Cancer survivor Maimah Karmo is starting to win her long fight. After 14 years running the Tigerlily Foundation while holding down a full-time job, single mother Karmo is finally beginning to attract for her community the attention and support it has so long lacked.
This year several pharma donors have stepped up to help put the cancer awareness Foundation on the kind of footing that will enable it to make a difference at scale, rather than working hand to mouth. Karmo, the Foundation’s president, will no longer have to self-fund the organisation.
The new financial backing has more than quadrupled her budget this year but Karmo, who was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2006, is calling for further support, financial and otherwise. This includes help in the form of ‘sweat’ equity, thought leadership, marketing, and public relations, she says.
Karmo’s ambition is, she says, the build “an army of angels – patient advocates, who are trusted by other patients. Who better to help industry and healthcare partners fix problems than someone who are living it?”
And until this year, she felt like she was swimming with her hands tied. Corporations were funding larger organisations with big marketing budgets and large staff, rather than supporting patient-led groups, like hers, despite the fact it is led by a female, first-generation immigrant and patient, who has lived with the very disparities she is working to end.
“How can I help my population when I see money being poured into white-led organisations that don’t have access to Black patients and are not trusted partners? “They are ideating among themselves and don’t know what I know as a Black patient, listening to patients of colour across the country and as a first-generation African immigrant, across the globe. It has been exhausting, like pushing a weight uphill with someone pushing you down.”