Komen Missouri Community Partner: Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation’s START NOW Program


Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation’s START NOW Breast Cancer Awareness Services works to help provide care for patients who are living with breast cancer and women who are unsure of their breast health status. The START NOW team works directly with medical providers, surgeons, oncologists and mental health workers. The team also works in the community, spreading awareness and educating the more at-risk population.

Grant funding from Susan G. Komen Missouri is the main source of financial funding for START NOW.  The Komen Missouri grant for the START NOW program gives financial assistance to women without insurance, and allows women to receive annual clinical breast exams and mammograms. The grant provides staffing of navigators, transportation and gas cards to help women keep their appointments.

Debra Custer is the program manager and a treatment navigator for the START NOW Program. Debra has been working with START NOW since April 2008.  As program manager, her role is to, “ensure that the day-to-day functions and activities are meeting all the grant requirements, continue to build and strengthen our community partners, and find new community partners to enhance our network circle.”

As a treatment navigator, Debra is responsible for overseeing all of the women who receive an abnormal mammogram and women who receive a benign or positive result for breast cancer. “I work to reduce or eliminate any barriers related to breast care promptly and try to empower [patients] to take a more proactive approach to their overall health needs.” 

Debra describes the treatment navigator role as a “supportive resource” who helps with financial assistance and emotional and mental health issues related to coping with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Debra recalls a patient story that has affected her throughout her years working with START NOW.  A patient was referred to START NOW because she needed a diagnostic mammogram and did not have a way to pay for the service.  This patient’s medical provider called Debra because the patient had a breast mass and needed additional appointments and services.

The patient visited Debra’s office and Debra consoled her. Debra helped the patient apply for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, and contacted the local IBCCP agency for approval and to schedule an exam for the patient.  The diagnostic mammogram came back suspicious for malignancy and the patient was recommended to have a biopsy.  Debra helped the patient schedule an appointment with a surgeon.

The biopsy came back positive for breast cancer, and Debra helped the patient complete another application so that she could continue her treatment.  “Her postoperative treatment following the radical mastectomy was without incident and proceeded with reconstructive breast surgery.  After reconstructive breast surgery, the oncologist recommended radiation treatment on the right breast.”  The patient completed her treatment regimen, and seven years later remains cancer free.  The patient told Debra, “I can’t stop thanking you enough for being what I needed when I needed it.”

Susan G. Komen Missouri’s community grants help fund local breast cancer screening, breast health education and patient navigation and support services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

My Race for the Cure Impressions

Guest Writer: Sarah Reed, Komen Missouri Communications and Marketing Intern

This year’s Susan G. Komen Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure® was the first Race for the Cure that I have ever attended. I had heard of some of my friends participating in honor of their family members who have battled breast cancer, but I had never physically gone to the Race. From pictures and videos of previous years, the Race had seemed like an incredible experience and event. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to take part in planning the event this year.

As a new member of the team, I had been anticipating the Race for the weeks I had been in the office. At Komen Missouri, there is so much preparation before the Race between new registrations, T-shirts, sponsors and beyond. Also, there were many people working endless hours to ensure that the Race was going to be a successful event. I was amazed by the dedication and commitment that the committee members and volunteers put into the Race.


Sarah (right) and Janet before the sunrise on Komen Greater St. Louis Race Day 2016

The Friday before the Race was a preparation day. It consisted of long hours in the heat, heavy lifting, and a lot of teamwork. I focused on helping our sponsors get settled at their tent sites on Sponsors’ Row. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted, but we knew that our hard work would pay off in the morning. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see it all come together Saturday morning.

I arrived at the Race site around five am on Saturday morning. Even though I am not the biggest morning person, I could hardly wait to get to the site on Race Day. There were a large number of volunteers setting up the site such as the Survivor Pavilion and the Main Stage. I got see behind the stage, which was a really exciting experience. I also had to the opportunity to meet with the Pink Tie Guys and many of our top sponsors before they went on stage.

