I am about to get personal in a way I rarely do, and emotional in a way that I haven’t, in this space. Bear with me.
My maternal great-grandmother died of breast cancer. She had 14 children.
Those 14 children were evenly divided. Seven daughters, seven sons.
My grandmother died of breast cancer.
All six of my grandmother’s sisters had breast cancer.
Five of my grandmother’s sisters died of breast cancer. The sixth is still with us after battling it three times.
But that sixth sister? Her daughter died of breast cancer at age 43. She left behind two daughters of her own.
And the seven brothers? Not unscathed. Each of them with a daughter has had a daughter with breast cancer.
Three of those daughters have died. Two also left behind daughters of their own as well.
This disease has more than decimated my family. It’s orphaned my mother and her sisters. It took my favorite aunt, the one I spent summers with as a little girl. It took my grandmother. It’s left my young cousins motherless girls. Girls need their mothers.
For me the fight against breast cancer is extremely personal.
For years my family has supported the Susan G Komen foundation. We’ve walked in the 5ks as a team, the survivors so proud in their pink shirts and hats. We’ve bought the pink ribbon items. Every one we could find. We pooled our money to buy my cousin the pink Kitchen Aid stand mixer to celebrate the end of her chemotherapy. All of our cars have sun fading in the shape of the pink ribbon magnets we happily stuck on our bumpers.
This isn’t political for me, beyond the continual fight for single-payer healthcare. Had some of the women in my family had earlier and stronger access to medical care they may have been spared the loss of their health, the loss of their breasts, the loss of their lives.
This isn’t political for me, beyond the continual fight in favor of what is derisively called Obamacare. I know as a person with pre-existing conditions, it is the only way I will have access to medical care. I am now in the age window when women in my family receive their first diagnoses. I have to be careful.
The Komen foundation has been selling us a bill of goods. They lobbied against improved and expanded health care access, breast cancer care access, for poor women.
And now this defunding of Planned Parenthood. (Don’t be confused by the headlines. Funding is “restored” but only for this year, and only to some affiliates. Next year? No one knows. And I think Komen is counting on us not remembering and not paying attention.) they made it political.
On a purely personal level I think I made it clear how I deal with my political opponents.
Some people are calling this partial restoration for 2012 a “victory” but for me? Victory will be the day that the Susan G Komen foundation no longer exists.
As for me, in the name of all the women who came before, whose memories I must bear as a legacy of the devastation of breast cancer, I vow: not another penny not ever again.
The Susan G Komen foundation has destroyed its goodwill, has squandered its good name. They did it long ago but we didn’t realize it then. Now we know. I for one will not forget.
I hope that you won’t forget either.
Not another penny. Not ever again.
Fund planned parenthood. Fund your local health clinics. Agitate so that no one has to rely upon charity and the goodwill of organizations to get basic health care, a human need, a human right, any more. We are better than that. We can do better than that.
Not another penny. Not ever again. It’s time for something new.
Will you help me find it?