Short answer is: I hope so, but I doubt it.
Transparency alert: I’m a breast cancer survivor, my oncologist is a medical advisor for Komen and one of my best friends is the medical director for a Planned Parenthood office . To say that I’m conflicted is an understatement. I am reacting to the news of Komen’s de-funding of Planned Parenthood the way most of us react to the death of a friend – with denial, disbelief, anger and grief
I saw the first negative tweet sometime Tuesday night and went into total denial. They must have it wrong, I thought. Why would anyone be saying such horrible things about Komen. They’re the good guys, T hey fund the research that may have saved my life. Then it was on the news. Yes in fact they HAD pulled funding for breast screenings at Planned Parenthood.
Disbelief came next: What are they thinking? Why would they do that, there must be some explanation. Alas, there was not. Or at least not one that didn’t scream POLITICS thru every sentence. Then I felt anger. Raw, seeing red, expletives undeleted fury. I was angry at them for the decision, sure. But I was angry for many more reasons.
Angry for tarnishing a brand I’ve endorsed over and over again. But that was all about me, so then I got angry at them for denying services to the predominantly young, low income women that Planned Parent hood serves. I got angrier when my friend emailed me that her Planned Parenthood office had recently had detected suspicious lumps in five women who, as it turned out, had breast cancer. Cancer that would have gone undetected were it not for that Planned Parenthood visit.
The I got even angrier because I emailed, commented, tweeted to Komen and no one was listening. I know the PR people at Komen, and know them to be smart and good at their jobs. They even measure their results based on outcomes for gods sakes! I can only imagine the hell on earth that their offices must be like right now. A hell that they certainly didn’t cause, and that they certainly can’t fix. A hell made worse by people far above their pay grade making stupid decisions to behave like ostriches in this crisis. Attempting to control the criticism by cutting off the dialog. Putting out stilted videos that do nothing to address the concerns and everything to belittle their critics. (as if THAT is going to make critics feel better and/or go away.
Then I started reading everyone elses comments on the various blogs and Facebook pages and I got even angrier at the idealogs on both sides that have turned a fundamental issue of women’s health into a platform for their diatribes.
Finally I finally got sad, and mourned my loss.
I had loss a source of hope. When I was facing a choice of treatments for Stage 2 Invasive ductal carcinoma, my doctor assured me that if I chose chemotherapy and radiation it would keep cancer at bay for at least five years and “by that time we will have found a cure” -- and the one orgnazation that I truly believed might fund that cure was Komen. I believed that because my oncologist was advising Komen and if anything was going to beat cancer it was a team that included Dana Farber and Komen. It’s been 8 years and they haven’t found a cure, but they’ve made a lot of progress. Now, thousands of loyal donors are pledging to give elsewhere. As much as I may have differences with their belief, I now have to hope that the pro-life contingent makes up the difference, which is, of course, what Komen is also hoping.
I am also mourning the loss that one feels when a trust is broken. Every brand is its core is a promise. Southwest Airlines promises me the freedom to fly. FedEx promises me that my packages wll get their overnight. Komen promised me that they would find a cure. In reality, we all know that brands can fail. Southwest can be more expensive. FedEx can lose my package. And Komen really isn’t the perfect, research-above all organization that I thought it was. Like many major non-profits it spends at least as much time on courting donors, sometimes unsavory ones, that it does on finding a cure.
I have lost something else too. I had planned on participating in the first ever Komen for a Cure race in Portsmouth, NH. It was a big deal that Komen was coming to Portsmouth.. kind of thing that puts a little town on the map.. and I had recruited a number of friends to be part of my team. There is no longer a team. Even if I wanted to participate, my friends have refused, and I can’t blame them.
To my friends at Planned Parenthood, congratulations You’ve gotten your message out, you’ve made the money back and more, and thank you mayor Bloomberg for your help.
To my friends at Komen. Write a book, and if you want to jump ship, we’re hiring.