Jennifer Jurgens beat breast cancer by getting a test her mother didn't get in time. Her mom died of breast cancer at age 36, when Jurgens was just 12.
Jurgens, executive director of Susan G. Komen West Michigan, takes it personally that Ottawa County will lose free cancer screenings in May because Komen West Michigan levels fell short of the $50,000 needed to continue the program for the next year.
"It's unacceptable that we didn't have enough resources to continue this program in Ottawa County but the needs are too great.—people think we're this gigantic organization when we're really a small, local 501(c)3 connected to a national network," Jurgens said. "People call our office every day saying 'I found a lump. Where can I go?' And we help every one find some where to go."
On Wednesday, Komen West Michigan gathered West Michigan cancer survivors, including women helped by the Komen-financed Ottawa County program, for the "Alive Celebration" aimed at sharing inspiring stories and marshaling increased support for cancer patients in five West Michigan counties.
This year, Komen West Michigan is supporting six West Michigan breast health programs with $235,550 in grants. That figure, down from a year earlier, wasn’t enough to help Ottawa County's City on a Hill clinic and six other programs that met Komen's funding guidelines.
"I'm afraid of what will happen if we're not around to help," said Christine Plummer, clinic director for the Zeeland-based City on a Hill Health Clinic. "We've been the only place in Ottawa County to offer low income women free pap tests and mammograms. We were approved by Komen but their money ran out."
Last year, a $50,000 grant from Komen West Michigan helped City on a Hill treat 264 low income women, providing breast exams, education, and mammograms. That's an average of $189 per patient, a fraction of the tens of thousands spent treating a single patient whose cancer isn't detected early.
Jurgens knows from experience that the comeback stories of survivors motivate others to get tested early, saving countless lives. She tells local survivors: "Great stories have a way of taking on their own life, getting retold again and again. That’s exactly the kind of exposure we need if breast health is going to become a priority everywhere."
About Susan G. Komen West Michigan
In 1997, a breast cancer survivor named Lori Fedewa met with a few friends to tell them about an event called the Race for the Cure®. It seemed like an overwhelming task initially, but she pursued the dream and the idea slowly caught on. Our first race was held in downtown Grand Rapids in September of 1998.
In 1999, the Grand Rapids Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was incorporated and a Board of Directors was established to oversee the activities of the Affiliate. In addition to the Race for the Cure, we now sponsor fundraising events throughout the year. In our 15 year existence, with the help and support of the generous West Michigan Community, we have raised and granted $3.4 million to local breast health organizations to help educate and provide early detection services and breast cancer screening for people in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Montcalm and Newaygo counties. In 2011 we changed the Affiliate name from Grand Rapids to West Michigan to better represent the service-area we cover.
Source: Susan G. Komen West Michigan