I think the most memorable moment of the Race was the Survivor Procession. It was very inspirational to see all of the pink shirts representing the battle and defeat of breast cancer. I loved seeing our executive director, Helen Chesnut, leading the procession. She has been a survivor for 10 years now. Watching and cheering on the survivors was a very emotional moment for me. I was able to see so much strength from our community all dressed in pink.

I also had the opportunity to stand at the finish line with last spring’s intern, Claire. Our role was to get the names of the timed participants who finished first in different categories. It was amazing to see the intense effort that the runners put into the race. It was clear to see that they put every ounce of energy into finishing the race. Their hard work represented the ongoing fight to end breast cancer for good.

Now that the Greater St. Louis Race is over, I am extremely excited to help plan our next events, including the Komen Mid-Missouri Race for the Cure in Columbia, where I will be in the fall, finishing my last year at Mizzou. I cannot wait to get my collegiate friends and peers involved with the upcoming events in Columbia.


Help Finish the Race Strong!

Komen Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure post-Race registration and fundraising continues through July 31.
Help us get closer to our 2016 event fundraising goal so we can help more people in our community who are most at risk of breast cancer and most in need of access to quality breast health care.
Thank you for your support!

Pink Promise Tea: August 13


Join Susan G. Komen® Missouri for our 9th Annual Pink Promise Tea on Saturday, August 13, at bleu Restaurant & Catering in Columbia.

This event includes a breakfast, raffle baskets, presentation of Impact Awards, and a special ceremony to remember those who have lost their lives to breast cancer and honor breast cancer survivors.

Our guest speaker, Dr. Heather Carver from the University of Missouri, will share her breast cancer journey based on her one-woman play.

Tickets are $15. The first 50 breast cancer survivors who register for this event will receive complimentary tickets when selecting the Breast Cancer Survivor Ticket during their registration.

All who reserve their seats by Wednesday, August 10, at 5 pm will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win 25,000 miles from our National Partner, American Airlines. (See detailed instructions on air voucher for redemption rules. Winner will be announced at the Tea on Saturday, August 13.)

Questions? Contact Mandy Schick, 573.445.1905, mschick@komenmissouri.org

Visit our Pink Promise Tea event page for event details.

Yoga for the Cure


Join Susan G. Komen Missouri for our inaugural Yoga for the Cure, presented by St. Louis Premium Outlets, on Saturday, July 16, 2016.

First 100 registered participants receive a T-shirt!


First 100 registered participants receive a Yoga for the Cure T-shirt

We invite all ages to join us for an introductory yoga class from 8-9 am with yoga instruction provided by Valley Yoga of Chesterfield. Registration will open at 7:30 am. All attendees will receive a special goodie bag courtesy of the retailers of St. Louis Premium Outlets. There will be door prizes, too!

Come relax, stretch and enjoy a beautiful morning while raising funds and awareness for our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever.

Tickets are $25 per participant.

Reserve your yoga spot: www.komenmissouri.org/Yoga

Can’t attend? Is this too early in the morning or you? Please consider making a Namaste In Bed Donation in support of our inaugural Yoga for the Cure and the local fight against breast cancer.

Meet Our Intern: Sarah Reed

Guest Writer: Sarah Reed, Komen Missouri Communications and Marketing Intern

My name is Sarah Reed and I am the summer Communications and Marketing Intern at Komen Missouri. In the fall, I will be a senior at Mizzou. I am in the Journalism program emphasizing in Strategic Communication with an interest in Public Relations. I am originally from right outside St. Louis in O’Fallon, MO. I am an active Delta Delta Delta member and American Advertising Federation member, and I also am very active in Mizzou Alternative Breaks. Through these organizations I strive to continue improving my leadership abilities, enhancing my learning opportunities, and giving back to the community and other philanthropies.


