Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer

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"More than twenty-five years ago, Nancy's love for her cherished sister sparked a promise to fight breast cancer. Today that promise has launched a global movement to end breast cancer, and Nancy is fulfilling her promise to women all around the world. Promise Me is an inspiring tribute to a sister's love and a must-read for all who know the pink ribbon."---Laura Bush, former First Lady and author of Spoken from the Heart" "Promise Me emotionally and elegantly chronicles how sisterly love changed the course of modern medicine by catalyzing women

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Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer

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Overview

"More than twenty-five years ago, Nancy's love for her cherished sister sparked a promise to fight breast cancer. Today that promise has launched a global movement to end breast cancer, and Nancy is fulfilling her promise to women all around the world. Promise Me is an inspiring tribute to a sister's love and a must-read for all who know the pink ribbon."---Laura Bush, former First Lady and author of Spoken from the Heart" "Promise Me emotionally and elegantly chronicles how sisterly love changed the course of modern medicine by catalyzing women around the world to battle breast cancer."---Mehmet Oz, M.D., host, The Dr. Oz Show, and professor and vice-chair of surgery, New York Presbyterian/Columbia" "This is the story of what happens when a big heart meets an iron will. Nancy Brinker will make you sit back in wonder."---Kelly Corrigan, bestselling author of Lift and The Middle Place" "Susan G. Komen for the Cure has become a brand name in the fight against breast cancer, thanks to the tireless devotion of Nancy Brinker. In Promise Me we learn about the remarkable work of that organization, and also finally get to know the woman behind the name---Suzy Goodman Komen's sense of fun and family comes through these pages as a bright light leading her sister through trials and triumphs."---Cokie Roberts, news analyst and author of We are Our Mothers' Daughters and Founding Mothers" "This is three beautiful books rolled into one: a poignant memoir, a guide to running an entrepreneurial foundation, and a set of inspiring stories about the struggle against breast cancer. When her beloved sister, Suzy, died, Nancy Brinker's life's work began. This book is about the meaning of life. It will move and enlighten you."---Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life" "Suzy and Nancy Goodman were more than sisters. They were best friends, confidantes, and partners in the grand adventure of life. For three decades, nothing could separate them. Then Suzy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977; three agonizing years later, at thirty-six, she died." "It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Goodman girls were raised in postwar Peoria, Illinois, by parents who believed that small acts of charity could change the world. Suzy was the big sister---the homecoming queen with an infectious enthusiasm and a generous heart. Nancy was the tomboy with an outsized sense of justice who wanted to right all wrongs. The sisters shared makeup tips, dating secrets, plans for glamorous fantasy careers. They spent one memorable summer in Europe discovering a big world far from Peoria. They imagined a long life---one in which they'd grow old together surrounded by children and grandchildren." "Suzy's diagnosis shattered that dream." "In 1977, breast cancer was still shrouded in stigma and shame. Nobody talked about early detection and mammograms. Nobody could even say the words "breast" and "cancer" together in polite company, let alone on television news broadcasts. With Nancy at her side, Suzy endured the many indignities of cancer treatment, from the grim, soul-killing waiting rooms to the mistakes of wellmeaning but misinformed doctors. That's when Suzy began to ask Nancy to promise. To promise to end the silence. To promise to raise money for scientific research. To promise to one day cure breast cancer for good." "I promise, Suzy, even if it takes the rest of my life." "In that moment, Susan G. Komen for the Cure ® was born. Armed with only a shoe box filled with the names of potential donors, Nancy put her formidable fund-raising talents to work and quickly discovered a groundswell of grassroots support. She was aided in her mission by the loving tutelage of her husband, restaurant magnate Norman Brinker, whose dynamic approach to entrepreneurship became Nancy's model for running her foundation. Her account of how she and Norman met, fell in love, and managed to achieve the elusive "true marriage of equals" is one of the great grown-up love stories among recent memoirs." Nancy's mission to change the way the world talked about and treated breast cancer took on added urgency when she was diagnosed with the disease in 1984. Nancy was luckier than Suzy: She survived and went on to make SGK into the most influential health charity in the world and the pink ribbon into a universal icon of hope. Each year, millions of people worldwide take part in SGK Race for the Cure events, and, to date, the foundation has contributed more than $1.5 billion for cutting-edge research and community programs. And thanks to a sister's love, a breast cancer diagnosis today is no longer a death sentence.

