The Advocate, “OP-ED: Susan G. Komen Founder ON Her Gay Son and Marriage Equality”

March 19, 2015
The Advocate
OP-ED: Susan G. Komen Founder On Her Gay Son and Marriage Equality
By Nancy G. Brinker

In 1982, when I founded Susan G. Komen, I dreamed big. At the time, I had no idea just how far our reach would grow. My sister Suzy, for whom the organization was named, died in 1980 after a three-year battle with breast cancer, and I promised her that I would do everything in my power to end breast cancer forever. We’ve come a long way since then — so far, in fact, that it’s difficult today to even imagine a time when women felt a shame and stigma around breast cancer. Our mission to help women realize that it is OK to talk about breast cancer and to identify as a woman diagnosed with the disease has helped bring important women’s health issues out of the shadows and into the light.

While my work over the decades has focused largely on women’s breast cancer, my personal experiences have inspired me to become increasingly involved with legislation to remove stigma and discrimination across a broader spectrum. My son Eric is gay, and just as it seems difficult to imagine a time when the phrase “breast cancer” was taboo, it is almost impossible for me to fathom that in 26 percent of this nation, civil marriage is still unavailable for same-sex couples. There is absolutely no reason why loving same-sex couples should be excluded from the fundamental right to marry the person they love.

We are at a historical crossroads in America, when disparate political and ideological communities are committed to ensuring that discrimination on any level will not be tolerated. With this in mind, I have added my name to an amicus brief concerning government recognition of the freedom to marry filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by Project Right Side and former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. A total of 303 Republican, libertarian, conservative, and center-right high-profile activists and government officials have signed on to the brief. We want the court to know that we support traditional conservative values, including a belief in the importance of stable families, and that those conservative values are consistent with affording civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Just as we’ve done for more than 30 years in the battle to end breast cancer, we must work now to end stigma and discrimination for those in the LGBT community and ensure that they are free to marry and form stable, loving families. Meaningful change is rarely easy, but it is always worth the fight.

Miami Herald, “OP-ED: LGBT People Deserve Fairness on the Job”

March 10, 2015
Miami Herald
LGBT People Deserve Fairness on the Job
By Nancy G. Brinker

Considering the successes we’ve achieved over the years, it is difficult to imagine that in our lifetime women felt a shame and stigma around breast cancer — one that a small group of women and I vowed to end when I founded Susan G. Komen in 1982. We wanted women to know it was OK to talk about breast cancer and to identify as a woman who had been diagnosed with the disease.

Fast-forward 33 years, and Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast-cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find cures. Not only has our reach gone global through events such as our popular Race for the Cure, but also we have put significant resources into identifying and understanding underserved populations and how best to break down disparities and advocate for them.

One population we have found to be at greater risk for breast cancer than the general population is women in same-sex relationships. Since 2007, Susan G. Komen has invested more than $1.2 million into research to help understand why lesbians have a higher risk of breast cancer.

In our research, we have learned that sexual orientation does not increase risk, but rather there are risk factors that tend to be more common among women in same-sex relationships, such as never having children or giving birth for the first time at age 36 or older. Reasons for this are not clear, but lack of insurance, a perceived low risk of breast cancer and not seeing a healthcare provider regularly may play roles.

While my work focuses on women’s breast cancer, personal and professional experiences have inspired me to get involved with changing legislation to remove stigma and discrimination for others, especially when it can affect one’s ability to gain access to healthcare. That is why I am publicly voicing my personal support for passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.

In my home state of Florida, it is legal to discriminate against people in employment, housing and public accommodations simply because they are gay or transgender. Just as it seems difficult to imagine a time when the phrase “breast cancer” was taboo, it is hard to believe that such discrimination exists today and remains permissible by the state.

HB 33 by Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, and SB 156 by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, propose simply adding “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” to the state’s existing anti-discrimination law that already protects Floridians from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital or disability status.

While Rep. Raschein and Sen. Abruzzo are doing the heavy lift in Tallahassee to pass the Competitive Workforce Act, more than 200 Florida businesses, large and small, are supporting the proposed legislation. Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce is a coalition of 24 major Florida employers that believe this proposal will make our state more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.

Eight of these companies are listed on the Fortune 500 List, including Wells Fargo, Disney, Tech Data, NextEra Energy, Marriott, CSX, Office Depot and Darden Restaurants.
If you think LGBT people should be treated fairly, I encourage you to follow Florida’s actions during the 2015 Legislative Session and let legislators know that discrimination on any level must not be tolerated.

Huffington Post, “Picture It. I Dare You.”

March 9, 2015
Huffington Post
Picture It. I Dare You.
By Nancy G. Brinker

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the hue and cry for gender equity and a better life for girls and women galvanizes around the theme, “Empowering Women –Empowering Humanity: Picture It!” with the United Nations aiming to “mobilize all people to do their part.” When it comes to mobilizing for change, no one moves more nimbly and purposefully than the American nonprofits that first pictured today’s global breast cancer awareness movement.

I stepped into this charitable world more than 30 years ago with a promise to my dying sister to end breast cancer. I had no idea how even to begin to create such a change. Over the years, by listening to other women’s stories and connecting their power and passion with the larger community, we built Susan G. Komen into the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding in the fight against breast cancer. As we grew, the nonprofit sector as a whole became an extraordinary force for transformation. Democratization of good ignited a passionate civic evolution. Now is not the time to let that evolution slow.

The future I see for empowering humanity this International Women’s Day is reflected in the faces of three young mothers with late-stage breast cancer whom I met not long ago in Tanzania’s Ocean Road Cancer Institute. They had overcome great barriers of stigma, transportation and cost — only to arrive at the clinic in advanced stages of the disease and too late. Today, we are expanding education about breast cancer in Tanzania thanks to the clarion voices of a generation of women and their families who lived and fought the disease.

