Personal Stories, Advocacy
By: Susan G. Komen
PEGGY JOHNSON, WICHITA, KANSAS – Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate
“If you’re going to dedicate your life to something, make sure it has meaning for others and not just yourself – and don’t do it if you can’t find joy in the process.”
“This year, I received one of Komen’s top honors, the Suzy’s Angel Award, which honors people who have committed extraordinary time and energy for the breast cancer movement. It was an unbelievably proud moment for me, but it only means there is more work to do in the fight against breast cancer.”
I’ve been an active health care advocate in Kansas for more than 20 years – volunteering my time to various women’s health issues and community events. During the late 1980’s I was actively involved with the Junior League of Wichita, including a term as the Shop Chair. The most rewarding opportunity, and one that would change my life, emerged the year the Project Development Committee sought to tackle an issue involving women’s health and decided to bring the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to Wichita. At that time it was only the fourth race of its kind in the country and issues in women’s health were still very much considered private matters. Needless to say, the program flourished and is currently more than 116 cities strong.
I eventually became Chairperson of the local Race in Wichita and when local Congressman Dan Glickman was present for one of the events, he was so impressed he contacted me personally and requested that I help him organize a women’s health conference. Eventually, I joined his staff and handled health care legislation and served as his Community liaison.
My work led me, eventually, to Komen as part of their Board of Directors – and for three years I served as Chair of the National Board of Directors in the mid-1990’s. It was an incredible honor for a role that was usually given to someone in Komen’s home state of Texas, but ultimately it proved extremely rewarding as I realized how much of an impact I could have to help save lives.
In January 2012, after serving as a Susan G. Komen advocate for 23 years, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. While believing I was an effective breast cancer advocate for all those years, I now see the world through a different lens – and it has only strengthened my passion for Komen’s mission.
My diagnosis has renewed my concern for the many underserved women without insurance who face a breast cancer diagnosis alone. I continue my work with my local Komen Affiliate to provide uninsured women with services. I also serve as a Komen Advocate in Science to further Komen’s promise to energize the sciences to find the cures.
Having served as a Komen research reviewer, I probably know more about a “triple negative” diagnosis than most women and the magnitude of the diagnosis. But I believe all women need to be better educated about their breast cancer in order to be their own best advocate.
Currently, I serve as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation. This position allows me to be responsible not only for its day-to-day operations, but also to plan for future ventures into medical research and education in the Wichita and Kansas communities so I can make an impact for many future generations of women to come.
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