Hi there, friends.
For those of you who don’t know me well yet, let me introduce myself: I’m Kristin Harmel, the New York Times bestselling author of more than dozen novels, including The Book of Lost Names, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, and The Paris Daughter, which have been translated into more than 30 languages. More importantly, I’m the mom of a really awesome first grader named Noah.
If you’ve found your way here, you may have heard that I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in late 2022 and began chemotherapy in December 2022. This is a journey I didn’t expect, certainly, but I have so much to be thankful for, including the fact that we live in an age where early-stage breast cancer is so treatable.
Susan G. Komen is one of the organizations we can thank for that. To date, they’ve invested more than $3.3 billion – yes, that’s $3.3 billion with a “B”—in groundbreaking research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs in more than 60 countries. Their efforts have helped reduce deaths from breast cancer in the United States by 42 percent since 1989. As of 2022, they’ve provided nearly $1.1 billion to researchers in 47 states, the District of Columbia and 21 countries. Those funds—a higher amount than any other nonprofit, and second only to the United States government—have supported more than 2,700 breast cancer research studies, and more than 500 clinical trials, leading to more than 3,000 discoveries and advancements in patient care. To me, someone whose current treatment is a direct result of studies like these, those numbers are staggering.
But Susan G. Komen does much more than just fund research. You see, breast cancer survival isn’t just about scientific advancements. It’s about diagnosing the disease early, and Komen’s incredible work in community health outreach and advocacy is crucial in educating women about early detection. The most common tests to detect breast cancer are screening mammograms and clinical breast exams, which you can learn more about here.
Why is this so important to me? It’s because my own breast cancer was found only because I kept up with my annual screening mammogram.
I’m 43 years old. I don’t have any relevant family history. I didn’t feel a lump. I had no idea that I had a cancerous tumor growing inside my right breast until I went in for my annual mammogram in October 2022. And because the cancer cells turned out to be particularly aggressive, my breast surgeon said that if we hadn’t caught it so early, it likely would have grown—and begun to spread—quickly. That annual mammogram might just have saved my life.
So today, I ask two things of you:
1. First and foremost, if you are behind on scheduling your own mammogram (or any other recommended screening test), please, please, please call your doctor today. The Affordable Care Act requires all health insurance plans to cover the cost of screening mammograms every 1-2 years for women 40 and older. This includes Medicare and Medicaid. If you’re under 40, talk to your health care provider about a clinical breast exam, which can be crucial for discovering abnormalities before you’re eligible for an insurance-covered mammogram. If you need information about low-cost screening programs in your area, call the Komen helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email email@example.com.
2. If you’re able, it would mean a lot to me if you’d consider joining me in donating to Susan G. Komen—even if it’s a small donation. Every little bit helps in this journey to end breast cancer (and to help those currently fighting the disease), and if you donate here, through my page, your money will be split equally between two things very important to me: 1) breast cancer research and 2) funding mammograms for the uninsured and underinsured. I’m concerned about women who don’t have equal access to lifesaving care, and this is one way to help. After my own diagnosis, I made the decision to donate a portion of my advance for my 2023 novel, THE PARIS DAUGHTER, to the Susan G. Komen organization (with a smaller amount also going to the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation) to help in this fight.
I think that when something like this happens in life, one of the first things we ask is, “Why?” In my case, it was also, “Why is this happening to me now, when my son is only 6 and needs his mom?” That question has been a really wrenching one for me, but I hope that in sharing my story with you, I’m beginning to find my way to an answer. I never lose sight, not for a second, of how very lucky I am to have the job that I do. It is a tremendous honor to be able to make a career of writing novels that travel all around the world in translation, and to be able to connect with so many of you through the pages of those books (and through the weekly Friends & Fiction web show and podcast I co-host every Wednesday night along with fellow New York Times bestselling novelists Mary Kay Andrews, Patti Callahan Henry, and Kristy Woodson Harvey).
So maybe that’s part of the “why” for me. Maybe I’ve been given this gift of connecting with so many of you so that I’m in a position to encourage you to get your own mammogram scheduled and to perhaps even join me in making a difference.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. I wish you health and happiness always. Now go get that mammogram!
P.S. Why is funding breast cancer research and patient support so vital? According to Susan G. Komen, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, accounting for 31 percent of newly diagnosed cancers. A new case of breast cancer is diagnosed in the United States about every two minutes. Breast cancer is also the most common cancer in women around the world, according to Susan G. Komen, with more than 2 million new cases recorded in 2020. (For more breast cancer statistics, check out this helpful page from Komen.)
To see Kristin's video sharing her cancer diagnosis with readers, click here.
To see Kristin's video message to those considering joining her in donating to Susan G. Komen, click here.
To learn more about Kristin, click here.
*MORE ABOUT MAMMOGRAMS*
Susan G. Komen believes all women should have access to regular screening mammograms when they and their health care providers decide it's best based on their risk of breast cancer. Komen also believes screening should be covered by insurance companies, government programs and other third-party payers, with no out-of-pocket costs for patients.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. During the exam, each breast is pressed between two plates. If you haven't had one before, you might be feeling worried, but it's quick and routine (with only a bit of fleeting discomfort as they press your breast between the plates), and the benefit is 100% worth it; I'm living proof of that! Mammograms can find breast cancer in people who, like me, have no signs or symptoms of disease. It can also find breast cancer when it's too small to feel--which is also what happened in my case. Mammograms give you the power over what's happening in your own body--and they give you the edge over cancer, which can develop rapidly. Please, please, please don't put yours off! If I had done so, I'd be in a much worse position today.
To learn more about how mammograms work, what to expect the day of the test, sign up for an annual mammogram and/or clinical breast exam reminder, and MORE...please visit www.komen.org.
If you or a loved one needs more information about breast cancer screening, contact the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877-GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or firstname.lastname@example.org. All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. Se hable espanol.