In its first year alone, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon screened 27,000 women, identified 5,000 pre-cancerous lesions and referred more than half of those for diagnosis and treatment. Yet, in Tanzania and much of Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90 percent of women who finally seek treatment are diagnosed in late stages and are unlikely to survive the disease. This is not the time to be satisfied with early achievements.

We must picture a world where bold, groundbreaking scientific research moves quickly from bench to bedside to provide better treatment options for women with advanced cancer and metastatic disease. Where we find gaps in research and treatment, we must work harder to fill them.
Today’s ever-constricting budgets at the National Institutes of Health and other government funders tend to favor established laboratories, leaving so much promising research unfunded. The average age of an NIH researcher has risen from 39 to 51 since 1982. This is why Susan G. Komen devoted half of its 2014 funding to early career researchers, with a goal to increase that funding by 30 percent in 2015, while continuing to fund the work of well-known scientists and labs. Now is not the time to leave our brightest, young scientific minds struggling for support.

This International Women’s Day, I dare you to join with me in thinking big, in picturing a world where all women have access to the health care education and services they need. Together, we must dare to find and fund innovative, game-changing scientific research that makes life-saving treatments a reality for women in every corner of the world, and we must dare to envision bold, new global nonprofit collaborations — across sectors and among former competitors — to ensure that women everywhere are empowered in the fight against breast cancer.

The faces of those three young mothers in Tanzania and the motherless children of our own here at home are the reason we fight for a world without breast cancer. Picture it. I dare you.

Among the masterpieces in Hungary

By Kathy A. Megyeri
Fairfield-Sun, October 11, 2013

After spending 34 years teaching high school English, you can imagine how excited I was to be asked to accompany Ambassador Nancy Brinker, CEO of Komen for the Cure, to Hungary, where she was going to purchase more Hungarian art for her renowned collection in an attempt to help the artists reach broader audiences here in America.

Works from the collections of Brinker and Christian L. Sauska are on display in “Hungarian Masterpieces” at Southport Galleries, 330 Pequot Ave. The show, offered in partnership with Quinnipiac University Central European Institute, continues through Saturday, Oct. 19, and is part of the Pequot Library Art Show Gallery Walk.

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Oncology Times, “Following Up with Nancy Brinker Post-Tanzania”

Oncology Times
Following Up with Nancy Brinker Post-Tanzania
by Eric T. Rosenthal
As a follow-up to my last post, I was able to speak with Susan G. Komen Founder and Chair of Global Strategy Nancy Brinker today following her 19-day international trip that included participating earlier this month in the African First Ladies Summit, “Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa,” held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The event was hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and included first ladies from throughout Africa meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush to discuss such issues as health care, education, and economic welfare

Dallas Morning News, “Susan G. Komen Founder Shifts Focus to Increasing International Efforts” (July 3, 2013)

Dallas Morning News
Susan G. Komen Founder Shifts Focus to Increasing International Efforts
by Tom Benning

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — The three middle-aged women waiting for breast cancer treatment — just a few of the hundreds the Ocean Road Cancer Institute takes in each year — left Nancy Brinker visibly shaken.

Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said she couldn’t help but see in the women the face of her sister, Suzy. Her cancer death three decades ago inspired what’s become the nation’s leading breast cancer fundraiser.

That memory remains a driving force for Brinker as she transitions from Komen CEO to chairwoman of global strategy. And 18 months after turmoil over a funding flap with Planned Parenthood, Brinker said that longer perspective has helped her and the charity move forward.

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Politico, “Op-Ed: One Preventable Death Is Too Many”

Op-Ed: One Preventable Death is Too Many
by Nancy G. Brinker

In sub-Saharan Africa, breast and cervical cancers take the lives of more than 100,000 women each year. And in countries such as Zambia, 37.1 percent of women who die of breast cancer are in their productive and reproductive years. Sadly, cervical cancer is four to five times more common among women who are HIV-positive, which helps explain why cervical cancer is so common in developing countries. To make matters worse, 80 to 90 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa have never had a pelvic exam. We must reverse these trends.

This week I joined global leaders in Tanzania to launch the latest country to engage with Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a campaign begun in 2011 to fight women’s cancers in Sub-Saharan Africa. This program leverages the HIV/AIDS platform — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), built under President George W. Bush and sustained under President Obama’s Global Health Initiative — to also screen and treat women for cervical and create an entry point to integrate breast cancer services.

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USA Today, “Disparities in breast cancer treatment: Column”

USA Today
Disparities in breast cancer treatment: Column
by Nancy G. Brinker

Angelina Jolie, at 37 years of age, performed a tremendous public service when she recently announced she had a preventive double mastectomy to minimize her risk of getting cancer. She explained that she did so because she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, which significantly increased her chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

This was an extremely personal and difficult decision. I know, since I made a similar decision when I was in my late 30s after being diagnosed with breast cancer, which was determined years later that it was also from carrying the BRCA1 gene mutation.

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International Business Times, “Nancy Brinker On Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy Decision, Komen Founder Made The Same Choice At The Same Age”

International Business Times
Nancy Brinker On Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy Decision, Komen Founder Made The Same Choice At The Same Age

If you had the ability to lower your cancer risk by at least 80 percent, would you?

In an op-ed piece published in the New York Times, Angelina Jolie revealed she was faced with that reality after testing positive for the genetic mutation BRCA1for which she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. She decided to have a double mastectomy, which lowered her risk to less than five percent.

“I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made,” Jolie, 37, said describing her decision to remove her breasts.

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