Sunday, May 23, 2010
How Cute Are We?
There is a lot of competition out there in the breast cancer world. You have the “organizations” started by people who have never had breast cancer but state on their websites that “they can imagine how bad it must be.” Or they are run by well intentioned wealthy women looking to give back, but are not close enough to the running of the organization to know how it is affecting the women they are supposed to be helping. This is evident in organizations that are glitzy to the civilian donor, but the actual survivors are reading the site's dire predictions of their poor outcomes being scared half to death.
Then there are the big guns. They have millions coming in, no one quite knows where the money goes to, but they are assured that giving to The Pink will protect them from breast cancer.
Recently, I was nominated to win the “Humanitarian of the Year” award from a big gun cancer organization. I was honored. All I could think of was how much exposure it would give our Foundation. I was then informed that in order to “win” the “award” I would have to guarantee I would raise, at minimum, $70,000 for this organization. I have been in the non-profit world since 1991 and I have never heard of an awardee having to pay to win. I declined. If I could raise $70,000 it would be for the No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation - not for the more-money-than-God organization demanding it.
Have I raised that amount since the offer? No. Grants are out there. Corporate sponsorship letters are out there. Donation requests to individuals are out there. A brand new book is out there and we are being praised for the work we do.
We have a beautiful and intelligent website. It is not cute, trendy or pink. This is because it is run by actual breast cancer survivors who know that breast cancer is not cute, trendy or pink. We have a real mission. We are serious but hopeful. We give the facts. We get you through your breast cancer. You don’t need flash to do that. You need a heart and the experience of knowing how lost a woman feels when she is diagnosed with a primary or advanced diagnosis. We offer 24/7 support that is closely monitored so that spam and porn does not appear on posts by women who are struggling to get through the day. There is a lot of work involved keeping a site up and running, up to date, message forums free of spam and making sure every posts is answered. And we don’t stop there, either.
We have programs that shake up the traditional dictates by the big dog organizations. We dare to question waiting until the age of forty for a baseline screening test - not to mention the latest death sentence of waiting until fifty. We have buried too many young women who were diagnosed before the age of forty and as fellow survivors, we are fighting for our sisters, those who already have breast cancer and those who don’t even know they have it yet.
It is our mission to get women the best care for their disease and to make sure they know their risks before they even have breast cancer so they will know that if they can find their cancer early, they have the greatest chance of survival. This is especially true for young, African American women and triple negative breast cancer. We don’t have any celebrities helping us with this. So we go to churches and workplaces to raise awareness.
When your “base” is comprised of well-heeled people, for example, if we were raising money for a political party, it would be easy to raise money from our members. But our base is breast cancer survivors and their families. They are tapped out. They are drowning in medical bills and co-pays and cut back hours because they can’t work the way they used to because of breast cancer. So we seek outside assistance - but we remain true to who we are. And there lies the rub. When you keep the reality of breast cancer up front and don't bury it in pastel colors and nicknames, it isn't pretty to civilians. But to those newly diagnosed and in treatment, it is a clear, deep well of truth that you are thirsting for. We focus on those who need us, not sugar coat it for those who can help us. That is probably why we don't get the donations the others do.
What we need are people who understand that we cannot do it alone, that we are helping people across the world through our website, and we are actively fighting for the best care and screening for all women, young or old, healthy or well. We do this while undergoing tests and treatments ourselves, because as breast cancer survivors, the tests, treatments and trials never go away. As the cutsie organizations continue to grow and rake in the money and that money goes towards making them even more cute and not doing a damn thing to actually help women with breast cancer, our real work continues, for as long as we can, no matter how we feel. We will fight for and be there for you, when you need serious, real hope and help.
We are by survivor, for survivor- we are you. Our motto is, “hope happens here.” And it does. Whether or not we can raise money so we can grow the way we need to, we will work very hard and keep you on the cutting edge of treatment. Because we are survivors too. We know how you feel. We feel the same way. That is why we are No Surrender.
“Much of the world’s work is done by people who don’t feel very well.” Winston Churchill.