TheGrio's 100: Maimah Karmo, Breast cancer survivor brings awareness and inspiration to young women

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Maimah Karmo, 37, was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. With a three-year-old daughter, a fiancé and no family history of breast cancer, it was completely unexpected.

After going through her second round of chemotherapy, Maimah promised God she would live a life of service. Still, there were setbacks. As she told Essence Magazine, her fiancé ended up leaving her, saying he wanted to “live my life and just be happy.” Her hair started to fall out, and her family worried that her bald head would scare her daughter.

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But Karmo survived and created the Tigerlily Foundation, which educates young women about breast cancer. She has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and has been featured in numerous publications for her sharing her story of survival.

Maimah Karmo is making history … as an inspirational and outspoken breast cancer survivor who is bringing awareness about the disease to a national level. In 2010, Karmo was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee On Breast Cancer In Young Women, and the Congressional Black Caucus presented her with the Leadership in Advocacy Award in the same year.

What’s next for Maimah?

Karmo is continuing her advocacy work through the Tigerlily Foundation and continues her journey to becoming, as she puts it, a “fearless” woman.

In her own words …

“I’ve lived more in the past four years than I did the years before, and when I die, I want to know that I made the best use of my ‘after life’ and impacted the lives of as many people as possible,” Karmo said in a biographer on her website.

A little-known fact …

Breast cancer fatality rates have decreased; this may be because of earlier detection, according to the American Cancer Society. There are more than 2.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S.

For more information, THE”>click here GRIO’S Q & A WITH MAIMAH KARMO

Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?

A: My goal is to continue to grow Tigerlily Foundation nationwide, so that we can help more young women facing breast cancer. When I created the organization while I was undergoing chemotherapy in 2006, I had no idea the impact it would make; 5 years later, we are able to provide young women with services that they are not getting elsewhere – like peer support, buddy bags, meals, financial assistance and more. Further, we are impacting public policy, such as we did, working with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young (EARLY) Act in 2009, which focuses on providing education and resources for young women.

I’m also looking forward to getting my memoir published this year. After holding onto it for 5 years, it is finally ready, so I’m shopping for an agent and publisher and plan to have it published this summer, in time for October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: Every night when I get home, no matter how late, I take a moment to look up at the stars, appreciate my life and give thanks for the beauty all around me.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: Love the moment and the energy of that moment will spread beyond all boundaries.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: God and my 9-year old daughter Noelle. Also, from the challenges, lessons, beauty, dedication, faith and love passed down from generations of women before me. I am inspired by women who dare to go where others haven’t, who are not afraid to speak their truth – Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz – who is a mother of three, a wife and a powerful force to be reckoned with; and others who sometimes didn’t know they would be someone’s hero – like Anne Frank. I read her book as a child and it changed how I saw people and life. My mother is amazing – during one of the civil wars in my native country of Liberia, she walked into a barracks full of blood thirsty soldiers to rescue my father. She could have died, but because she loved, she risked her life. She inspires me to be brave and to have faith, no matter what the obstacles – seen or unseen. There are so many more women and stories, but I can’t name them all. Many of them you will see in my book when it’s published.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: I have quite a few. I find that each individual has something to offer that no one else does – something unique. So, I try to find that beauty within the amazing people I meet and take a piece of their light with me as I go through life.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?

A: I would say that because you are a child of God, greatness is your destiny. It is as simple as that. Failure is not an option, so even if you’re in a place of challenge or despair, give thanks and be excited about the future blessings and possibilities.