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  • Nancy G. Brinker
    Nancy G. Brinker  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Both Nancy and Susan Goodman, born in the mid-1940s to a businessman and his community-active wife in Peoria, Ill., developed breast cancer, and Suzy died from it at age 36 in 1980. Although she'd had a subcutaneous mastectomy two years before, her doctor did not follow through with chemotherapy or radiation. On a deathbed promise to her sister, Nancy (now Brinker) vowed to bring breast cancer out in the open, force people to "talk about it," and find funding for a cure. In this deeply thoughtful, assertive, sensitive memoir of the sisters' growing up and devotion to each other in life and death, Brinker chronicles the long path she trod to create Susan G. Komen for the Cure. With her marriage in 1981 to conservative Texas millionaire Norman Brinker, Nancy recognized she had a "platform" on which to build a foundation. High-profile breast-cancer cases such as Betty Ford's, Nancy Reagan's, and numerous others highlighted the cause, and in separate chapters Brinker delineates background and personal stories. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews

A powerful memoir by the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, assisted by co-author Rodgers (The Secret Sisters, 2006, etc.).

Raised in Illinois by hardworking, charity-minded parents, the Goodman sisters, Suzy and Nancy, remained extremely close until Suzy died of breast cancer in 1980. Before she died, Suzy made her sister Nancy promise that she help change the national dialogue about breast cancer, at that time a disease still commonly referred to as "women's cancer." In 1982, Brinker began Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has raised more than a billion dollars for breast-cancer research and spawned a worldwide pink-ribbon phenomenon. Here the author tells the story of how and why this foundation came about. The Goodman sisters learned at an early age the importance of helping those in need. Charity became a common theme in their lives, but unfortunately, so did breast cancer. Their aunt's radical mastectomy wasn't discussed openly, but it struck a chord with both girls, which vibrated through the rest of their lives. Sadly, at age 37 Susan's was ended by that disease, while Nancy ultimately survived it. These stories of joy, fear, love and heartache are told in a captivating voice that brings a highly personal dimension to the foundation and to the subject of breast cancer in general. Interspersed throughout are chapters providing background and perspective on the disease, giving insight into early breast-cancer treatments and revealing countless personal stories of numerous famous and not-so-famous women. Brinker maintains a strong position for cooperation across the political spectrum and for a woman's right to choose her own course of treatment.

A touching, inspiring look behind the scenes at the founding of one of the most famous nonprofit organizations in the world.

Nora Krug
Brinker is more than a little proud of her own moxie…and the book is as much an ode to her own chutzpah and accomplishments as it is a compelling tale of living with cancer&#$8230;For those of us who have watched loved ones endure the disease, Brinker's chutzpah on our behalf is much appreciated.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"In this deeply thoughtful, assertive, sensitive memoir of the sisters' growing up and devotion to each other in life and death, Brinker chronicles the long path she trod to create Susan G. Komen for the Cure."
—Publishers Weekly

"These stories of joy, fear, love and heartache are told in a captivating voice that brings a highly personal dimension to [Susan G. Komen for the Cure] and to the subject of breast cancer in general…. A touching, inspiring look behind the scenes at the founding of one of the most famous nonprofit organizations in the world."
Kirkus Reviews

"More than twenty-five years ago, Nancy’s love for her cherished sister sparked a promise to fight breast cancer. Today that promise has launched a global movement to end breast cancer, and Nancy is fulfilling her promise to women all around the world. Promise Me is an inspiring tribute to a sister’s love and a must-read for all who know the pink ribbon."
—LAURA BUSH, former First Lady and author of Spoken from the Heart

