To Do Everything In My Power

Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure - Dallas, Texas
Entered on December 21, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe that life is too short to waste on pursuits you don’t care about. My sister, Susan, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33 years old. Three years later, my beautiful, vibrant, caring, giving sister was gone. A few years after that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself and started planning my own funeral. Nothing concentrates the mind like facing your own mortality.

Before Suzy was diagnosed, I worked and knew a degree of success, but it was only when she died that I found my true calling. A few days before she died, she looked at me and said, “Nan, we’ve got to do something to help other women with breast cancer. You’ve got to find a cure for this disease. Promise me you’ll try.”

That promise between us–-two sisters–became the passion of my life and the fabric that has sustained the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for 25 years.

So what would you do with your life if you knew you only had a few years to live? Ours is a celebrity-obsessed, tabloid culture. The spotlight often shines on things that are irrelevant and things that glitter are often based on an illusion. What is meaningful to you? What will your legacy be?

I believe you should pursue a path not because it’s sexy or glamorous. Follow it because, like walking on a tightrope, it gets your adrenaline pumping. Choose it because it feels right in your heart. Find your passion–-whether it’s raising the public’s consciousness or great kids or funds for a worthy cause.

If it’s not your passion, don’t do it. But if it is, pursue it with the reckless abandon that young people and great artists and extreme sports enthusiasts are famous for. Dedicate yourself to a cause you love and, as the old saying goes, “You’ll never work a day in your life.”

That’s how I feel every day as the people working with and for Komen for the Cure fight with every ounce of their strength and passion to help eradicate this horrible disease. An estimated 212,920 new cases of invasive breast cancer occurred among women in the U.S. during 2006 with an estimated 40,970 female deaths from breast cancer that year. I believe something must be done.

We must be for more than ourselves. Resolve to repair the world around you, the milieu in which you do business, your nation, and your community. Make it your own form of “extreme sport” to walk down a new path, even if it’s rocky and rough. Your actions don’t have to be huge; they just have to be meaningful. Touch someone’s heart and you can truly change the world.

My sister touched not only my heart, but the hearts of many. I made a promise to her 25 years ago to do everything in my power to find a cure for breast cancer and I will. This I truly believe.