Tuesday, February 07, 2012


I'm sure the vast majority of people reading this can point to an aunt, a cousin, a sister, a best friend who has had breast cancer.  My best friend Heather from high school has it, and just finished her last chemo treatment on Groundhog Day.  (Next up-- surgery, then radiation.)

So far, the estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer in the United States in 2012 (and this is just February) is over 225,000 women and almost 2,200 men with new cases of cancer and almost 40,000 women and over 400 men who have died from the disease. Many of these people are poor and have little access to proper health care or support; many of them owe their lives to breast screening provided by Planned Parenthood.

With all the hoopla over Susan G. Komen lately, it's tempting to turn the volume down and not listen to all the voices.  One voice that you SHOULD listen to belongs to Linda Burger, a 56-year-old breast cancer survivor in Las Vegas, who was so appalled she made a video. As Linda says in this video, cancer makes you frank and it makes you say what you feel.

Watch this wonderful video. Then send it to an aunt, a cousin, a sister, a best friend. Send it to your Congress(wo)man. Send the Komen Foundation the message that politics and religion have no place in providing health care for women who have nowhere else to turn. They can take their plastic pink ribbons and shove them up Ari Fleischer's nose. Then send a donation to Planned Parenthood - help keep them alive, so that they can help keep us alive.

Susan G. Komen accepted Karen Handel's resignation.  Her resignation letter is chock full o' it....

Dear Ambassador Brinker:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been the recognized leader for more 30 years in the fight against breast cancer here in the US – and increasingly around the world.

As you know, I have always kept Komen's mission and the women we serve as my highest priority – as they have been for the entire organization, the Komen Affiliates, our many supporters and donors, and the entire community of breast cancer survivors. I have carried out my responsibilities faithfully and in line with the Board's objectives and the direction provided by you and Liz.

We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer. However, Komen's decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization. At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization's real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.

I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen's future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone's political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen's mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants.

What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision – one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact – has unfortunately been turned into something about politics. This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly.

Just as Komen's best interests and the fight against breast cancer have always been foremost in every aspect of my work, so too are these my priorities in coming to the decision to resign effective immediately. While I appreciate your raising a possible severance package, I respectfully decline. It is my most sincere hope that Komen is allowed to now refocus its attention and energies on its mission.


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