Here is the latest Komen ad : “Komen’s Commitment to Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer.” We at MBCN are happy that Komen is continuing its first formal effort to acknowledge people living with metastatic breast cancer and featuring people like us in their ads. (Ironically, few people realize that Susan G. Komen died from metastatic breast cancer.)
We all have a story to tell and we can be inspired in writing the story and in reading others’ stories. Our organization actively solicits stories such as those of Cindy and Bridget, the two people featured in this Komen ad. Some stories are inspiring, as those of Cindy and Bridget; however, many stories are of perseverance in the face of uncertainty and discomfort.
Like Cindy, I love to read stories by people who are living with metastatic disease for a long time–MBCN even has a special section showcasing the stories of those living with mets for 10 or more years. (See http://mbcn.org/get-involved/category/10-years/) But it is an awfully small section– living with MBC for 20 years or even 10 years is rare. While I applaud these uplifting stories, I am a realist at heart. We can’t exaggerate the progress that’s been made in metastatic disease. Despite these outliers and despite our own advocacy efforts, metastatic breast cancer continues to claim 40,000 lives annually in the U.S.; a figure that remains largely unchanged for the past two decades.
Moreover, Cindy’s doctor who said metastatic disease is a marathon vs. a sprint is absolutely correct. But, the Komen ad makes a confusing connection between Cindy’s three clinical trials and being on treatment for life. ALL patients with metastatic disease are on treatment for life; some are good candidates for clinical trials and some aren’t. But they will all get some kind of lifelong treatment. Also, men do get metastatic breast cancer–so the “estimated 155,000 women living with MBC in the U.S.” should actually read “women and men.”
And then there’s Komen’s commitment to research. Komen proudly announces that they spent $35 million in funding metastatic research over the last six years. That’s great! Millions! Well, wait a minute. This is $35 milllion vs. the $2 billion of the total Komen pie for the last six years. (That’s not a typo: “Billion” is correct.) Therefore, Komen is spending 1.7% ( round it up to 2%) of the total funds raised for the purpose of metastatic research.
So for every $10,000 raised by Komen, about $200 goes to research to help Cindy and Bridget and all of us with metastatic disease.
In other words, if breast cancer funding were a giant Monopoly board, we are the “Go” square. Everytime Komen passes our corner with $10,000, MBC research collects $200. Well, $200 is nothing to sneeze at, but we’ll never win if we don’t get some real property. Please don’t keep passing us by. Stay awhile–make some real MBC investments. Imagine what we could do if we had the research equivalent of three hotels on Illinois Avenue!
So thank you, Komen, for including our stories and acknowledging October 13 as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. It’s a good start, but we hope it’s just the first step in a plan to really commit to stopping metastases. The best way to honor all of us with MBC and those who are no longer with us, is to seize the day–October 13– as an opportunity to commit to a substantial increase in metastatic research funding. Komen, are you listening? We look forward to your October 13 press release.
Ginny Knackmuhs and Katherine O’Brien