Sustaining Hope: In Loving Memory of Kate Sommer

A visionary for change, a voice of hope, a tireless advocate for education and research… while these words resonate strongly when remembering Kate Sommer, they are not enough. Her enthusiasm and dedication to a world without breast cancer have been transformational—and the full impact of her actions is difficult to put into words.

Kate lived with breast cancer for nearly three decades after her initial diagnosis at age 30, shortly after the birth of her second child. Following her second diagnosis, Kate and her family attended her first Race for the Cure in Washington, DC. She was inspired to see the many breast cancer survivors living with the disease and envisioning the possibility of finding a cure.

As Kate later wrote, “Since stepping foot on the Mall in Washington D.C. in 1992, I made the promise to my daughter, my mother and my aunt (both survivors), my sisters and female relatives and eventually to the women of Nebraska to do everything I could to join them in their fight against the disease and to aid in Komen’s efforts in funding research to find a cure… I have assumed an active role in Komen because I believe its mission is my mission. Its promise and vision have become mine as well.”

In 1994, Kate brought Komen’s first Race for the Cure to Omaha. Several years later, in 2002, she was instrumental in establishing Susan G. Komen Nebraska. She served as its first chairman. Kate also served on Komen Nebraska’s Board of Directors every year since its founding.  She has been a volunteer at every Race for the Cure and has been a forceful, unrelenting advocate for education and research as a survivor, Komen volunteer, Board member, supporter, and donor.

Since 1994 Komen Nebraska has raised over $2 million for nationally funded research as well as an additional $6.5 million for locally funded research, education, screening services and treatment support and programming.

Over the years, Kate’s resolve to see a world without breast cancer has never faltered despite multiple diagnoses, including metastatic disease in 2010. Kate remained hopeful and committed to finding a cure. She too took an active role at the national level—participating in a Susan G. Komen Survivor Task Force and serving on the Komen Metastatic Round Table—which allowed her to share her wisdom and inspiration with survivors and Komen policy makers. In 2013, she was honored as the National Volunteer of the Year at the annual Susan G. Komen Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas. (read more here)

1_Kate_Leonard Sommers_verticalKate’s husband Leonard, daughter Emily and son James are all involved with Komen. James has passed out Race ribbons since childhood and recently led a Race team in Chicago. Emily raised over $3,000 for the Komen Chicagoland Affiliate through an “Art for the Cure” fundraiser where one of her own pieces and those of other local artists were sold. Leonard has volunteered at every Race for the Cure and is an active presence in Komen Nebraska himself as a “Pink Tie Guy”.

The English teacher, wife, mother of two, and survivor wrote and spoke candidly about living with a metastatic diagnosis, ever with hope as part of her story. During a speech in 2012, Kate mentioned, “We don’t always get to choose the terms of what we will live with, but we do get to choose the terms of how we will live.”  And Kate lived well.


Please join us in expressing our sympathy to the family of Kate Sommer who died Friday, July 31, 2015.