For whatever reason, I’ve been assaulted with complaints about Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Most of my friends already realise that I do not like some of their practices, and that’s mostly because I have a vested interest in wanting people to be aware of the possibility of cancers that occur outside of the breast. Seriously, I know I can get breast cancer, but I’m more likely to get liver cancer (and it’s not because I’m a total drunk since, well, I’m apparently an anomaly for a twenty-something and don’t like most alcohol). Anyhow, we all know they’ve done some really stupid things in the past (the last link is, more or less, to point a finger at their new perfume), and we know that people do some awkward things in the name of Komen’s cause (such as painting a theme ride pink to fight breast cancer, since it was clearly too hard to just publicly donate part of the money for the cause and not have a giant pink eyesore to be dropped from).
In February 2006, right after I had just moved from St. Louis to Cincinnati to attend a new university, my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, which was shocking because she never really fit any of the “factors” for people who typically have that particular cancer. This hit me harder than, well, anything. She was literally the only family I had ever felt a close connection to. More than that, she’s been my best friend throughout my whole life. (Lately I’ve been wandering into the “cheesy but true” lines, and this is definitely one of them. One day I’ll grow up and explain why I was a total momma’s girl, but that day is not today.) I have absolutely no siblings, so this hit me pretty hard; she was frequently on her own, and I couldn’t be there to help (since I stayed in school at her request). To top it off, she would later be going through events that would lead to the beginning of a messy divorce. It’s one of those Big Sad Stories, and that’s totally not the point. The point is that she was going through liver cancer, and the fact that they even found it was a total fluke because it’s not very often that they catch it early enough for someone to survive. Seriously, the rates are pretty dismal.
So it’s sort of understandable that, especially ever since the moment my mother was diagnosed, I would have a bit of an issue with an organisation that only focuses on breast cancer. Granted, I like the message of “for a cure.” I’m totally cool with it because it sounds pro-active in researching, and I especially like it when they put most of their money toward that goal (oh, wait, they don’t). What I’m not fine with is minimising the impact of other forms of cancer and only wanting to raise awareness for that particular one; it makes my head spin (and also happens to be why I prefer the American Cancer Society over Komen, along with the fact that most of their awareness education isn’t piled in beauty products).
They also succeeded in angering me more a year or so back during a Race for the Cure in St. Louis, where they raise money (“for the cure,” if you somehow missed that in the event’s name) through the participants. They also “celebrate breast cancer survivorship and honour those who lost their battle with the disease.” It’s fairly sweet, and it doesn’t hurt anyone. Rather, it doesn’t seem to, but the personalities of some of the people involved are quite troublesome. I won’t go as far as to say that “Komen doesn’t respect survivors of other cancers.” I honestly don’t believe that to be true. However, there are people within the organisation who don’t support those people.
Going back to my mother, I remember when she called me after trying to participate in the walk; she wanted to support cancer survivors and the cause. They have a survivors procession prior to the walk, where people celebrate their “victory over cancer” and make it known that you can get through it (more cheesy and cliché lines, sorry). Sadly, they didn’t encourage other Cancer Victors to participate in this; if you didn’t survive breast cancer, you didn’t seem to matter. “I’m glad you survived, but it wasn’t the right type to be included in this celebration. Clearly, I can’t make an exception for you because breast cancer is more important.” Any organisation that would systematically exclude people who have gone through excruciatingly similar situations (in this case, any cancer survivor that had it in the wrong part of their body) is absurd, honestly.
If you’re so keen to raise money (and awareness) for only one kind of cancer and systematically overlook anyone who survived a potentially fatal disease, what value do you have to the community? Why not include all cancer survivors, especially since there are people who believe that a cure for one cancer can lead to a cure for all? I honestly feel the same way for any organisation who focuses on one cancer; you can keep your one-cancer organisation focus, but at least allow survivors of any form of cancer to participate in survivor events; they had a similar life-threatening situation, and it doesn’t help anyone to make them feel inferior to your cause.
That’s not to say I abhor Komen. Perhaps my mother’s story is a frustrating but isolated case, and maybe they didn’t know that their St. Louis representatives had little acceptance for other survivors. What I do know is that they honestly need to put themselves back on track toward their original purpose, and I know that there are many Komen supporters (or former supporters) who would like to see that happen again.
Though, I do think they’ve done one thing right, which just happens to be pissing off the virulent pro-life population with the funding they provide to Planned Parenthood for cancer-related health programs (because it’s obviously a hidden abortion agenda instead of, you know, preventative health measures).
Also, I think the charity “thons” are a bit misleading, and it’s not because I’m occasionally lazy.
Side note: My mother went into remission in 2007, and she was fine until late last year when they found a cyst in the same place on her liver. They planned a procedure to burn it off (safest method) in January, which led to a whole other slew of problems (such as being in critical condition for something done improperly). Happily, though issues still remain from that surgery, she’s alive and doing well. She’s ridiculous because of everything, and that makes me super proud of her. (I swear the cheesy lines will go away some other day.)