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

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

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by Nancy G. Brinker, Joni Rodgers
     
 

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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. Not college, not marriage, not miles. Then Suzy got sick. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977; three agonizing years later, at thirty-six, she died.

It wasn’t supposed to be

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Overview

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. Not college, not marriage, not miles. Then Suzy got sick. She 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 little sister—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 together—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 well-meaning 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. Big, shoot-for-the-moon promises that Nancy never dreamed she could fulfill. But she promised because this was her beloved sister.
I promise, Suzy. . . .  Even if it takes the rest of my life.

Suzy’s death—both shocking and senseless—created a deep pain in Nancy that never fully went away. But she soon found a useful outlet for her grief and outrage. Armed only with a shoebox 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 herself diagnosed with the disease in 1984, a terrifying chapter in her life that she had long feared. Unlike her sister, Nancy survived and went on to make Susan G. Komen for the Cure into the most influential health charity in the country and arguably the world. A pioneering force in cause-related marketing, SGK turned the pink ribbon into a symbol of hope everywhere. Each year, millions of people worldwide take part in SGK Race for the Cure events. And thanks to the more than $1.5 billion spent by SGK for cutting-edge research and community programs, a breast cancer diagnosis today is no longer a death sentence. In fact, in the time since Suzy’s death, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer has risen from 74 percent to 98 percent.

Promise Me is a deeply moving story of family and sisterhood, the dramatic “30,000-foot view” of the democratization of a disease, and a soaring affirmative to the question: Can one person truly make a difference?

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

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

From the Hardcover edition.

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
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.)
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)
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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307718136
Publisher:
Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
Publication date:
09/13/2011
Pages:
376
Sales rank:
889,418
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.82(d)

What People are saying about this

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

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