Why I'm moving on and away from Komen

5 years ago

I've struggled on where to start but the beginning is always best. That would be three years ago when my aunt - my mother's sister - died after a years long fight against breast cancer. Whether or not it was metastatic are details of which I remain unaware but I do know that she was only 41 and that 41 is an incredibly young age for someone to die. I don’t know whether or not she was accepting of what might happen or how my mother really dealt with her death given that my grandmother - my mother’s mother - died exactly five weeks prior. I do know that from time to time I see my aunt's dearest friend in the world around Albany and we speak. Briefly. And each time it kills me inside. A knot forms at the pit of my stomach and the second I am alone my eyes fill with tears and the sorrow that accompanies the wonder of how those left behind deal. I've kept from my family how I have dealt with Judy's death because though expected it felt so sudden. I was leaving a friend's home in Napa Valley when my mother called to say that she passed and I didn't cry. That I remember. I drove to San Francisco, went out for drinks and dessert and spent the entire night in a guest bedroom awake. Not crying but thinking. She didn't deserve this…any of it. She was incredibly sweet, kind and faithful and in times of anger I question the fairness of it all. But life isn't fair, which is true but that hasn't kept me from keeping gifts given to me by Judy that I glance at and wonder why.

At the time of Judy’s death my knowledge of breast cancer was fairly limited and I cannot say that all these years later I am any wiser. I knew that it could be a fast killer and that in some cases there is a genetic factor. I also knew that early detection of the cancer can give patients a higher survival rate. Of course during the month of October there were marches and runs and every store I entered proudly displayed pink products on behalf of breast cancer research but I am amazed at how little thought I gave to any of this. I purchased items because it was a good cause. Because I was doing something and contributing to breast cancer research. I contributed and bought Yoplait containers with pink tops because it felt like the right thing. Ignorance is bliss, my friends and no one told me otherwise.

Even when finally faced with breast cancer and to watch what it does to a person and a family, I felt even more empowered that years of pink crap was doing something for the overall good. Giving to the Susan G. Komen foundation would lead to prevention and a cure, I thought. They were doing good work. I type these words now while shaking my head. Feeling duped. How could I be so stupid? How could I believe that "pink washing" buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken would lead to a cure? How could I be so stupid to believe that an organization whose mission is to educate and inform the public on breast cancer would not fall into the political fray. This is what I wonder now. There was a fantastic interview after the Komen foundation pulled its funding from Planned Parenthood with Andrea Mitchell and Komen founder, former Ambassador Nancy Brinker. The way that Andrea - recently diagnosed with breast cancer - keeps pushing and digging at Ambassador Brinker with questions of why Komen changed their grant process, why underinsured or uninsured women shouldn't be allowed to have their services and potentially life-saving early detection; there's this urging and pain coming off of Andrea Mitchell. Not that she's just pissed but that so many people believed in the Komen foundation and now that trust is gone.

There is something about death and the grieving process where we feel the need to do something, try harder and do better. When Judy died I wanted to go all in and at the time the Komen foundation was what I knew. Now I know different. Thank God. I will not give to them anymore not just because of this 'scandal' but because to honor those that have died from this terrible disease would not be to give blindly but to learn more. It's not about covering shit in pink it's about continuing the education and assisting groups and organizations that give more than lip service to the detection, prevention and the cure. I cannot end this without stating that it doesn't make me a socialist to think that all women (and men), no matter their financial situation, should have the right to mammograms and early detection. It makes me human.

Heather L. Barmore
No Pasa Nada
Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue

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