Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (SGK), says she is often asked why her world-famous foundation doesn’t have a grand, dedicated facility. Her answer typifies this remarkable woman’s laser-like focus: “Our greatest hope is . . . to eradicate breast cancer and close up shop. When the work is done, I’ll happily walk away . . . and celebrate the promise kept.”

That promise, a vow she made in the summer of 1980 to her dying sister Suzy, was that breast cancer would be brought out into the open—that all would be educated about this lethal disease; that women would be treated earlier and better; and that fewer women would die. Thirty years after Suzy’s death, Brinker is still working on that promise, an endeavor adeptly chronicled in the memoir (and so much more) Promise Me:  How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer.

I had my doubts about this book: I am a stringent critic of memoir and am dubious about authors who require a professional co-writer in order to tell a story (in this case, the co-author is Joni Rodgers, whose many credits include Bald in the Land of Big Hair, about her diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). And then there was the grief factor. Like many of us, I have lost a loved one to breast cancer, and I read not a few pages through a blur of tears. But by the book’s end, I felt respect and gratitude for the herculean efforts of one fiercely determined woman and the worldwide advocacy she has engendered.

Brinker reveals her life story—with just the right amount of background included about her family, her special relationship with her sister and her own breast cancer diagnosis—but balances this with other women’s poignant stories of life with breast cancer. The crisp narrative, interwoven with SGK’s history, growth, achievements and milestones, also tracks the progress of breast cancer research treatment and developments and includes a resource list for women coping with cancer. An interesting sub-storyline, which includes a mini-management primer, follows Brinker’s relationship with her former husband, millionaire Norman Brinker, and how his personality, ethics and business principles informed how she has built, marketed and sustained SGK.

Hats off—and pink ribbons on—to Nancy Brinker and Joni Rodgers for this inspiring book.

 

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