"Promise Me emotionally and elegantly chronicles how sisterly love changed the course of modern medicine by catalyzing women around the world to battle breast cancer."
—MEHMET OZ, M.D., host, The Dr. Oz Show and professor and vice-chair of surgery, New York Presbyterian/Columbia

"This is the story of what happens when a big heart meets an iron will. Nancy Brinker will make you sit back in wonder."
—KELLY CORRIGAN, bestselling author of Lift and The Middle Place

"Susan G. Komen for the Cure has become a brand name in the fight against breast cancer, thanks to the tireless devotion of Nancy Brinker. In Promise Me we learn about the remarkable work of that organization, and also finally get to know the woman behind the name—Suzy Goodman Komen’s sense of fun and family comes through these pages as a bright light leading her sister through trials and triumphs."
—COKIE ROBERTS, news analyst and author of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters and Founding Mothers

"This is three beautiful books rolled into one: a poignant memoir, a guide to running an entrepreneurial foundation, and a set of inspiring stories about the struggle against breast cancer. When her beloved sister, Suzy, died, Nancy Brinker’s life’s work began. This book is about the meaning of life. It will move and enlighten you."
—WALTER ISAACSON, bestselling author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Library Journal
The founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® offers a biography of the sister whose struggle with breast cancer became the inspiration for an international phenomenon. (LJ 9/1/10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307718129
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 9.64 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

NANCY G. BRINKER is the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She has served as Ambassador to Hungary and United States Chief of Protocol and is currently the Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control for the United Nations World Health Organization.  She has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Visit Nancy at nancygbrinker.com.

JONI RODGERS is the New York Times bestselling author of Bald in the Land of Big Hair, a memoir of her cancer treatment and recovery.

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Table of Contents

Note from the Author

Note from the Coauthor

I SUZY 1

1 Where Will Meets Way 3

A Brief History of the Beast 12

2 Founder Effect 17

The Storyteller's Mastectomy 31

3 The Goodman Girls 37

Little Pearl Harbor 49

4 Women of the World 54

Forever Blonde 76

5 May Queen at Neiman Marcus 82

Cents and Sensibility 98

6 We All Fall Down 103

Mystery and Method 116

7 Wake Up, Little Suzy 121

Semper Pink 130

8 Make It Last 135

II EVOLUTION 153

9 A Seal Upon Thy Heart 155

When You Hear Hoofbeats 166

10 Flying into Love 173

Love and Other Cannonballs 184

11 Outside the Box 188

I Hope You Dance 201

12 Follow the Leader 205

The First Lady 212

13 Run the Good Race 217

Living one Step Ahead 231

14 Purpose in Perspective 237

Love Will Find A way 246

15 To Market, To Market 252

From Point a to Point B 270

16 My Kingdom for a Horse 275

III REVOLUTION 295

17 Bridge of Light 297

Higher Learning 309

18 Pride and Protocol 314

Where we Aren't, Where we are, and Where we want to be 325

19 Promise Me 334

Breast Cancer Timeline 337

Resources for Families Dealing with Breast Cancer 343

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Reading Group Guide

1. How would you describe the relationship between Nancy and Suzy? Did the relationship between the sisters resonate for you? Did it remind you of your own relationship with a sister or close friend? Why or why not?

2. How were Nancy and Suzy shaped by the legacies of cancer in their family? Which messages from their many role models—including their parents—proved to be the most lasting?

3. What explains the differences between Suzy’s and Nancy’s responses to their own cancer diagnoses? What can we learn from the knowledge that women respond to illness in many different ways? How would you describe your approach to doctors and caring for yourself?

4. What did Suzy and Nancy learn about themselves on their memorable tour of Europe? What enabled them to be so adventurous yet so mature?

5. A key component to Nancy’s work is public awareness and education. What surprising truths did you learn about breast cancer by reading this book? As Nancy shared inspiring stories of survivors from all walks of life, how did these experiences compare to those of women you have known who confronted a cancer diagnosis?

6. Discuss the medical history presented in Promise Me. What recurring themes did you notice in the interactions between male doctors and female patients? What does it take to become an empowered patient, whether you’re a man or a woman?

