How Komen isn’t “for the cure” anymore

So, this is one of those posts where I’m going to rant a little. My apologies in advance. It’s just that I’m really ticked off now, and I feel the need to get some of this off my chest.

Since about 1996 (excepting only 2 years), I’ve done the Race for the Cure down in my hometown of Washington, DC. When I couldn’t make it down, and even in some of the years when I did, I also tried to do the Boston Race for the Cure, although that’s been less frequent due to all kinds of other things cropping up on my schedule. The RFTC at home is my chance to pull together a bunch of friends – plus my family – and do the Race in a crowd. I’ve even pulled together a team with one of my BFFs, and we’ve raised thousands of dollars for Komen over the years.

But not anymore.

I was thrown off a little by seeing things bathed in pink and wondering whether Komen was taking it a little too far to have Kitchenaid stand mixers that had “a portion” of the sale going “to the cure”. Anything that could be painted pink, short of a poodle, seemed to be – and there was always that “portion” going “to the cure”. It seemed a little opportunistic, perhaps a lot whorish, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because it was all going to the right cause: to raise funds in support of research to stop breast cancer and to provide services to men and women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. When you have friends and family touched by this awful disease, it seems like low-hanging fruit in terms of fundraisers. Everybody knows SOMEBODY who’s had it.

I was peeved when I heard that Komen had started to sue other charities and fundraisers that used the term “for the cure” because they deemed it infringement on their brand. I could understand some of why this could be an issue, since I’ve seen things that look dodgy that have “for the cure” that are certainly not going to Komen…and people who aren’t familiar with the organization may just assume that anything with “for the cure” is going to them, even when it’s not. But still, you don’t see the Minute Maid people using bulldozers to take out kids’ lemonade stands.

But then I saw a story from the Washington Post that said Komen was cutting off further grants to Planned Parenthood, under the guise of a new internal regulation that barred grants to organizations under investigation by Congress. Since some of the more conservative members of Congress are hellbent-for-leather on driving Planned Parenthood out of business, OF COURSE it’s under investigation. Thus, Komen cuts off grants. That means that life-saving breast cancer-related services (like, say, mammograms) provided for free or at a discount via local Planned Parenthoods just got defunded. In other words, the pro-life agenda is actually turning pro-death: by turning womens health issues into some kind of moronic political hockey match, poor, uninsured and underinsured women will no longer be able to get the services they need from Planned Parenthood and will risk having cancer go undetected or untreated.

WAY TO GO PRO-LIFERS IN CONGRESS: you just got Komen to do some of your dirty work for you.

And WAY TO GO KOMEN: you were stupid enough to think that playing politics with womens health is an okay thing to do.

So, here’s what I plan to do about it: I’m not going to raise one red cent for Komen until they fix this mess.

I will continue to do the walk with my family (although the money that goes into my registration basically covers the cost of my participation and the event itself; they rely on the fundraising to help get them in the black). I will raise money BUT that money will be directed to Planned Parenthood. I will set up a site via FirstGiving that allows me to accept donations online (securely) that will go straight to Planned Parenthood with a minimum of fuss. I’ve already checked out the site, and I’ll be setting up my page in a few weeks, as my plans for the Race start to come together.

I’m so angry I can’t even describe it in words that will make sense. When someone says that it’s okay to defund medical services to women – especially poorer women – they’re saying that those women are acceptable losses. I’m here to say that’s not the case. This isn’t about abortion. These grants weren’t going to pay for abortions. These grants went to help detect and treat breast cancer. And I’m offended that it got politicized by people who apparently only pay lip service to the notion that they’re trying to be “for the cure”. What the hell can you cure if you cut off services? Nancy Brinker et al, should hang their heads in shame. Komen was supposed to broaden access, not choke it off.

It blows my mind.

And I’m done. Until Komen removes its head from its rear-end, I refuse to raise money for the organization. I will encourage my friends and family to donate to Planned Parenthood to keep those services available for women in need. Somebody has to. Because, honestly, that’s “for the cure” so much more than any pink ANYTHING in the world.

Consider this Race this year the Race for Access. The Race for Non-Stupidity. The Race for Non-Assholishness by Organizations That Should Know Better. The Race to Keep Medical Facilities Open For Medical Needs.

In the meantime, if you want to donate to your nearby Planned Parenthood, you can donate to a regional PP via the Planned Parenthood web site.

Walking the walk…all 26.2 miles of it (part 1)

The day started early: the rolling start for the marathon walkers opened at 5:30am and went through 7:30am. I set my alarm for 4:00am and we were out of the house a little after 4:30am, on our way up to Boston. The nice folks at the Jimmy Fund Walk had set up buses to run from Copley Square (where the walk would finish) out to Hopkinton, MA, where our walk would start. It was a little chilly, but I didn’t bother wearing my jacket once we parked the car; I figured I’d be warm soon enough.

