Susan G. Komen died in 1980 at the age of 36 after enduring nine operations, extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments due to breast cancer. According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Komen was a daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend to few, but an inspiration to those who know her story.
Lindsay Runyen, a freshman secondary education major said, “I know her name and I know that she had cancer, but I don’t know anything else about her.”
Unfortunately, not many have been told about Komen’s fight with breast cancer and how her selflessness is helping women and men who are battling breast cancer and their families better understand the life altering illness.
Susan Goodman grew up in the small town of Peoria, Illinois where she lived with her parents and sister, Nancy. Growing up, her family and friends would call her “Suzy” and was popular and sweet and ended up marrying her college sweetheart, Stan Komen. The couple then had two children before tragedy struck her at the age of 33.
A visit to Komen’s family doctor resulted in the discovery of a lump on one of her breasts that they later found out was cancer. Uneducated about the illness and its severity, Komen underwent a process suggested by a surgeon who told her that it would cure her. Susan agreed to a subcutaneous mastectomy, which consists of removing the breast tissue while leaving the outer breast untouched and then received a breast implant.
Cancer is an illness that cannot be cured, as there is always a slight chance that the cancer could come back. Although she felt fine for a few months after her surgery, Komen found another lump and found herself in an even worse position. The cancer had spread to her lungs and had the potential of spreading to other internal organs, if it hadn’t already; she was now a Stage IV cancer patient.
Komen underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments and experienced their potential side effects of nausea; hair loss and mouth sores. Despite her feeling sick and weak, Susan’s concern before she passed was that something be done about the frigid atmosphere of waiting rooms and the little education patients and family members have about cancer and what it means for them.
To carry on her sister’s final wish, Nancy Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Brest Cancer Foundation and Race for the Cure. Brinker says that the Komen Foundation’s purpose if to build awareness and to raise funding for innovative research and community outreach programs.
The Komen Foundation stresses the importance of monthly self-examinations and regular mammograms to help in detecting cancer in its early stages. Women who have a history of breast cancer in their family should be especially cautious since the percentage of them being diagnosed with a form of cancer is higher than most women.
Because of the lack of information offered to patients at the time of Susan’s diagnosis, she was unable to fully take part in the decision making process involving her treatments from the beginning. The foundation’s website is extremely informative on breast cancer including information of its diagnosis, treatment, after treatment and support amongst other helpful topics.
For more information on Susam G. Komen or on how to get involved in the foundation, the website is www.komen.org. The Komen Foundation also offers assistance over the phone with their national toll-free breast care help line at 1.800. I’M AWARE.