Sarah loves pink and promoting the #KomenSTLRace

As for a career path, I am currently exploring the non-profit route due to many experiences through my collegiate organizations. Tri Delta’s national philanthropy, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is one of the main reasons why I chose to be a Tri Delta three years ago. Working with my sisters towards the goal of saving children’s lives has been one of the highlights of my college career. Also, this past spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Kissimmee, FL with a group of 11 other students to volunteer at Give Kids the World and New Hope For Kids. This experience was truly life changing. You can check out the work we did along with other groups who volunteered across the nation at our blog: http://muasb.blogspot.com/. I am also leading a weekend trip in the spring with another student.

I discovered this internship with Komen Missouri through a guest speaker at one of my AAF meetings. I was interested in what he did at his internal relations job at a local hospital. After meeting with him, he referred me to Janet at Komen Missouri. I knew of Susan G. Komen through the Race for the Cure in St. Louis and other events they have done in the past. I did some research on Komen Missouri and really connected with their mission. Whether it be a family member or friend or friend of a friend, I believe that everyone is affected by some sort of cancer. I was really inspired Komen’s amazing dedication to finding the cure to breast cancer. Komen Missouri offers many opportunities to receive help for people who at most risk and really need the help.


Sarah at KSDK NewsChannel 5

My expectations for this internship were pretty broad. I knew it was a small staff with a lot of important things to accomplish, so I figured I would be doing a little bit of everything to help out the staff as much as possible. I was right! Because my internship started after school ended in late May, I was thrown into a very busy time of the year for Komen Missouri. Dine Out for the Cure and the Greater St. Louis Race for the Cure were weeks away, so it was pretty hectic around the office to say the least. I got a little taste of everything and learned a lot about the organization nationally and locally right off the bat. I even participated in one of the phone banks at KSDK promoting the Race for the Cure on my second day on the job.

Although it was a crazy time here at Komen Missouri, I have thoroughly enjoyed every day at the office. The staff here is constantly encouraging each other and staying positive. They are also always willing to help each other out even if it’s technically not their specific job. Everyone here has different personalities and different backgrounds; however, they all come together to work towards the one mission of ending breast cancer forever. This team of amazing women have welcomed me with open arms and have made this internship thus far a great, helpful and hands-on learning experience that I know will help me further my education and career goals.

I can’t wait for what new learning experiences and tasks come next!


Dine Out to Fight Breast Cancer on June 9


Fight breast cancer while dining out at some of your favorite St. Louis area restaurants and food trucks for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner on Thursday, June 9, during the 8th Annual Susan G. Komen Missouri Dine Out for the Cure®. Participating restaurants and food trucks throughout the St. Louis metro area will donate a portion of their proceeds to Komen Missouri

Visit www.komenmissouri.org/DineOut for a complete list of restaurants and food trucks supporting the event.

Pappy’s Smokehouse will donate 50 percent of proceeds from Dine Out day to Komen Missouri.

“We’ve been so fortunate as a business that we want to give back any chance that we have,” said Tom Agusti, Pappy’s Smokehouse general manager. “Opening a restaurant in 2008 at such a hard time for the country and the economy, having to build and build, and grow and thrive, we try to give back to a good cause any chance we get, and there’s not too many better causes than Susan G. Komen Missouri. We hope people come out and support this good cause and support local businesses.”

Since the inaugural Dine Out fundraiser in 2009, more than 500 restaurants have donated more than $450,000 for local, lifesaving breast health services and global breast cancer research.

Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised through Dine Out for the Cure stays in the community to fund breast cancer screening, breast health education and patient navigation and support services for underserved and uninsured individuals. The remaining 25 percent funds cutting-edge, global breast cancer research.

Komen Missouri encourages Dine Out participants to “tweet and eat” by following @KomenMissouri on Twitter and Instagram and using the official event hashtag #KomenSTLDine.

Visit www.komenmissouri.org/DineOut for Dine Out details.

Visit www.komenmissouri.org to learn more about Susan G. Komen Missouri and its year-round mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever.