Getting to know Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City

The start of 2013 brings a milestone to Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City. This year we celebrate our 20th year of a presence in Kansas City! A lot has changed since our first race 20 years ago and we would like to refresh your memory or catch you up to speed on who we are and what we are doing in this great city.

Nancy and SuzyFor those less familiar with our history, let us tell you how we came about. Susan G. Komen was from Peoria, Illinois and was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33. Suzy opted to have a mastectomy and for about five months, she felt pretty good. Shortly thereafter, Suzy found another lump and it was discovered that she now had metastatic breast cancer which had invaded her lungs and under her arm. Eventually Suzy sought treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Nancy Brinker, Suzy’s sister, was by her side as Suzy underwent treatment.

With long waits in the waiting room, conversations circled around the treatment of patients (waiting room conditions, hours of waiting for appointments, etc.) and the treatment of the disease. Suzy was worried about the aesthetic conditions of the waiting room, Nancy was concerned with reasearch of the disease. Suzy turned to Nancy one day and said, “Nan, as soon as I get better, let’s do something about this. You can find a way to speed up the research. I know you can. And I want to fix up this waiting room and make it pretty for the women who have to be here. This isn’t right.” For about fifteen months, the doctors were able to slow the growth of Suzy’s breast cancer but thereafter, cancer took hold of Suzy spurring her into a downhill battle. She lost her life at the tender age of 36.

Nancy made a promise to her dying sister that she would do everything thing in her power to make sure no other women had to experience what Suzy had gone through. That promise to save lives and end breast cancer forever led Nancy to found Susan G. Komen®.

Since our founding in 1982, Komen has invested more than $2.2 billion into our mission. This includes more than $750 million to breast cancer research, making Komen the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research, second only to funding provided by the U.S. government.

The Greater Kansas City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen is a part of a larger grassroots network of over 120 affiliates, nationwide and across the world. Komen Kansas City currently serves a 17 county area, including 10 counties in northeast Kansas and 7 counties in northwest Missouri. Our first Susan G. Komen Kansas City Race for the Cure® was held in July 1994. The Kansas City Race broke national records as the largest and most successful first Race for the Cure held. Proceeds from that first race, we were able to grant $84,000 locally to Truman Medical Center and The University of Kansas. $31,000 went back to research to find the cures.

Today, Komen Kansas City has granted more than $10 million dollars in our 17 county service area and over $3 million to research. Plus, researchers in our community are also studying things that may one day prevent breast cancer from occurring. We’ve come along way!

While we are best known for our annual Race for the Cure, we are also busy the entire year fulfilling our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever. We work closely with our grant recipients and our constituents. We direct uninsured women to find breast screening at no charge to them on a daily basis. We serve on the advisory board for Show Me Healthy Women, the arm of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program in Missouri. We have volunteer ambassadors and staff out speaking to the community about breast health through presentations, webinars, and other health events all months of the year. We find ourselves working closely with our local, state, and federal representatives to ensure breast health is not forgotten when policies are created and funding is reviewed. In addition, we work to plan other outings and events for Kansas City such as our annual Pink Promise Brunch, an event to honor survivors and their loved ones and sit on various local cancer committees.

Since the organization was started over 30 years ago, we have seen an increase in the survival rate for breast cancer. If caught early, the five year survival rate from breast cancer is now at 98%. As we look towards the next 20 years, we hope to see more women and men aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, more women getting screening on an annual basis, more women and men talking with their doctor’s if they find something that is not normal for them, and ultimately we hope to see breast cancer in our community being diagnosed at an early stage rather than later. And one day, we know the promising research Komen is funding will ultimately prevent or find cures for this disease.

We are Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

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