It’s the last Wednesday in October aka National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Have you ever wondered how his month even came to be. Thirty years ago this terrible disease wasn’t just a disease but something shameful. We didn’t talk about our breast health because that was private. Women hid away from talking about any physical ailment that had to do with their bodies. This all changed with a promise Nancy Goodman Brinker made to her sister Susan G. Komen before her death in 1980. Because of this promise I don’t think there is anyone who isn’t familiar with the name Susan G. Komen but you may not know who Nancy Brinker is. Nancy’s story above all else shows you what anyone can do if she really wants it.
My grandmother passed away a few years before I was born from Breast Cancer. I never knew her but the impact her death alone has been long seen in the face of my mother. She remembers her long difficult battle. When she herself had not one, but two scares in the past decade she was absolutely terrified. The scars of how horrible it was for her are still there. It is absolutely remarkable how far ALL cancer treatments have come since then. I watched my father die in 1991 and then my husband’s grandfather 2010 and though both horrible, my father was butchered by comparison. It’s amazing how far treatment has come and it’s all because of Nancy Brinker.
Nancy Brinker has worked hard all of her life and was raised in a family that was active in the community growing up in Peoria, Illinois. She didn’t stay in the midwest but took her values with her into her adult life. She’s a daughter, a mother, a sister, a wife, an advocate, and a survivor herself.
Susan on the left and Nancy on the right.
Susan G Komen passed away after three years of grueling cancer treatment. She was 36 years old. She left behind two children, a husband, and a sister who loved her very very much. Before she died, Nancy made her a promise, she promised she would do anything she could to stop the heartless progression and the social stigma of this disease, even if it took the rest of her life. Within a few years she would fight her own battle with the disease and win.
I don’t have to tell you she was successful. Look around. Some people actually believe her too successful. They believe that breast cancer awareness overshadows research for other types of cancer. It has improved not only the women (and men on rare occasions) and the families that have suffered from this disease but ALL cancers by boosting research for better, more humane treatments.
Nancy’s advocating doesn’t stop at Breast Cancer research, treatment, and awareness. Recently she has been advocating for same sex marriage, having a gay son herself that she says is the light of her life. She worked for the UN advocating and educating women in third world countries about their health.
Nancy Brinker is an amazing woman. She has kept her sister’s name alive 20+ years after her death. She is a supportive mother not just accepting her son’s lifestyle but rallying behind it. She has created an organization that has improved the lives of millions of people and help pays for life saving procedures to the at risk, under-insured like my mother. She has helped women in countries realize their own health where they previously may not have had any idea. I’m not sure there is anything Nancy Brinker couldn’t achieve if she believed in it enough.
To read more about Nancy Brinker you can read her book Promise Me: How a Sister’s love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer.