It was a gamble for good at Chicago’s historic Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel on Saturday night, where local luminaries, socialites, breast cancer survivors and advocates gathered in support of Susan G. Komen Chicago at its annual Breast Cancer Action Month Gala, themed “All Bets on Pink.” Harkening back to the Roaring Twenties—a golden era in the Second City—the evening, which The Glow Up attended as guests of our sister-friends at BETHer, was an opportunity for guests to dress in their Prohibition-era finest, bid on decadent auction items and roll the dice for an urgent cause: supporting the ongoing fight against breast cancer in Chicago and beyond.
The event raised over $340,000 for Susan G, Komen Chicago, but as Executive Director Tiosha Bailey, pointed out in her welcome remarks, even as the breast cancer mortality rate has thankfully declined in recent years, there is a profound disparity in which patients receive the treatment and support they need.
“[T]hese benefits have been disproportionate, and there is a wide mortality gap between black and white women,” said Bailey, the first black woman to head the organization. “In Chicago, black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, and 70 percent more likely to hear a late-stage diagnosis or a diagnosis of a BRCA triple-negative breast cancer.”
Those statistics—and the importance of early diagnosis and immediate care—were echoed by two of Komen Chicago’s “survivors and thrivers,” women of color who shared their stories of beating the odds. Sadly, two of Komen’s other local advocate honorees lost their battle this year, driving home the urgency of this ongoing epidemic.
But as Bailey noted, there is hope; specifically in Chicago, which is leading the way in addressing healthcare disparities and hopefully, outcomes. Over the past year, Susan G. Komen launched a four-year strategic plan to advance health equity across Chicago, the centerpiece of which is the Chicago Health Equity Initiative (CHI).
“What we are working on together is a true systems transformation designed to break down socioeconomic and logistical barriers,” Bailey continued, adding that Komen Chicago is also specifically working to address the need of metastatic patients, arming them with “information, resources and a direct line to time-sensitive clinical trials and essential services without the [burdens] of referrals, without the wait, without the barriers.”
Also of note: Senate Bill 162, signed into law by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker in August. The new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2020, expands private insurance and Medicaid coverage to include preventative and diagnostic breast cancer screenings. Illinois is one of the first states in the country to pass such a law, and Komen Chicago is one of few affiliates with rising revenues, with 100 percent of net revenue being reallocated locally.
“When it comes to breast cancer in the United States, its frequency, proper screening, and mortality vary vastly across racial and ethnic groups,” said Governor Pritzker upon signing (h/t WREX-13). “We cannot and should not tolerate the disparities that come from institutional failures.”
Next up for legislative action is the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, currently before Congress. As Bailey told the crowd on Saturday night, the act would eliminate wait times for benefits.
“Aligning our resources to our strategy, measuring outcomes and refining our programs translates to greater momentum, impact and meaningful change, smashing that 40 percent disparity and achieving health equity for all,” Bailey concluded.
Needless to say, that momentum offers hopeful news—to sufferers, survivors and supporters alike. Even as guests enthusiastically bid, played in the event’s charitable casino, and enjoyed performances by the (truly incredible) UIC Dance Team and the Mo Fitz Project, we were reminded that not one of us has been untouched by breast cancer. While Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2019 may be coming to a close, the fight—and the celebration of life—continues.