As leaders with the Charlotte Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, we were appalled that Creative Loafing chose to print Mary Ann Swissler's inaccurate and irresponsible opinion piece ("Compromised?" October 1) and present it to your readers as investigative reporting. The misleading nature of Swissler's article is unacceptable. Shame on her, and shame on Creative Loafing for printing this syndicated article without checking the facts or ensuring its journalistic integrity. (Didn't it seem odd that no Komen Foundation representative was quoted in this story?)
Swissler's article doesn't acknowledge the unprecedented advancements in the fight against breast cancer made possible by the Komen Foundation. Instead, it is full of finger-pointing and factual inaccuracies, many of which are in the form of quotes from individuals with no first-hand knowledge of the Komen Foundation and its mission. For the record:
The Komen Foundation NEVER opposed -- or endorsed -- any version of the Patients' Bill of Rights, because we felt that none of the versions went far enough to protect women and their families.
The Komen Foundation dedicates 75 percent of its funds to programs for the underserved, including minority, poor and lesbian women.
Less than 1 percent of the Foundation's revenue comes from pharmaceutical companies. We do this by choice, and the money is only in the form of local Race sponsorships and unrestricted educational grants.
Nancy Brinker's vision and dedication to the Komen Foundation's fight against breast cancer has inspired millions and galvanized a worldwide movement that has done more for the fight against breast cancer than any other group. We will continue to join with the millions of women, families and other volunteers to support the critical efforts of the Komen Foundation in advancing research, education, screening and treatment until we can eradicate this disease.
-- Laura Belcher, Komen Charlotte Affiliate Board President; Neel Stallings, Komen National Board Member and Charlotte Affiliate Volunteer; Penelope Wilson, Komen Charlotte Affiliate Executive Director
Writer Mary Ann Swissler responds:
During my 2+ years investigating and reporting on the Komen Foundation and other cancer issues, with assistance from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Komen Foundation refused to answer any of my questions, other than to describe Komen founder Nancy Brinker's husband Norman as a "volunteer," hence the reason there are no quotes from them in my story. They did make their tax returns available, which is required by law.
During those 2+ years, all the volunteers I've come across are always well-intentioned. Unfortunately, they often refuse to look at the facts, which are amply documented in my story.
Yes, Komen's mission statement merely calls for a cure for cancer. However, how can cancer patients be successfully treated when the costs spiral out of reach for all but the wealthy? It is reasonable to expect that the Komen Foundation would use some of its funds to also work for health care reform. Komen is supposed to be a patient advocate group, after all.
As for Komen's position on a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights, my story pointed out that Federal Election Commission records show a very strong link between the Komen Foundation and lobbyists who fought the consumer-friendly version of the Patients' Bill of Rights in 1999, 2000 and 2001. I relied heavily on tax returns and Federal Election Commission records for the story, plus Internet research on backers of the pro-industry Patients' Bill of Rights.
Explained in my story is the fact that lobbyists are allowed to operate in relative secrecy. Researchers can only draw lines between the people who hire them and the expressed interests of these people. For example, the Health Benefits Coalition was a colossal effort by industry to weaken the Patients' Bill of Rights; one of their top funders was Norman Brinker and his National Restaurant Association, as stated in my article. Brinker is not only Nancy Brinker's husband, he's been on the Komen board since it was founded. Other, similar links among lobbyists, Komen and industry were documented in my story. It is true that, officially, the Komen board took no position on the Patients' Bill of Rights. In essence, they declined to use their considerable power and left health care reform twisting in the wind. At the same time, in Washington, DC, Brinker and his lobbyist friends again broke the back of a Patients' Bill of Rights that would benefit patients.
Unfortunately, lobbyists are legally allowed to operate in secret. Therefore, nobodies like me can only spit in the wind and hope God guides my message of truth downwind.
Better Testing for Breast Cancer
Sam Boykin quoted a fundraiser who was told by other media that Breast Cancer gets too much attention ("Cancer, AIDS, Whatever...," Sept. 10). Sometimes I want to agree with that statement, and I am a two-time survivor of the disease.
Perhaps people think that way because it's a scary proposition. We block it out, don't want to hear it, it's just too much to process. Besides, it only happens to other people. I heard it all before and yet my perspective changed when, at 34, I was too young to be sent for a mammogram, but not too young for cancer to strike. I was also told that by the time my cancer had grown to "that size" it had probably been growing for 10 years. How could I have known?
Mammograms are indeed helpful for finding cancers and of course we need money to help fund a cure, but I along with a growing number of others believe we also need better testing. That is why I support a group called "Friends...You Can Count On." This is a charity that does not want to find a cure. This is a charity that wants to find a test, a biological test much like the PSA for Prostate Cancer. "Friends...You Can Count On" has worked since 1997 to raise seed money for research into this area.
There are many charities that work to find a cure and we need them. But early detection does more than save lives, it reduces treatment time, expense and difficulty. The earlier it is found, the better the treatment options are currently. Visit www.earlier.org for more information on "Friends...You Can Count On."
-- Lauren Brower, Charlotte
As one who successfully scoured all the continents of the earth for a wife closer to nature's norm, over four years ago, using the Internet, I encountered, engaged, saw red flags and steered away from the Russian "pulchritude" described in your cover article "From Russia With Love" (by Scott Henry, Oct. 22). I direct your full attention to the 80%-50% divorce outcome (pretty good improvement, eh?), which expectation was a key part of my own quest. Both my American marriages were abandoned by wives unilaterally. Taught how not to give wifely love and spousal respect, taught how men were virtually superfluous (goaded on by feminist therapists), and in the process of taking on new lovers while taking the easy way out, each stole two precious children from me, destroying all sense of "family" -- and each stole the fruits of my labor, in the form of a finished college education on the one hand and a flourishing business on the other. Well, the joke is on those women who bought into feminism, because men simply began voting with their feet. With some effort and care, I found what spousal love is all about in the form of a wonderful woman from the Philippines, a woman who doesn't mind exchanging respect for respect, and love for love, as long as we both understand that "family" always comes first and for the first time in my life I don't have to fight, my life is actually pleasant. Maybe US women who are now single heads of households living in poverty can put their sad, unfulfilled faces in mail-order catalogs and spread them throughout the ex-Soviet Union in hopes that some vodka-besotted Rusky will invite them over -- of course, without their children.
--Name withheld by request