What Komen St. Louis Means to Me

Guest Writer: Susan Kraenzle, Breast Health Center Manager at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Every family has one…the “bossy” one. Ours was Joanie.

Of our eight sisters, she was the tomboy. She ran fast, jumped high and had a killer spike serve. She had a husband, three kids, eleven brothers and sisters and tons of friends. Joanie was 42 when she died from breast cancer. It’s been fifteen years. We miss her every day.

Joanie_SusanAs I said, she was bossy. That really is the only explanation for where my career has led me…she “put” me here somehow.

I became a nurse to take care of babies. Shortly after my sister died, our family moved to a rural location, and I accepted a position as manager of a new Women’s Health Center at the local hospital. We didn’t have much funding for the Resource Center I wanted to develop. After seeing the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, I made a call to our Komen Affiliate to request support for breast health materials. I had one week to submit a grant.

That’s when I learned the story of Suzy Komen and her sister. I read of Nancy Brinker’s Promise and got goose bumps. I knew how it felt to watch a sister die. I’m not sure how long I cried. Then I wiped my tears, blew my nose, and started writing. I am certain that Joanie smiled when my grant was funded.

That grant was my first experience with Komen St. Louis, and I have been involved with the “breast health world” ever since. In 2004, I became the manager of the Breast Health Center at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. At that time, our outreach program provided care to about 400 underserved women. In these past eight years, it has grown to be the largest program of its kind in Missouri. We care for thousands of women every year…women we reach because of the funding we receive from Komen.

I am honored every day of my life to care for women in the city that Joanie called home. Every June, at our Race, I find a quiet place to remember my sister and cry just a bit. Then, I get back to work. It’s what Joanie wants me to do. She was the bossy one.


6 thoughts on “What Komen St. Louis Means to Me

  1. So proud of all that you do Aunt Susie! Thank you for the endless effort and soul you pour into this cause. I may have been little when Joanie passed but I remember how difficult it was for everyone in the family, and you have taken such inspiration from such a sorrowful moment in our lives.

  2. Brought tears to my eyes… I remember Joanie as athletic and very pretty. She was a tough volleyball player, just like so many of her sisters. Love the picture! “Thank you” Susan, Komen St. Louis, and Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for my annual breast exams for the past three years!

  3. Susan-this was just emailed to me at work. A coworker said it reminded her of two of our volunteers, one who lost her battle last summer. She was labeled the bossy one too. Interesting that we’ve worked together on breast health issues but I never knew your story. Thanks for sharing.

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