September has become a special time of year as campaigns are launched in preparation for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The purpose is to call attention to the disease in order to raise funds that can be used to improve diagnosis and treatment strategies, and ultimately to find a cure.
One of the most popular charities for this cause is the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. It was 1980 when Nancy G. Brinker made a commitment to her sister, a victim of breast cancer, that she would fight to annihilate breast cancer. Two years later, Brinker fulfilled her promise by launching this organization.
With a shoebox filled with prospective donors and only $200, what began as a small nonprofit organization has become the largest funding source in the war on breast cancer.
Before we become overwhelmed by so many charities competing for our money, let’s remember what this fight is about. Yes, there have been great advances during the last two decades -- but we still have a long way to go.
Even considering the progress that has been made, the numbers reported by the National Breast Cancer Foundation are still staggering: breast cancer claims 1 in 8 women; breast cancer is the second most likely cause of death for women; 220,000 women in America are diagnosed each year and more than 40,000 die from the disease; and 2,150 men are diagnosed each year and as many as 410 do not survive.
Charities like Susan G. Komen hold running races in different parts of the world that attract thousands of people. There are several questions that come to mind as it relates to these kinds of events.
Who are the participants? Many of them are people who are still processing the grief of losing people they held precious to this cruel disease. Some are people who are sympathetic to the cause so they come each year in support of those who have lost loved ones. Others participate because they know someone who has been diagnosed or who is a survivor.
Many of the participants are victims themselves. Although they blend in with everyone else, some of them are physically weak and emotionally scarred from the trauma and treatment of the disease. With all of the strength they have left, they join the race for the cure.
Another question is why are they running or walking? The campaign could have been developed in such a way that donors are contacted, people pay their money, and it’s done. While that is an effective strategy for many worthy causes, it is not the best strategy for this one, because this effort is also about raising awareness about the nature and impact of the disease. This concept helps keep us connected to the mission -- that each step brings us closer to a cure.
A final question is, why aren’t you running? It is doubtful that very many people reading this article do not know someone who is or was a victim of breast cancer. In Middle Georgia, the race is today. Don’t just give; get involved and let’s move closer to the cure.
The Rev. Gail T. Smith is pastor of the Universal Light Christian Center in Macon.