . I'm now on the 4th targeted therapy with a couple more options ahead of me. Research is vital!!


Thursday 17th of February 2011

Annie, I'm so glad you commented on this. I could not agree with you more. Research is vital.


Wednesday 16th of February 2011

thank you for your post, i can accept that "analogy Nancy about pies and fairness" :)


Wednesday 16th of February 2011

ars, You are welcome. Thanks for commenting.


Tuesday 15th of February 2011

Excellent post, Nancy. Research is the key.

In the past I have given to the Terry Fox Foundation ( because its priority is funding research. Their policies are very clearly laid out and their financial statement is available online. I also give to Stand Up 2 Cancer because it also purports to prioritize research initiatives. I also give directly to breast cancer research, but my heart can't let me focus just on my battle.

I too would love to hear more from Lisa, if she feels she can share. A little education can be very empowering.


Wednesday 16th of February 2011

Cyn, I admire you for giving your dollars to organizations you feel lean more heavily toward research. Smart woman! And yes, Lisa got me a bit curious too! Thanks for commenting, Cyn.

Tweets that mention Cancer Research Deserves A Fair Share of the “Pie”! @ Nancy's Point --

Tuesday 15th of February 2011

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Beth L. Gainer, Anna Rachnel. Anna Rachnel said: Nancy's Point agrees with me, and questions why breast cancer research is not receiving top priority in allocating... [...]

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