Nancy G Brinker, chief of protocol of the US, is in town on a mission. No, it is not politics that brings her here but a promise made over 25 years ago to her 36-year-old sister dying of breast cancer.
Brinker promised she would put an end to the shame, the pain and the hopelessness that breast cancer caused. Thus was ignited the global breast cancer movement spearheaded by Brinker in the form of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation to create awareness about the disease in 1982.
Ironically, she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time when the foundation was created, but it only helped to strengthen her resolve to eradicate the disease.
It’s been more than two decades, but she feels there is still a lot to achieve. “The struggle is not easy. When I started this foundation, I thought I would be done with it in 10 years and by this time would be relaxing in the sun, but it’s been more than two decades and there still remains a lot to be done,” said Brinker, who was in Time magazine’s 2008 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
While in India on an official visit, Brinker found time to listen to and learn about problems breast cancer patients face. She visited Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai to learn about their programmes on breast cancer and has generally been impressed with the strides India has made in creating awareness about the disease. “I was impressed with the way Tata Memorial Hospital took mobile screening clinics to rural areas where women don’t have the required facility.”
Prevention and early detection is the only way to stop the disease. “There’s need for education and empowerment among masses, for which individual effort is required. Governments don’t move unless private sector puts pressure on them,” she said. Brinker felt there was no paucity of leadership in India, but what was lacking here was proper collaboration of efforts. “There’s a need to build a proper path which people can follow in an organised manner,” she said.
There is a lot required in terms of research. With the most effective means of early detection — Mammography — being an extremely expensive option, Brinker felt there was a need to come up with better and more efficient alternatives. “It is no rocket science. If a country is scientifically so advanced as to reach the moon, this research is well within its reach. All they require is to give priority to the cause,” she said.