A simple promise that changed the world. After a promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer, Nancy Brinker established Susan G. Komen for the Cure and has pioneered cause marketing, allowing millions to participate in the fight against breast cancer through businesses that share Komen's commitment to end the disease. Susan G. Komen has raised over $3.2 billion to date for cutting edge sciences building community health programs. Brinker is the author of the New York Times bestselling book Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer. She served as the World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control. Brinker was named Time magazine's, "100 Most Influential People" and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. She served as United States Ambassador to Hungary from September 2001 to 2003. She is a major funder of gay marriage initiatives and serves on the Advisory Board of the Harvey Milk Foundation.
The Lesson That Changed My Life
Nancy: She grabbed my hand. She said, "Nanny, I want you to promise me that you will help cure this disease." After that, I really said to myself, "I've made this promise. What am I going to do?"
I'm Nancy Brinker and this is a lesson that changed my life.
I grew up in Peoria, Illinois, and my mother was particularly focused, and my dad, on us giving back. Watching my father do things for people that he never wanted any notoriety for. He would do things like underwrite the cost of the polio vaccine when it came to our grammar school. He would give kids scholarships to college and never want a thank you note. He taught us the power of the highest form of giving, which is being anonymous, doing it from the goodness of your heart. And he used to say to me, "Most people quit. It's not that they fail. They quit."
I got this call from my sister and she said to me, "Nan, I have a lump in my breast." But the way she sounded on the phone, I knew something was really wrong and I said, "I'll be right home." When I got off the plane, I looked at my father's face and he didn't have to tell me anything. I knew what it was. I just knew it. At that time, we began her journey, and it was just a little over two and a half years between when we began that journey and she died.
In those last days, she looked at me. I was sitting with her in her living room and I'll never forget it. She grabbed my hand and she said, "Nanny, I want you to promise me that you will help cure this disease, because nobody should lose their mother, or their mother shouldn't lose her children." I promised her I would.
Pink was my sister's favorite color. I knew it was a happy color for her, and that's how we adopted the color pink. I was so lucky to attract Betty Ford. For many, many years, Betty came actually to help us give face to this, and the organization really began to grow. We developed affiliates all over the United States and we raised over $2 billion for community health and have made some of the very early investments in the therapeutics you see today.