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Posts tagged ‘race for the cure’

Komen for the Cure: 6 Months After the Planned Parenthood Storm

July 31st, 2012

Lisa Dawson

It’s been six months since the news broke about Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s changes to its grants policy, resulting in a loss of funding eligibility for Planned Parenthood. Three days later, after a public relations maelstrom and outrage from many of its affiliates, the organization reversed its decision.

Impacts to individual Komen affiliates since then has varied greatly, with the Puget Sound Affiliate hit especially hard. The annual gala auction on March 3rd raised more than expected, but June’s Race for the Cure came in $700K below goal. As the Affiliate’s largest fundraiser, this shortfall will most certainly reduce the availability of free mammograms and patient assistance funds for women in Western Washington.

Earlier  this month I had the opportunity to meet Komen President Elizabeth Thompson, who shared her perspective on the conversations leading up to the Planned Parenthood announcement. As with any polarizing news story, it can be challenging to ensure the accuracy of information shared in the media.

Liz didn’t offer excuses.

Rather, she accepted responsibility for the mistakes of the organization’s leadership, fully acknowledged the gravity of the situation, and spoke to the lessons Komen continues to learn from this crisis. She believes the foundation has a responsibility to continue to tell the breast cancer story, but in “a better and different way.”

Liz also talked about some significant changes being made at the national level:

  • A strategic communications firm has been retained to help with immediate and long-term communication plans, something that was painfully missing during the days following the announcements. Efforts will also be made to increase transparency into the organization’s decision making process.
  • Komen’s Board of Directors has traditionally held one of its nine positions for an affiliate representative. This is being increased to two positions.
  • Among other leadership changes, the organization has hired a new General Counsel and is in the process of hiring a Chief Operating Officer.
  • Seven Regional Vice President positions have been created to serve “as a two-way communications conduit between Headquarters and Affiliates, ensuring Affiliates stay informed of and aligned with Headquarters initiatives, and that Affiliate perspectives and needs are heard and responded to at Headquarters.”

Komen is currently focused on addressing ongoing impacts to local communities, where the anger and disenchantment of supporters is having a direct, negative effect on fundraising efforts. Here in the Puget Sound region, the decrease in funds will result in fewer breast health services for underserved women. With the year’s remaining major fundraising events scheduled for October, the Puget Sound Affiliate has its work cut out.

This has been a challenging time for everyone involved with Komen, but I stand firm in my commitment to the organization’s efforts.

How about you? Six months later, how do you feel?

Pink Ink: A Ribbon & Cross Tattoo for Mom

June 5th, 2012

Lisa Dawson

pink ribbon and cross tattoo

Sunday’s Race for the Cure was overcast, but warm enough for a few people to go sleeveless. I spotted Richie and his friends after the finish line and asked if I could snap a photo of his pink ribbon tattoo.

Richie raced in memory of his mom, Trudy, and his grandmother, Gertie. His family lost Trudy to breast cancer in 1996.

Like so many others at the Seattle Center on Sunday morning, their Race was less about Komen and more of a time to pay tribute to loved ones.

Richie, if you see this, thank you for letting me share your story.

8,500 people participated in Sunday’s Komen Puget Sound Race for the Cure, raising over $1.1 million for breast health programs in Western Washington.

Race for the Cure: More than Komen, It’s Our Community

May 30th, 2012

Lisa Dawson

2001 Seattle Race for the Cure

I signed up for my first Seattle Race for the Cure in 1996 and was so moved by the experience I began a relationship with the Komen Puget Sound Affiliate that has spanned more than 15 years.

At that first race, the only breast cancer survivor I knew was my grandmother. Since then, my mother and her older sister have been diagnosed and successfully treated. Odds are one of my sisters, cousins or I will be faced with a breast cancer diagnosis in the future.

Komen has always been there for my family, providing us with valuable information, helping us understand diagnoses, treatment options, risk factors, genetics and so much more. I know dozens of women and families who also benefited from Komen support and services as they faced a breast cancer diagnosis. Thousands of women in Western Washington are alive today due in part to the good work of the Puget Sound Affiliate.

Back in February, when the controversy around Komen National’s funding of Planned Parenthood grants became public, I wrote about my concern that critical local programs would no longer be funded due to the backlash.

This concern has become reality. Read more

Pink Loves Greenlake

May 17th, 2010

Lisa Dawson

Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous – a perfect day for a walk around Greenlake. Some Komen volunteers came up with the great idea to do a little “Pink Loves Greenlake” Race for the Cure promotion by passing out brochures and breast cancer awareness items while walking the lake. I thought it was a great reason to get some much-needed exercise. Even better, my seven-year-old son decided to grab his scooter and come with me.

The gals from the Race committee brought hot pink t-shirts for us to wear and hand out, along with messenger bags to carry assorted breast cancer swag. My son has been at every Race since he was three months old, and wanted to be part of the crew. So he pulled one of the pink shirts over his baseball uniform, strapped his candy apple red helmet back on, pulled the messenger bag across his chest, and was ready to go!

