Komen director embraces cause, personal challenge
Posted June 13, 2014
Three and a half years after her own breast cancer diagnosis, Pam Kohl will be in Raleigh Saturday for the annual celebration that is the Race for the Cure.
Kohl is executive director of the Susan G. Komen North Carolina Triangle to Coast Chapter, and the race is the charity's biggest day. About 10,000 are expected to arrive on the campus of Meredith College to warm up together, visit and then hit the streets for the 5K fundraiser. Race for the Cure team's inspiration returns cancer-free
Kohl draws her inspiration from those crowds and from individuals who share their stories of fear and hope in the fact of breast cancer.
"I had a friend and colleague who had breast cancer twice," she said.
In honor of that woman's battle, Kohl first participated in the Race for the Cure in 2000.
Ten years later, she would rely on the very funds she raised for research to help save her own life.
"I was diagnosed in 2010, right at the end in December," she said. "It was a regular mammogram."
Kohl had no family history of the disease. She underwent treatment throughout 2011.
"I was fortunate to know people who had been involved to help me through the fear and long haul of the journey," she said.
Those connections inspired her to step up when the organization needed a new director. Komen was coming under fire after the national Komen organization decided to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood in 2012.
"I felt like I had some unique skills that the organization needed at that time," she said.
Kohl fought for her cause amid a media firestorm. She wanted to make sure the debacle wouldn't cost Komen the precious funds for research that saves lives. The 2014 race is expected to bring in about $1.2 million, 75 percent of that stays local to fund awareness, exams and research.
"I guess I'm just stubborn," she said. "I want to go do what I can do to make certain that we continue to raise the funds."
Kohl said it's because of the Komen name that women diagnosed with breast cancer are surviving longer and that a new generation is ready to step up to fight for a cure.
She shared a story of a young fundraiser who made bracelets and sold them in honor of a friend's mother who died of breast cancer.
"She walked into our office yesterday with $100," Kohl said.
"It's not going away, but we can find a cure, and we can make it manageable, and that's what matters."
Share your inspiration!
Join the conversation by using the hashtag #KomenTri on social media. We're sharing your posts and photos online and at our tent on race day. At the race, you can see the live, Social Inspiration Board at the start-finish line and at the WRAL tent in Race Town.