Inspiration Report

A new book, “Promise Me,” out in time for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, tells the story behind the founding of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.


Growing up in postwar Peoria, Illinois, Suzy and Nancy Goodman were inseparable, with the elegantly poised Suzy serving as younger sister Nancy’s best friend and role model in the grand adventure of life. The Goodman sisters learned at an early age the importance of helping those in need. Charity became a common theme in their lives but so did breast cancer. In 1977, at the age of thirty-four, Suzy was diagnosed with the disease.  Three years later, having endured well-meaning but misinformed doctors, multiple surgeries, and several grueling courses of chemotherapy and radiation, she died.  In one of the sisters’ last conversations, Suzy begged Nancy to do something to stop the suffering:


“Promise me, Nanny,” she said. “Promise me you won’t let it go on like this.” 


Her heart broken, Nancy promised.  “I swear, Suzy.  Even if it takes the rest of my life.” At that moment, Susan G. Komen for the Cure was born.


Published to coincide with the thirty-year anniversary of Nancy’s promise to Suzy, PROMISE ME (Crown Archetype, 2010; $25.99) is Nancy G. Brinker’s poignant memoir of unshakable commitment to her late sister, Susan G. Komen, and the phenomenal global impact that she has had in pursuing her life’s purpose: to end breast cancer.   Armed with only $200 and a shoebox filled with names, Nancy embarked on her quest to change the way the world thought about, spoke about, and treated breast cancer – a quest that took on added urgency when she herself was diagnosed with the disease in 1984.  Through it all, she was aided by her husband, Norman Brinker, whose dynamic approach to business became Nancy’s model for running her foundation which is arguably the most influential health advocacy organization in the world.   


Susan G. Komen for the Cure has raised billions of dollars for research and has helped to increase the five-year survival rate for breast cancer from 74 percent in 1980 to 98 percent today. And just since 2005, more than 1.5 million people have participated in the iconic Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, a series of 5K runs/fitness walks that Brinker launched in Dallas in 1983 and that are currently held in more than 140 venues around the globe. SGK also managed to turn a simple pink ribbon into an internationally recognized icon of hope.


PROMISE ME weaves a host of other elements into the compelling story of Brinker’s personal and professional life, including:


*a historical overview of breast cancer and its treatment, from ancient Egypt until now;

*a timeline of major developments in breast cancer detection and treatment;

* short, inspiring profiles of women who have survived breast cancer

*a primer in advocacy and cause-marketing (a field virtually invented by Nancy Brinker);

*an extensive list of resources for people living and dealing with breast cancer.


Nancy was luckier than Suzy: She survived breast cancer and went on to turn Susan G. Komen for the Cure into the most influential health charity in the world.  To date, SGK has contributed some $1.5 billion for cutting-edge research and community programs.   And, thanks to a sister’s love, a diagnosis of breast cancer is no longer a death sentence.

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