7. What was the effect of the time line Nancy used in recounting the chapters of her life? How does it mirror memory to weave the past and the present together? How did her newfound hometown—Dallas—compare to Illinois in reflecting her personality? What locale represents “home” to you?

8. From Stanley Marcus to Norman Brinker, Nancy learned marketing from some of the most successful American businessmen. Should the principles change when they’re applied to the nonprofit world? What unique traits did Nancy bring to the table, enabling her to surpass her mentors’ success in philanthropy?

9. Nancy and Suzy had different expectations of marriage, yet they both experienced first marriages that weren’t meant to be. As Nancy describes the men she has loved at various points in her life, how does she convey her own stages of personal growth? What relationships have defined you?

10. As a couple, Nancy and Norman Brinker seemed to have it all: Passion, companionship, shared interests and values, and a deep commitment to giving back. Yet eventually, their marriage ended. Did you find their love story believable? Inspiring? Why do you think they got divorced? Do you think the marriage could have been saved?

11. Suzy’s surgeon was confident that his approach would be sufficient in treating her cancer and never discussed any further treatment with her. In contrast, Nancy’s physicians urged caution, concerned that scar tissue from another biopsy would cloud results of future mammograms, but ultimately respected her decisions and formed a treatment plan in partnership with her. What did you discover about doctors’ perspectives by reading Promise Me? Do you have open communication and a healthy partnership with your physician? How will improved technology, including more predictive mammograms, affect the doctor-patient dialogue in the future?

12. What aspects of caregiving are presented in Promise Me? What lessons about being a caregiver and being a patient did Nancy learn from her sister’s illness and her own? How did the experience compare to Norman’s long road to recovery after his accident?

13. Which conversations with your physician make you the most uncomfortable? Did the book change the way you will discuss health-care topics? Why did American society previously keep explicit cancer information out of the media, and sometimes even out of the doctor’s examining room?

14. What aspects of motherhood are presented in Promise Me? Is there a difference between the healing provided by mothers and fathers?

15. Promise Me brims with history. How were the Goodman sisters influenced by the headlines of their youth? What did their identity as Jewish women in postwar America mean to them?

16. Discuss the concept of physical beauty as it plays out in Nancy’s memoir. She describes feeling awkward about her appearance as a child, though she and her sister were both beautiful women. Does a woman derive power or lose power when she invests in her physical appearance? When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, what questions of conventional beauty does she have to face?

17. Which of the resources included at the back of the book are you most interested in exploring? Which Susan G. Komen for the Cure events and programs have you supported, or considered supporting, in the past? What successes do you predict in breast-cancer research for the next generation of women worldwide?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 74 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(10)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 76 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Emotional, uplifting and fascinating

    The deeply personal, emotionally powerful story of two sisters: Suzy lost her life to breast cancer, Nancy dedicated her life to fighting it. Woven through their amazing journey are stories of survivors, activists, and researchers who helped shape a scientific and cultural revolution. This is THE book for book clubs this year.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2010

    Recommended

    Moving and deeply inspirational. Nancy Brinker's tale is a little-engine-that-could story that will rev you up like no other. Must read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 6, 2011

    Kritters Ramblings

    Wow, what a great book, by great I mean - I couldn't put it down, I laughed and cried, and I had to email my closet family and friends to share it immediately.

    A fresh story on the makings of a huge organization that has changed the landscape of breast cancer and influenced decisions makers from citizens in their home to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. I have participated in SGK events, but I had no idea the trials that Brinker endured while starting this non-profit. She has fought breast cancer herself - who would have been able to do that while encouraging women to be aware of this devastating disease.

    As to whom I would recommend - absolutely anyone. This was a great read that made me want to support this organization even more. I loved hearing this story and finishing it on the second day of 2011 made me motivated to make a resolution to be more involved in charity with this new year.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 22, 2010

    Great Read!!

