Even indoors, Komen fights to save lives

Even though Susan G. Komen won’t be able to host its traditional Mother’s Day walk, the organization is still working hard to raise funds to help fight breast cancer.

From left to right: Bob Miller, Diane Miller, Evan Miller, Denise Lynne Wadsworth and Ryan Miller at last year’s More Than Pink walk. Photo submitted by the Miller family.

For the first time in 29 years, the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art won’t be decorated pink for Mother’s Day. It’s been tradition for Diane Miller, a 21-year metastatic breast cancer survivor who lives in East Torresdale, to march down the steps alongside other survivors while her family cheered every Mother’s Day. This Sunday, they’ll get to sleep in for a change.

“We’ll just be better for next year,” Miller said.

The spread of COVID-19 forced Susan G. Komen Philadelphia to cancel its More Than Pink walk, the biggest fundraising event of the year for one of the top funders for breast cancer research in the country. Instead, a More Than Pink virtual walk will be hosted June 28, which will allow attendees to “participate safely from their own neighborhoods” while engaging in online components like survivor stories and demonstrations, Komen Philadelphia CEO Elaine Grobman, an Oxford Circle native, said.

Last year’s More Thank Pink walk was a pivot from the Race for the Cure, which was rebranded and added an entry fee to prevent people from showing up and not donating to the cause, Grobman said.

The walk featured educational tents on subjects like community, research, care and action, the four organizational pillars of Komen, which Grobman said will be adapted into the virtual event.

Komen has been working tirelessly to adapt Komen’s mission to a socially distanced world – running weekly educational Zoom meetings, creating online scavenger hunts and cook books are just some of what Komen is doing to keep patients and survivors connected and educated.

Grobman is continuing to help breast cancer patients and survivors, especially those who are out of work or furloughed and struggling to pay their bills. Komen started a patient assistance line for women in treatment in the hospital and is asking for smaller donations to help. The demand for community grantee services is expected to be great once restrictions are lifted, making fundraising now vital.

“The need goes on constantly, especially in these times with so many people suffering from the pandemic and being furloughed from their jobs and insurance,” Grobman said.

Grobman gives her cell phone number to women in need. She recalled getting a call in the middle of the night from a 35-year-old with breast cancer, who had two kids and a husband with kidney cancer. The family was struggling to make their car payment and buy groceries. Grobman called other board members to help this family.

“By the next morning we were able to give her the funds she needs to keep her car going and get to treatment,” Grobman said.

The Millers plan to wake up in time to catch CBS’s 8:30 a.m. programming honoring women cancer survivors on Sunday, but that’s a late morning compared to previous years. The family would wake up at 2:30 or 3 in the morning to get down to the museum and start setting up the event. Even Diane’s grandson Evan, in eighth grade, would participate in the tradition.

This year, Diane’s son Ryan might stop by to have a socially distanced chat through the door, and they’ll FaceTime Evan and her granddaughter. Still, Miller and her husband Bob will miss spending their time volunteering.

“Maybe we’ll put on our survivor shirts and go out for a walk around the block,” Miller said.

Support the Virtual Walk by registering or donating at KomenPhiladelphia.org/Walk. For more information or to make other donations, go to Komen.org.