I am personally challenged by the responses from people who are passionate about their support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood and the unfolding of recent events.
My number one concern at this moment is not the Komen National grant policy, not politics, nor people’s perceptions. I am writing today out of my concern for the number of lives that will be lost when politics and emotions shift our focus away from providing needed resources to women who need screening and treatment support in Washington state and worldwide.
I am writing not only as the executive director of Komen Puget Sound but also as a breast cancer survivor. I have spent the last 30 years of my life fighting for low income and underserved women and families in communities across the country. From my experience, when political and personal agendas come into play, in most cases it’s women — and underserved women in particular — who suffer.
More than 90,000 women in Washington state fall below the federal poverty line and qualify for free breast health screening. Last year, donations to Komen Puget Sound provided more than 20,000 underserved and low-income women lifesaving mammograms that they otherwise might not have been able to afford or receive. Washington has one of the highest breast cancer incidence rates in the country. Early detection is the key to preventing fatalities from breast cancer. Last year, nearly 800 Washington women died from breast cancer. Susan G. Komen for the Cure remains the single strongest organization working to bring that number to zero.
While not everyone has had to personally battle breast cancer, nearly everyone knows of a mother, a daughter, a sister, a neighbor, a friend, a colleague, someone who has had breast cancer touch their lives. Komen Puget Sound is the single largest provider of breast cancer services to women in Washington, and every major achievement in global breast cancer research can be traced to support by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The Komen Puget Sound staff, volunteers and I were in the halls of Olympia last week fighting to preserve state funding of breast cancer screening for low-income and underserved women. I would venture to guess that everyone in some way has benefitted from Susan G. Komen for the Cure and our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever.
My personal commitment is to the women in this community. They always have been and always will be my and Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s first priority. This is why I am asking everyone to consider the impact of any decision you make regarding your contributions to any organization. Consider the women who may lose their battle if they do not receive the resources we have relied on Komen to provide.
For the Cure,
Cheryl Shaw is executive director of the Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.