After Surviving A War, A Lightning Strike And Cancer, This Woman Has A Lot To Offer

USATODAY_HumankindPublished: August 17, 2017
Published: August 17, 2017

She fled war-torn Liberia when she was only 15. Her father put her alone on a plane to New York, hoping that his daughter will find a better life there. After sleeping on a couch for five years, into a two-bedroom apartment with 8 other family members, Maimah Karmo eventually got on her feet. She even got a little girl.

But one day, not aged 31, Maimah felt something strange on her body. One self-exam later, she found a lump in her breast. On February 28, 2006, she got diagnosed with Stage 2 triple-negative breast cancer.

“I've escaped three wars, I've been held at gunpoint, I've been hit by lightning when I was 12 years old. So I've survived many things,” Maimah says. “When I came to the U.S., I thought OK, there's no guns, there’s no war, I’m free from all this struggle and turmoil. But when I got diagnosed, I thought, oh my God, the war is inside of me. And I can’t run from the war, I can’t get on a plane and escape.”
It was during her intense period of depression, after the surgery and during her second round of chemo that something occurred to the single mom. Maybe the cancer was happening to her for a reason. “Maybe life isn’t about the time you live but what you do with that time. Maybe there was something I was born to do. Maybe there's a reason why. Maybe stop asking God why and ask myself why not me?"

That’s where the Tigerlily Foundation’s journey began. Maimah promised God that if she got through cancer, she would set out to create an organization to educate, empower, advocate for and support young women affected by breast cancer.

It gave Maimah strength to beat breast cancer and to grow the Tigerlily Foundation from a concept to a national organization, which has more than 300 volunteers nationwide, providing breast health, wellness and transformational programs to women under 45 years of age in more than 43 states.

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