Saturday, February 4, 2012

Think Pink? The great Komen debate.

We see them all of the time, almost everywhere we go. They have become part of the normal landscape.  They are emblazoned on hats, tee shirts, mugs, water bottles, even my golf bag has one.  Every time we see one we are humbled; it reminds us of cancer and those fighting cancer.  We wear them with pride to show our support against breast cancer.  We walk.  And we donate money.  Lots of it.

But where is our money really going?  As this week has pointed out, none of us really know. The Komen Foundation, started in the early 80's by the sister of a young cancer patient, has grown into one huge corporation.  That sister that wanted to stop breast cancer now oversees a company that has made billions of dollars.  And she treats herself to an annual salary of 500K per year, plus perks.

I won't go into details nor get into a discussion of whether the Komen Foundation made a bad decision to stop funding for Planned Parenthood to conduct breast exams for low-income women or not.  The media has all that information and you can read the back and forth fighting about this on your own.

The good news about this is that it has people thinking.  It has them thinking about where the money goes when they make contributions to organizations that claim to be fighting for a cure of a horrible disease.

True, this organization funds breast cancer research. But you have to apply for these grants and not everyone gets one. It becomes political. And then the Komen Foundation decided that it would brand the word cure and no other organization that raised money to help cancer patients could use that in their name.  Small organizations that wanted to help people directly were sued by Komen. Power does that.  It makes you big enough to crush the little guy.  And they did.

I am not against pink ribbons. I think however that it has become a marketing brand instead of an altruistic nod to helping. And that is why so many of us in the medical field would never wear pink.

If you really want to help those women with breast cancer or help prevent it, make your donations to small organizations in your own community. The ones that offer support directly to the patient. Or help people in your own neighborhood by offering help directly.  Most patients feel isolated and alone and would never ask for help. You can find a list of people who need help from your local parishes, schools, senior centers.  But many know simply by word of mouth.

One of the best stories I heard was of a women diagnosed with late stage breast cancer who was an avid gardener. But she became quite ill during her treatment and was unable to maintain her garden. So word got out and one mom got a girl scout troop and a bunch of moms together and they went over and weeded her garden and planted annuals.  They just did it on Saturday morning.  The moms took turns watering the garden every week. Over time, people added even more plants. One donated a bench so that the patient could sit outside. This once isolated, lonely, sick patient now had a stream of people caring for the one thing she loved the most and that brought her joy. The garden bloomed and so did so many hearts.

It doesn't take billions of dollars to help cancer patients. It just takes a bit of time and effort. It is nice to write a check or walk for a cause, it does feel good to think you are helping. But doing is so much better.

I highly recommend it.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~Anne Frank

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
~William James

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
~Dr. Seuss

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
 ~Mother Teresa


  1. I must confess, until you spelled it out I hadn't followed all the hubbub going on with the Komen debate but I know it's a hot one. Thank you for making me think twice about donations. The other day I gave to St. Jude. Hopefully I made a good decision.


  2. I can't believe you're moving so far away, Janice! It's supposed to be so gorgeous out there so I hope you love it. And I hope you will continue to blog.

    I plan on mixing New England scenery posts in with the still life images so please do come around now and then. Till then, I wish you and your family all the best! Know you may always email me also.

    Take care,