After surviving three wars and escaping from her native country of Liberia at a young age, in 2006, Maimah Karmo was faced with another challenge — she was diagnosed with stage 2 triple-negative breast cancer. She was 32 and had no family history of the disease.
“She prayed and asked God if he spared her life, that she would dedicate her life toward helping other young women understand breast cancer,” says Shanda Cooper, Tigerlily Foundation’s chief program officer.
While receiving chemotherapy, Karmo founded the Tigerlily Foundation. The name Tigerlily came from Karmo’s love of the flower itself. “Flowers have different seasons — the petals may drop, but they bloom again,” Cooper says. “As someone’s going through treatment, it may feel like they’re going through this sort of ‘winter,’ or a time where their petals have dropped, but they will bloom again, and there’s strength in that.”
Sixteen years later, Karmo is a breast cancer survivor and continues to act as Tigerlily Foundation’s CEO. The organization focuses on supporting and educating women between the ages of 15 and 45 as they go through their cancer journeys. Currently, women under the age of 45 make up about 9 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Their Goal Cooper says the organization is primarily working toward making healthcare more accessible for people and patients, “regardless of where they live, what they look like, and their socioeconomic status.”
“Our vision is really to ensure that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t ignite fear, but moves toward hope,” she says. “Our motto within the organization is to be heart centered and patient driven in everything that we do.”
Services They Provide The foundation has several programs centered around educating, empowering, supporting, and advocating for breast cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.
Their ANGEL Advocacy Program puts patients, survivors, and caregivers through a training program that focuses on educating them about breast cancer law, teaching them how to be their own advocates, and empowering them to speak up in their communities and at state, local, and federal levels in order to make a lasting change, according to Cooper.
The Clinical Trials Program encourages women to participate in clinical trials and “move from truth to transformation as it relates to clinical trials, and increase access to clinical trials for people of color,” she says.
The foundation also offers the Hope Box Program, which sends care packages containing educational materials, beauty products, and more to women going through treatment, and the Funds for Families Program, which, during the COVID-19 pandemic, provided financial support to breast cancer patients and survivors in need.
“We don’t have it limited to something like, ‘You have to be in active treatment,’ because there are people who are survivors who also need financial support,” Cooper says.
You can learn more about the ANGEL Advocacy Program, Clinical Trials Program, and the rest of the programs they offer on their website.
Events For the past four years, the foundation has hosted its Young Women’s Breast Health Day on the Hill, where breast cancer patients, survivors, experts, and supporters get together on Capitol Hill to advocate for better resources and care related to breast health. This event usually takes place in March, notes Cooper.
The Pure Cat Initiative features virtual classes focused on movement and mindfulness, which are offered each day of the week and feature various types of programming, including yoga, Zumba, and more. The classes are free for patients, caregivers, and anyone else who wants to participate.
You can find a schedule of their classes, as well as the rest of their upcoming events, on their events page.