The month of October, now recognized around the world as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, brings to the forefront of our minds an illness that has touched each and everyone of us. It is a time of year that underscores a cause that is important to women everywhere and one that is very close to my heart.

At the age of 12 I lost my mother to this disease after a two-year battle that she waged with bravery and grace. While this deeply personal experience brought a sadness that still resonates with me today–and that in many ways shaped the person I would become—it also provides me with an opportunity to reflect on both the tremendous strides that have been made in conquering this disease and on the profound power of women when they unite as a collective voice for change.

In that challenging moment all those years ago I would never have imagined the good work that would be done by courageous women like Betty Ford, a member of the Junior League of Grand Rapids, who, for the first time, brought this disease out of the shadows of taboo and shame. I applaud the tangible progress made each and every year to defeat a disease that takes the lives of millions of women around the world every year–and in the four countries where there are Junior Leagues. Organizations like Susan G.Komen for the Cure, the Canadian Cancer Society, Evelyn Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the U.K.’s Breast Cancer Care, and efforts like International Breast Cancer Awareness Day, observed this year by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, work relentlessly to make advances in prevention, diagnosis, care, and research.

In so many of these instances these organizations and initiatives are supported by the vital contributions of Junior Leagues through fundraising, awareness-building, patient and family support, and otherwise. It is not a stretch to say that in so many of these cases these organizations could not provide the critical services their communities so
desperately need without the help of local Junior Leagues.

Even in the face of a problem as devastating as this one, our work is measurable and meaningful–and our potential is limitless. Everywhere you look there is evidence that we are indeed a brave and resilient sisterhood, a sisterhood of power and influence. What better motivation could we have than a month’s worth of reflection, remembrance and action, a perpetually renewable reminder that we must take every opportunity we are given to be advocates for good?

Susan E. Danish
Executive Director
The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.