Women in History: Suzy Komen

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In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to remember and honor Susan Goodman Komen, for whom the largest nonprofit of breast cancer research was founded.

Suzy Goodman, later Suzy Goodman Komen, was born in 1943 in Peoria, Illinois. She was the star of her hometown – high school homecoming queen, college beauty queen, married her college sweetheart and working as local model. Then, at the age of 33, everything changed.

Suzy’s family doctor found a lump in her breast and ordered a biopsy. She had breast cancer.

At the time of the diagnosis in the late 1970s, no one knew enough about breast cancer to actually seek out information on major cancer centers or breast cancer experts. Suzy, who had been treated by the same doctor her whole life, trusted him to handle the disease.

Suzy underwent a mastectomy, after which her doctor pronounced her cured from the cancer. However, six months later, Komen found another lump under arm and discovered the worst; her cancer had spread to her vital organs. After eventually seeking treatment at the Mayo Clinic, she discovered the cancer had metastasized and spread to a lung. She received radiation therapy to no avail. Suzy sought treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where she received three rounds of intense chemotherapy.

Throughout her own battle, Suzy was concerned about her fellow patients. The last time Nancy Goodman Brinker spoke to her sister, Suzy asked her to promise to help the sick women she had been hospitalized with. 

That promise is the reason Nancy Brinker founded Susan G. Komen. Since its founding 34 years ago, the organization has evolved into the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Susan G. Komen has invested more than $804 million in breast cancer research and $1.7 billion in programs that give breast health and care access to underserved women.

Nancy, we know Suzy would be proud.