The cancer community lost two extraordinary women this summer, both brave and outspoken cancer advocates. Betty Ford, who passed away from natural causes at the age of 93, was a powerful force for women’s health and women’s health rights. The former first lady’s candid revelation of her own breast cancer in 1974 called national attention to breast cancer at a time when public discussion of such a thing had been unheard of, impacting millions of lives with the personal news she shared. In fact, almost immediately doctors reported an increase in women asking for breast cancer screenings and inspired many who had hidden or denied a lump in their breast to take action. News coverage brought the words “breast cancer” into the public sphere for the first time. Though Betty Ford was never an elected official, industry mogul or religious leader, she opened the door for millions of women, encouraging them to deal honestly and openly with their disease. As a 93-year-old breast cancer survivor, her long life was a testament to her work to combat stigma and bring awareness to women’s health issues, specifically, breast cancer.
We also recently lost Laura Ziskin, who passed away in June after a seven-year battle with breast cancer. Ziskin was an acclaimed film producer and studio executive who founded the Stand Up to Cancer initiative. Stand up to Cancer’s goal is to ensure everyone who is diagnosed with cancer becomes a survivor. The initiative rallies the entertainment community to engage the public in supporting cancer research. The money that is raised is sent directly to teams of doctors around the world that are developing cancer treatments that could be at a patient’s bedside within years, as opposed to decades. Of the many films with which Ziskin’s name is associated, she said Stand Up to Cancer was her most important production. Laura confronted her disease head on through her work with Stand Up to Cancer and never let anything, not even cancer, stand in the way of her cause. She is an inspiration to all.
We thank Betty Ford and Laura Ziskin for their many contributions to the cancer community – both women leave legacies that we support and will work hard to perpetuate for years to come. Their resilience in the face of breast cancer embodies the Cancer Support Community’s mission to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community.