    I enjoyed this book alot. It was very moving for me to read the story of a sister keeping her promise to her dying sister. It was great to get to know Susan and Nancy and how their life was before Susan got sick. Nancy is an amazing woman, too, for being able to keep her promise to Susan and to run with it! The Susan G. Komen Foundation is a remarkable foundation and provides a great wealth of information to the women of the world. Being a breast cancer survivor (12 Yrs), it was a very inspiring story for me. I have been interested in this foundation since it started and especially once I was diagnosed. I am now a volunteer for my local affiliate and hope to continue the great work that Nancy started on behalf of her sister, Susan.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    "The only singular truth about breast cancer is this: there is no singular truth..." from page 25.

    I dare you not to be moved by the story of two sisters, Nancy and Susan and how their love changed how we battle breast cancer. This is a remarkable story of a promised kept. I'd also recommend that you buy "When God Stopped Keeping Score," an intimate look at the power of God and forgiveness. It is a must read for every woman and it is on sale now here on BN. Proceeds from the sale of each copy will go to support various women and children charities.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Living Legacy

    When adversity strikes, how will you respond? Suzy Goodman wanted to open doors for others, and her sister, Nancy, made that wish a living legacy. This is an inspiring account of choice, self-empowerment and one's ability to make a difference. In many ways the book parallels insights found in the book "When One Door Closes" by Graham and Saylor. Both are interesting and thought provoking works that will challenge you to make positive choices and help you find the strength and determination to initiate meaningful change in your life. All of us face adversity along the way and have the opportunity to shape our legacy. That makes this book an excellent and worthwhile read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Decent read

    I have read many memoirs. This one doesn't flow as well as most. The subject matter itself is what kept me interested. Every couple chapters is a chapter about the history of breast cancer. I found that a little odd but I did learn more about the disease with that format. I enjoyed the book and found it to be a quick read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2011

    Promise me

    Author repeats herself too many times throughout the book.very disappointed

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2011

    Highly recommended a must read!

    This was an awesome book, I'd love to meet Nancy Brinker. Her life has had such purpose and the promise she made to her sister set the course for her life. I am currently going through the same thing with my sister so alot of the book hit very close to home. It is a very emotional book and you'd better have the tissues handy but I loved it because it made me feel like there is hope.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2011

    Amazing! Informative, insightful and inspiring! Everyone should read this!

    What an amazing piece of work! Nancy Brinker did a wonderful job putting this together. From the historical views to the actual events of her and her sister Susan's life. This book is not only envoking, it's riveting! A MUST read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2010

    Not Sure About Literary Content however...

    Maybe I shouldn't be reviewing this book until I have finished reading it however I feel that the literary content of thus far leaves a bit to be desired: the fabulous family, the fabulous trip abroad, the fabulous fabulous life in school, everything is just too darned fabulous. And yes, I am waiting for the shoe to drop--the predictable shoe to drop. We know that Suzy is going to be stricken, we know the outcome. I keep waiting for the pathos to start but instead it is about the perfection of lives that could have been written into Father Knows Best.

    Now, the factual pages (in gray on my nook) that Nancy has interjected into the prose are fascinating and compelling. I have read many accounts of people who have lost a loved one--family, friend, spouse, and my heart pounds right along with the writer. Case in point, Let's Take the Long Way Home.

    The Susan G. Komen Cure is the cornerstone of the fight towards breast cancer. Hands down, Nancy has birthed an incredible foundation at the hands of a most unfortunate situation. My sister was stricken and is now a survivor, I am involved with ACS Walk for Life here in my hometown. The information shared in Promise Me is well scripted. The prose, at least up to the point I have read to (the sisters have been to Europe, etc.) reads like a sophomoric essay.

    I only hope the turning points bring the pathos to the surface. I will continue reading this memoir because I really want to see it through. There are no words pro or con about the reality of cancer, this comment is literary content in discussion only.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2011

    five stars!

    A very moving story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2010

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    Posted July 23, 2011

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    Posted October 17, 2010

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    Posted May 8, 2012

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    Posted February 3, 2011

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    Posted September 19, 2010

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    Posted January 6, 2011

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