Sunday, September 30, 2007

Deb Kirkland - Baltimore, MD

Komen for the Cure Global Summit, Budapest, Hungary

I am truly ecstatic to be a part of this global initiative. As a healthcare provider, young survivor, educator, and breast cancer advocate, it has been an amazing experience for me personally, as well as, professionally. Being an advocate locally and federally, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to advocate internationally. Being amongst the other delegates has been a true learning experience--I have gained so much.

We certainly have challenges eliminating disparities in our own communities, but it is an even more remarkable experience to be a part of the Global Summit to learn, identify, share, and help create novel programming ideas for those in greater need. In our country, we are fortunate to have education/awareness and screening, which contributes to early detection and ultimately increases survival. It is shocking to hear first hand the stories from other countries, that do not have simple screenings in place, or who are unable to even speak the words 'breast cancer.'

As young survivors, we are typically information seekers and out of the closet with our diagnoses, therefore it is unimaginable how challenging it must be for other young women who are diagnosed in other countries. As part of the Summit, together we were able to assess the needs due to cultural barriers, limited healthcare options, minimal funding, and few or no early detection tools. This summit has been like a dream. I have had the opportunity to learn, share, network with others from around the world, who all share the same passion.

It really is a small, small world... Just three years ago when I was presenting a poster session at a National Komen Mission Conference in Washington, DC, I met a breast cancer advocate from Africa. We have kept in touch and communicated over the past few years, and what a great surprise to run into her here in Budapest sharing the promise. Another wonderful surprise was running into my OB/GYN in the lobby of the hotel. She delivered both of my children and was the one I turned to when I presented with my own breast cancer lump 5 years ago. She happened to be friends with one of the international delegates and was traveling with her. It is a small world; together when we connect and work together, we can make a difference.

I commend all of those at Komen for the Cure in their global efforts and thanks for having me be a part of it!