Every week, over 100 women in Washington state are diagnosed with breast cancer. Being diagnosed with this disease is as scary as you can imagine. I would know. Two years ago, I was diagnosed. Because I had the unending support of my family, a great job with a compassionate staff, health insurance and — most importantly — an early diagnosis I was fortunate. For far too many women — and men — in our community, this is not the case. I hear these stories every day.
I hear about a woman in Renton, a single parent who received a breast cancer diagnosis. Too sick to work full time, it is a challenge to just keep a roof over her daughter’s head, let alone affording her cancer treatments. A friend in Bellevue shared a story about her cousin who, lacking health insurance, couldn’t afford to pay for breast cancer screenings. She has just been diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer.
When I hear these stories it touches me personally, and it reinforces the urgency of Komen Puget Sound’s mission. Women and families in our community are hurting today. We need to stop this madness, provide the support that they need today and find a cure for breast cancer now.
Lives are at stake. There is no time to lose.
All of us at Komen Puget Sound bring this personal sense of urgency to the work we do every day, as we have for nearly 20 years. Komen Puget Sound is the single largest provider of breast cancer services to women in Washington state and the largest private provider of free mammograms to low income women. Last year, Komen-funded mammograms resulted in a breast cancer diagnosis for over 240 women in our community. Our Komen Patient Assistance fund provided financial assistance to over 500 local, low income breast cancer patients, covering their basic needs while they undergo treatment.
While I am proud of what we have accomplished, I am even more mindful of all that still needs to be done. Too many of us have lost a wife, a sister, a mother, a daughter, a friend to breast cancer. While we at Komen certainly had our share of setbacks early this year, the setbacks have only strengthened our sense of urgency. We refuse to be distracted. There is too much work to do and too many women who rely on our support. Most importantly many of our donors, sponsors and volunteers understand our urgency and continue to help during this critical time. But it is clear that we need increased support to ensure that every woman faced with breast cancer is not a victim of the setbacks we have experienced.
Together we can win our fight and end breast cancer forever. To learn more about Komen Puget Sound and our mission, please visit us online at www.komenpugetsound.org. And please do so today. There’s no time to lose.
Cheryl Shaw is the Executive Director of Susan G. Komen.