Keeping our eyes and ears open…..

The Promise

Numerous descriptions of the [Komen] foundation emphasize Brinker’s promise to her dying sister:

“Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and launched the global breast cancer movement.”

Using the present tense (dying) brings Susan Komen’s life into the frame. The promise occurred while her sister was still alive, still a survivor. This distinction is vital as it extracts the she-ro’s vision while simultaneously calling attention to the reality of Komen’s impending death. The worst thing a person can ask about any war is whether those who died, died in vain. If they did, then the war was not worth fighting. Memorializing those who have died from breast cancer awakens the urgency and importance of the war. We grieve with Brinker about the loss of her sister and relate to making promises to those we love, thereby increasing the chances that we will develop an emotive allegiance to the cause itself.

We also gain access to [Komen’s] vision [of a future without breast cancer] through a proximal relationship with medical authorities and the medical system as a whole. Every day there are new reports about better advances that lead to new medical breakthroughs. In the context of the vision, we are to assume that incremental progress will ultimately end in “cures.” Victory achieved…Amid scores of similar messages we are more likely to listen when a person with medical expertise tells us that one day mothers will no longer have to worry about their daughters getting breast cancer. We want to believe. Most importantly, there is no way to disprove the statement.

Proximal relationships enable people to embrace the vision of ending breast cancer forever without having to know realistically how this will happen. By relying on the vision and the senses, the pink ribbon effect eludes empirical justification.When information is provided, it serves as an appendage used to support the vision rather than a roadmap that will achieve the goal.

All we need to know is that we can rely on Nancy Brinker to keep her promise to her sister and on cutting-edge science to find the cures.

– extracted from pp 363-364-53, Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health by Gayle Sulik (2011)

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