The ride out to Hopkinton was noisier than I expected; people were awake, and jazzed, and many of them were talkative. I was more in a contemplative mood – sitting in this loud school bus while the run rose, heading many miles out of town just so that I could walk them back in. I was also a little misty-eyed as we sped out the Mass Pike towards I-495; my walk had already raised $250, before I even took the first step, and I thought of the kids that we were helping as we trekked back into town. We crossed the starting line just before 6:30am.

I can easily divide the walk into three parts: 1) starting through mile 11; 2) mile 12 – mile 21, and 3) mile 21 through the finish. Due to the length of the post as I wrote it all out, I’ve had to divide this up into two posts. Sorry, but there’s a lot to tell. I’m not even telling the full story – it’s hard to remember everything – but I’m telling as much as I think I can realistically convey without getting too repetitive.

Please Note: this is MY experience of walking my first marathon. Someone else, with different preparation and a different physique, might experience their first marathon completely differently. No matter what, I caution anyone interested in attempting exercise this vigorous to consult their primary care physician first.

Starting through mile 11

The first 10 miles were the easiest. In fact, they were a smooth ride, as it were. I was walking roads I’d never traveled, surrounded by people I’d never met, winding my way through the western suburbs of Boston to the center of the city. There was nothing difficult about those first 10 miles. But things started to shift around mile 11. By that time, my left hip and knee were starting to get a little twingy, a little achy. I hadn’t been in much of a mood to stop for any length of time, but once I started to be in some discomfort, a stop sounded like a good idea. We stopped at all but the very first nutrition station (spaced every few miles or so), picking up Gatorade, Lara Bars, bananas, and peanut butter crackers.

Markers were placed along the route every 1/4-1/2mi to give you information about how your walk was helping the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and mile markers showed the smiling faces of the kids who are being treated at Dana Farber. Each mile marker had a picture, the child’s name and age, what they like, and what they want to be when they grow up. Mile marker 4 was particularly poignant, since the child pictured on the marker was there – with his family – and the Jimmy Fund people had decked him out in a walk shirt with “HERO” emblazoned on the front. The markers with the little girls who just wanted to grow up to be mommies hit me particularly hard, as did the one of an 11 year-old girl who shares the same name as my dd. Each marker was there to spur you on, and we came to look forward to each child’s face as a way to tell that we were making progress. Just as the Jimmy Fund people had kindly informed us, we touched each mile marker as we passed it – a tradition among walkers.

This was the portion of the walk that was most pleasant, from a physical perspective. From here, everything changes.

Next up: Mile 12…through the finish.


So, I decided to walk a marathon…

I’ve known for a long time that I would never be a runner. Even as a kid, I hated running with a passion. When I learned late in adolescence that my knees never really developed properly and that my knees would eventually need replacing, running became even farther from my mind. Honestly, that was okay – because I love walking. When I moved to the Boston area, and I worked in downtown Boston (and later, Cambridge, MA), you could get seemingly anywhere just by putting one foot in front of the other. Some days, it was the smarter bet to get from point A to point B, since the local public transit can be somewhat flaky at times. Or, once you discover that the distance between two stops is traversed quicker on foot than via bus or trolley, you just hoof it instead.

I’ve been doing the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure (now “Global Race for the Cure“) for almost two decades now, and it’s just a 5K (3.1mi), so it’s a relatively short distance. I’ve walked it in the rain, in the heat, in the cold…I’ve walked it with friends, with family, and pushing a stroller. IT’S JUST 5K. Big deal. I’ve walked 10K races before (like AIDSWALK DC). Again, it’s just a little longer, but it’s not a taxing walk.

So, when I started to see ads for the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, I was curious. Boston Marathon? What – you walk the marathon route? For reals??? As it turns out, that’s one of four options. I approached co-workers who had been on my “steps” team for a shape-up challenge at work earlier in the year. They were hesitant. The idea of a 5-miler was fine, and one even suggested that she’d be okay with the half-marathon, but the full marathon seemed too daunting. Even DH reminded me that you really need to train for this type of event. Train how – walking?

Well, yes.

I did some research online, both on the Jimmy Fund walk web site and on the Marathon Walking web site, and I came to the conclusion: I could train, but I didn’t have enough time to train to the extent that I really should. There was no way that I could see clear to doing 20mi training walks on a weekend, when we still had stuff to get done (grocery shopping, laundry, events, etc.). Still, I figured I’d had to give it a shot. I’d never be able to RUN a marathon, but I hoped I could walk one. How amazing would that be?

I signed up, with only eight full weeks to train before the walk. Sure, it’s a bit brave and it’s certainly crazy, but the opportunity to walk that storied route AND be able to raise money to help kids with cancer…it was just irresistible.

And thus, it began.

Next up: training and gear.