RACE FOR THE CURE
After my final confirmation of the Spring season on Saturday morning I boarded a Southwest flight for New Orleans and the annual Assembly of the Catholic Health Association. About 800 people involved in the Catholic health care ministry are in town for two days of lectures, exhibits, banquets and tourism. CHA choose New Orleans for this year’s assembly right after Katrina and made it their highest priority to come here when contractually free to do so. The Board of which I am a member met for three hours this morning. Without violating any confidentiality about Board business, a lot of time was given to the efforts at Health Care Reform now taking shape in Washington, D.C. For me it was an illuminating discussion and one which is vital to this particular ministry in the Church. I learned, among other things, that fewer and fewer physicians are going into general or family practice simply because the reimbursement formulas of both Medicare and private insurance payers is so low they can not even pay off their medical schools bills.
The lead-off keynote speaker at this convention was Nancy Brinker, former ambassador to Hungary and then Chief of Protocol for the United States during the last Bush Administration. Ambassador Brinker is also the sister of Susan G. Komen who died at age 36 of breast cancer leaving a husband and two young children. The day before she died, Susan asked Nancy, her sister, to devote her life to seeing that fewer and fewer women die of this disease, through early examinations, medical and scientific research and education programs. Nancy said that after her sister’s death one night in her sleep she had a dream and saw hundreds of people dressed in pink dancing and upon awakening she knew that her contribution would be to start a “race for breast cancer cure.”
Although she is Jewish and proud of it, her talk was extremely supportive of Catholic Health Care Ministry. She noted that she has partnered now with a Catholic diocese in Africa where it is taboo for a women to ever admit she has breast cancer because they are certain that it is contagious. Komen foundation monies will build a cancer center in a Catholic hospital there and also include rooms for maternal cancer awareness education. The amount being devoted to fighting breast cancer worldwide by the Foundation is extremely impressive.
I was impressed by her vision and captivated by what might be done if others would join in the effort against breast cancer. On occasion someone will mention that the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure gives money to Planned Parenthood and they do. But the money is earmarked solely for mammograms and nothing else and is monitored closely for this. Some people spend a lot of time and energy shadow boxing with friends.
I learned more this afternoon about breast cancer than I have learned in the preceding 67 years. Several of my closest and dearest friends have suffered the uncertainty of it all and thanks to early detection and effective treatment they remain close and dear friends. It is highly likely that Susan Komen herself would be alive today if what we know and can do today were present in the mid-’60′s when she died.
I am too old and fat to “race” for the cure but I know that I will “walk” for the cure when the opportunity presents itself. I invite all who read this to do the same.