Former Ambassador Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen, talks about the stigma that used to surround breast cancer and how she brought awareness to the disease.
When you started the Susan G. Komen Foundation, there was a lot of stigma surrounding the subject of breast cancer. How did you bring the conversation about breast cancer into the open?
Well we really brought it out into the open because it was there, it was growing. People just didn't have the place to talk about it or share their feelings or share their insights or survival or their treatment—or their lack of survival. It was really waiting to happen. Because I had lost my only sister to the disease in 1980 and she asked me, I promised her that I would help cure breast cancer.
So, it's been a long ride, a long time, it's been almost 40 years of my life—she was diagnosed in 1978—and I realize that we had to do something, and it was going to require a movement. It wasn't just going to be a one [time] fundraiser, it was a movement. And of course, this pre-dated computers and cellphones and fax machines and everything else. We really only had telephones and each other to work with.
So, we named it Susan G. Komen in her honor—her memory—and set about working for many many years. We've managed to bring up the awareness, the sharing, and we've created a large community—a worldwide community—focused on breast cancer.