Maimah Karmo – Breast Cancer Survivor

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 8.09.18 AMMaimah is the Founder of Tigerlily Foundation and a 7 year survivor of breast cancer, she recently received the Congressional Black Caucus Leadership in Advocacy Award for her work with young women and breast cancer. In 2009, she spoke on Capitol Hill, alongside Representative Rep. (and DNC chair) Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to introduce the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young (EARLY) Act. In October 2010, Maimah was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women, a committee established by the Affordable Care Act. What follows are the stories of some of the women in her life.I met Kate when I was asked to speak about leadership at my alma mater, George Mason University. Although we lost touch after the event, I felt an immediate connection to her. Two years later, I received an email from her. She had been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, as I had. Her fiancé walked away from her, as mine had. We understood each other in many ways and I was thankful to be able to watch her go through treatment, heal and blossom. Today, Kate is an advocate, a speaker and is helping other women like her.

Latina wanted to volunteer at my organization, Tigerlily Foundation. We became friends. One day she called – “I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “I’ll hold your hand,” I told her. Latina went through treatment and the same challenges and triumphs that most women face after diagnosis. A young mother to two little children, it was a struggle
for her, but with a supportive family and friends, she got through it.

Years later, she is not only living vibrantly, but she is a volunteer program manager for Tigerlily and enjoying her life.

Sarangi, I met on the steps at a fundraiser for Tigerlily hosted

by The Medical Spa at NOVA. Her friend walked up to me and pointed to someone sitting on the stairs, “my friend just had treatment and she’s not doing well. Can you talk to her?” Sarangi, like me, also had a three year old child at diagnosis. She was 32-years old and triple negative. I sat next to her on the stairs, put my arms around her and held her. The year flew by. I saw her a few days ago. Her crop of curls was beautiful, her eyes glistened

and her son had his head snuggled under her arms.

Walking in the warm summer breeze recently, I thought about Kristen, who I met soon after my own diagnosis. I fell in love with her. Kristen was a Stage 4 survivor. She was strong, fierce and fearless. She would have tumor flare ups, but she was in close contact with her doctors and was able to keep things in check for many years. About 5 years into diagnosis, I learned that she was in the final stages of her life. I booked a flight to New York and was able to spend precious time with her. The bond we forged at that time was bigger than life

or death. Kristen knew how to live, and I don’t know that she had many regrets, because she had traveled, volunteer, enjoyed her career, had wonderful friends, danced, laughed, we had shared many a martini together, and as many quiet moments together talking. She was my girl. When I got the call that she was gone, I cried for the loss of a life too soon and for the joy I felt in having shared time with this wonderful soul. Her death broke me, but I was reminded of what she would want for me by my then 7 year old daughter, Noelle. “Mommy, Kristen wouldn’t want you to cry like this all the time. She would want you to be happy.” So, I did what Kristen would want – I lived more.

So, for me, breast cancer survivorship is something I celebrate, not just in spite of the cancer, but also because of it. I used to think the opposite. In doing so, I not only gave cancer the power that it didn’t deserve, but I also negated the gifts that this challenge brought me and many others, who are now my sisters, forever in life and after. In embracing the gift of life now, I can’t be thankful for the gift and not the bearer of it, so I am thankful for it all, the diagnosis, the tears, the pain, the friends, the laughter and the scars that are now stars. I embrace it all, because this is our life. Whatever challenges we face, this is it – and we have to use our experiences to create our destiny. I celebrate this moment and all of you. Now, go out and live life fully.

Tigerlily Foundation Pink Boa 5k

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