Komen is providing breast cancer patients with transportation, food delivery and other resources to meet critical needs during the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine.

One of Downtown’s most visible, crowd-drawing events is on the “postponed” list. But the needs of the cancer patients it serves are not.

Citing concerns for the health and safety of participants, supporters and staff, Susan G. Komen Columbus recently decided to postpone the 2020 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure scheduled for May 16. The event is the largest Race for the Cure in the United States. Last year it drew more than 21,000 participants.

With its primary fundraiser on hold, Komen still tends to the real-time needs of people living with breast cancer. “We’re hoping we can still see pink. We have a vision for an actual race,” says Julie McMahon, Komen Columbus’ interim executive director. “But our primary mission is to help women today.”

McMahon says Komen still provides transportation, food delivery and other resources to meet critical needs during the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine. It is launching programs to provide special support to immunosuppressed patients so their treatment isn’t disrupted, using sources like Uber Health for transportation and Amazon delivery for food. 

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Komen Columbus is hosting virtual support groups and wellness activities such as yoga and coping skills education, and its Facebook page livestreams content as well. “This is only made possible by our tens of thousands of supporters here in Central Ohio. Our partners and sponsors have been amazing,” McMahon says.

The Komen website details information on its response to the pandemic.

The organization is helping breast cancer patients grapple with unanswered questions, such as whether their treatment protocol makes them especially vulnerable at this time. For example, McMahon says, most hormone therapy does not cause immunosuppression, while most chemotherapy does. It’s also talking with clients about whether treatment can be paused or delayed. “For people about to start treatment, this is especially scary,” she says.

She says the information provided by Komen is by no means medical advice but offers general guidance about questions that may be on patients’ minds or things to consider. “Of course, you consult with your physician on your personal treatment.”

Komen is guiding women on postponing routine screening mammograms so those resources can be targeted directly toward patients now undergoing treatment.

The re-allocation of resources now required during a world pandemic has immediate consequences for patients who are relying on clinical trials to give them hope. “Research is affected, and many clinical trials are at a halt for women with no remaining options,” McMahon says. “We pray for them, and we pray with them.”

Last year’s local Race for the Cure raised more than $1.3 million last year—which represents about 80 percent of the organization's annual budget. It uses the funds for education, screening and research. Money also is used for community outreach and programing for underserved and uninsured women.

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The organization was about to host another fundraiser when Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton closed the Arnold Expo and Classic to most spectators and visitors. When the CDC issued guidelines that limited gatherings to 50, “we were very concerned. We want to be leaders and show how important we think this is,” says McMahon, who has a background in public health and epidemiology.

The decision to postpone major events threw crucial fundraising support into a tailspin that will reverberate for months or years to come. “We can’t stop fundraising right now,” but it will look differently. The Race for the Cure “sustains us year-round. It’s going to be difficult for us moving forward.”

Laurie Allen is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.