He was so enthusiastic, and did such a great job at distributing information – talking to people as they walked by, asking them if they wanted a key chain or t-shirt for breast cancer awareness, then telling them the Race for the Cure is on June 6th at Memorial Stadium.  At one point he looked at me and said, “This is really fun!” I was having a blast with him, too.

We weren’t fundraising or taking registrations, we were just handing things out (funny how people assume you want something). My son quickly discovered using the word “free” when asking people if they want a key chain brings much better results. Over the course of an hour we gave out 100 embroidered pink ribbon stickers, 50 key chains, a dozen t-shirts, and countless brochures. We met two breast cancer survivors, several people who had already registered for the race, and some who promised they’d do so when they got home.

By the time we had to leave for his baseball game we were down to one t-shirt and a stack of brochures. He was determined to give away that last shirt before we left, and spotted two women walking toward us. He scooted up to them and asked if they’d like a free t-shirt for breast cancer awareness. One of the women asked me if I was a survivor. I told her I wasn’t, but my mom and grandmother were. She took the t-shirt and thanked him, then looked at me and said “I’m having a mastectomy on Monday. And now I have a pink shirt to wear.” We talked a bit more, then wished her the best of luck and watched as she and her companion continued their walk.

As we drove to his game, my son and I reflected on the number of people we connected with. He thought it was pretty special that we met some women who had had breast cancer like his Nonna, in particular the last woman who was about to have surgery. He asked a lot of questions about cancer treatment and research, and thought it was cool how Komen is trying to find a cure for breast cancer. He was happy that he got to do something to help. I was happy that I was able to share such a great experience with my son.

We’ll probably never meet her again, but I’m sending healing and strengthening thoughts to the woman who’s having her surgery today, from a little boy and his very proud mom.

My Favorite Color is Pink

May 13th, 2010

Lisa Dawson

My favorite color is pink – it has been since I was a little girl. This passion for pink has been documented over the years, including several school photos: my second grade shag haircut was complemented by a pink mix-and-match Garanimals outfit; fifth grade has me sporting a hot pink jumpsuit (very stylish for a ten-year-old in 1977).

One of my favorite things to do at that age was visit my grandparents’ house outside Seattle. My mother had two much-younger sisters, and it was always fun to explore the things they left behind when they moved out, looking for cool clothing or jewelry. I’ll never forget the time I pulled open a drawer and found a padded bra. This was not your typical bra: it was extremely padded, complete with a marble-like sphere in each cup, presumably to make it more natural looking. This discovery occurred around the time I was reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume, so naturally I assumed it belonged to my 19-year-old aunt, K.

That memory faded until six years later, when I brought up my discovery during a conversation with my mother. It took her a moment to realize what I was talking about before she said “Lisa, that wasn’t K’s. That belonged to Grandma.” My grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1962, and underwent a double radical mastectomy. I had found her prosthesis.

I was stunned, and then a little upset that this was the first I had heard about Grandma’s cancer. My mom told me that it was something they didn’t really talk about.

Information on breast cancer wasn’t widely available at that time (1983), but I began to pay attention when I came across anything related to the disease, especially if it mentioned family history. In 1995 I entered the second annual Komen Seattle Race for the Cure, a 5K run and walk that serves as both a fundraiser for breast cancer programs, and a way to honor those who’ve fought breast cancer. Participants wear signs on their back with the words “In memory of” or “In celebration of” their loved ones, and breast cancer survivors are given pink t-shirts and hats to wear during the event. I will never forget the wave of bittersweet emotion I felt as I witnessed the pink sea of a thousand survivors gathered together for the annual survivor photo.

I also became more diligent about doing self-exams, and in 1997 I found a lump. I had a scare in the past, so I wasn’t particularly concerned as I called my doctor to schedule a mammogram. The radiologist recommended an ultrasound, which resulted in a meeting with a breast surgeon. One week later I had surgery to remove two tumors. Thankfully, they were benign.

A couple of months later, an old friend who was involved with Komen asked if I’d like to join the committee that produced the Race for the Cure. Her timing couldn’t have been better! My involvement grew each year, and in 2000 I was asked to take on a larger role with the Foundation, joining the Board of Directors and chairing the Race.

That fall, one of my mother’s older sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Race for the Cure the next summer was also a celebration of her successful treatment.

In November of 2002, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At one of her early appointments, her oncologist said that our family is either experiencing some “freakish coincidence” or that we had a genetic tie to breast cancer. The reality of his comment hit me: My sisters and I were now in the highest risk group for breast cancer.

Mom’s radiation treatments wrapped up in February. I had to fight back tears as I watched her put on her pink survivor shirt at the 2003 Race that June.

My sisters, cousins and I are very aware of the likelihood one of us will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in our lives. In a way, we’re lucky: 80% of women who develop this terrible disease will have no family history. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate by ethnicity, sexual orientation or social status – the top two risks are being female and growing older.

Pink is still my favorite color, but it carries much more meaning than it did when I found that padded bra thirty years ago. Now, it represents the cancer survival of my mom, aunt and grandmother, and far too many friends. It represents my commitment to Komen and to ensuring women have access to breast health information and care.

My pink tattoo represents my absolute belief that we can end breast cancer as a life threatening disease.