MIAMI – Nancy Brinker is on a mission again.
The founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization named for her sister who died of breast cancer in 1980, has launched the Promise Fund of Florida.
The organization aims to directly help women in need in Florida.
“She was 33 years old when she was diagnosed with the disease,” Brinker said. “Right before she died, and she asked me to cure the disease, she also said - ‘and I want to make sure everyone has a chance to be treated like I was.”
But some studies, like one from the Commonwealth Fund, show Florida is at the bottom of the list when it comes to access to health care.
The Promise Fund cites research that shows Hispanic women are more often diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, and according to the National Cancer Institute, Black women are still more likely than other groups to die from the disease.
Liliana Herrera, a Palm Beach County resident, said when she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, she didn’t have health insurance but made too much money to qualify for assistance.
Herrera said she quit her job and lived in a friend’s auto repair garage to qualify for medical help.
“That was the only solution I could come up with,” she said. “And also, I did not have anybody to guide me in the process of how to maneuver all the different decisions.”
Now, Herrera is a navigator with the Promise Fund, helping women not just get their screenings, but go to the appointments and treatments they need.
Brinker said the Promise Fund is also working with Baptist Health’s Miami Cancer Institute to launch a clinical trial. The trial will involve helping women get imaging, possible surgery if needed, and a new type of radiation that does not take as long as other types of radiation.
The trial is a team effort, led by Dr. Jessika Contreras, a radiation oncologist, Dr. Minesh Mehta, and Dr. Marcio Fagundes.
“It will mean that we can test, assess, test, and prove that these shorter courses are deliverable, more feasible, and making patients have more accessible care in an expedited way,” Dr. Fagundes said.
Brinker is hopeful the model of the work of the Promise Fund in South Florida will be replicated in other communities. She said it’s part of her mission to keep her promise to her sister.
“I have to believe she would have been very happy,” she said. “I think she would say, keep going, get going. You know, I’ve dedicated the last quarter of my life - I hope I have that many years left - to see this happen. For her.”