There has been a lot of discussion recently in the blogosphere about Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. I believe the rumblings are starting to be heard. Now the question is will Komen begin to listen? Like I’ve always told my students, there is a huge difference between hearing and listening.
For the record, Komen describes itself as,
—the world’s largest and most progressive grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists – the only grassroots organization fighting to cure breast cancer at every stage, from the causes to the cures and the pain and anxiety of every moment in between.
Komen’s stated mission is:
to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.
Like many bloggers, I’ve been thinking about this organization of late and how it seems to have failed in the above stated mission.
But this particular post isn’t really about that success or failure.
Mostly, what I want to address today is why I have felt so uncomfortable criticizing Komen in the past.
Honestly, I’ve been “sitting on” this particular post for quite a while. Well, no more….
Here is a perfect example that illustrates my hesitation…
This past April a very dear young female relative of mine contacted me about getting various family members together to participate in the recent Race for the Cure event held at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. I told her I wouldn’t be able to participate this year since I had just had my hysterectomy/oophorectomy surgery and it was too soon. My doctor would not OK my participation. That was true, but…
I admit it, I took the
easy, cowardly way out.
I felt relieved because I had a valid excuse. It was kind of like having a note from my doctor to get of gym class in high school. I felt relieved because I didn’t have to explain to her how I really felt. I didn’t have to explain to her why I didn’t support Komen.
I didn’t have to explain why I really didn’t want to participate.
I felt badly for not being completely honest. I felt guilty. I felt like I had to make excuses as to why I wasn’t participating. I feared I would appear ungrateful. I felt like I was letting people down.
In short, I felt badly because I was not supporting Komen.
Does something seem wrong with this picture to you?
This got me to thinking and then asking myself some questions…
Here’s a few I came up with.
When exactly did Komen become the face of breast cancer and maybe even the face of cancer period?
When did it become almost un-American or at least unacceptable to criticize Komen or choose to support a different organization instead?
When did people like me start feeling guilty for questioning?
When did people like me start to feel a need to make excuses for not running in races?
When did any of this become about my action or lack thereof?
Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Shouldn’t Komen feel badly? At least a little bit?
Today, I am emphatically stating, “No more guilt, no more excuses!”
I will no longer feel badly. I will no longer feel guilty. I will no longer make excuses. I will no longer be quiet , well, it’s not like I have been, but…
I will no longer apologize or make excuses when people ask me why I don’t support the “big K” and I don’t mean K Mart!
However, it seems to me Komen could stand to do some apologizing.
For what you might ask?
For starters how about for the lack of dollars funneled to research. According to their own fiscal records, about 23% of dollars taken in are designated for research, not even close to being enough in my book when your mantra is eradicating breast cancer.
Next, how about apologizing to people who have been denied financial assistance during diagnosis and treatment because they didn’t properly qualify or “fit in” with Komen’s mission?
How about apologizing for not communicating current breast cancer information with complete accuracy? For example, awareness and mammograms are important, but they are not the entire solution.
How about apologizing for taking issue with the “little guys” like “Kites for the Cure” and “Mush for the Cure,” who also want to use the words for the cure in their mantra?
How about apologizing for deciding to “borrow” the name of another organization when contemplating relabeling October as Breast Cancer Action month? (Maybe even Komen is saying enough with the awareness…)
How about apologizing to the many other cancer organizations who almost appear not to matter? Is it really about survival of the
How about apologizing to those with cancer who do not fit the “proper cancer survivor mold”? You know the one, the one depicting everyone smiling and surviving gracefully while perhaps preparing for a race as well.
And perhaps the biggest apology should go to all those with metastatic breast cancer. Their faces seem almost hidden from view in the “Komen cancer mirror.”
And then, of course, there is that elusive cure…
Finally, perhaps Komen should apologize for not listening.
That’s all people like me are really asking for, to be listened to.
Komen has accomplished good things and I am, in fact, grateful for those things. I really am. The trouble is, there is still so much more work to be done.
And this work doesn’t involve pushing perfume.
It’s time for Komen to listen, evolve and truly lead.
It’s time for change. It’s past time.