Breast cancer issues closely tied to Illinois
Did you know Susan G. Komen was from Illinois? Illinoisan shoppers flock to pink products in October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Friday, October 7, 2011 - 02:04
PINK, NOT PUMPKIN: October gives us more than ghost and goblins. (Photo: Lidal-K/Flickr)
If you've visited any retail outlet so far this month, or even viewed any advertisements, you'll know from the pink ribbons adorning packages and lapels that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The celebration of it is especially prevalent in this part of the Midwest.
While the Susan G. Komen for the Cure (formerly called the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation) is centered in Dallas, Texas, its heart lies in Illinois. The Komen sisters were raised in Peoria, which serves as a very active affiliate in the network that comprises the foundation.
When I had newly relocated to Peoria from western Nebraska, I managed a retail store where I was constantly asked for products relating to breast cancer. My customers actively sought out companies that supported breast cancer research or made healthy donations to the foundation. From my employees I learned how the Race for the Cure, held each May, had grown so large that over a third of Peoria's population participated.
While the Komen Foundation supports research and education, one of their most valuable influences on women has been the global voice that shouts out about the disease, rather than discussing it in behind-closed-door whispers. I was pretty much oblivious to the strength of this movement in Peoria until the merchandise I had sought for my customers finally arrived.
The buyers for my company answered my persistent requests for pink ribbon products with trepidation. But when the T-shirts and accessories came in, nothing could have prepared my team for the reaction from our shoppers. I personally set up the display in the entryway of our store, with towers full of shirts, tennis shoes, hats and backpacks making a very pink statement as people entered the store.
Before I even emptied the first box of shirts I had several women gathered around me, wanting to see the collection I had ordered. They pulled out their cell phones and called their mothers, sisters, neighbors. I was haphazardly emptying the cartons as fast as I could, forgoing organization in order to please my customers. Pretty soon I had quite the crowd. And we were all crying.
It started with a simple statement, as a woman told me how much her grandmother would have loved one of the shirts. She had succumbed to breast cancer years earlier. My cashier at the time relayed the story of her sister, who was undergoing chemotherapy. Another customer joined our conversation, and soon we had an impromptu gathering of women who all had a loved one somehow affected by the disease.
The sense of community and support discovered that spring morning over my boxes of T-shirts was amazing. When I joined my first Komen event that Mother's Day weekend, the sea of pink overflowing the streets in Peoria completely overwhelmed me. The sisterhood embodied by the foundation had an almost crippling effect on me, understanding the number of women the disease had ravaged, and the scores it will kill in years to come.
Which is why we must each take action, even if it is only to protect ourselves and do a breast exam each month. The website at Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a list of month long activities bringing awareness to breast cancer. For information about the disease and further support, visit nbcam.org.