When one thinks of a warrior, they think of someone who exudes bravery during combat. However, this combat does not always have to occur on the battlefield. For Keesha Furniss and so many others who have fought or are currently fighting breast cancer, for example, this battle happens within. It’s rare for someone battling cancer to be fighting alone; oftentimes the patient’s family and friends will take up arms and fight alongside. This was certainly the case for Keesha, whose parents founded local nonprofit, Keesha Warrior Princess, in her memory after four years of battling the disease.
What began as complications with breathing turned into a diagnosis of stage-4 metastatic breast cancer at the young age of 30. Recognizing that other young women could easily be in similar circumstances, Keesha requested that her family share her story with the world to raise awareness so that others would not endure her same fate. “While the ending is horrible, who she was as a person is a part of our story so that is the personal catalyst of where we started and the reason why we hope this is wildly successful” recounts Bob Furniss, Keesha’s father and founder of Keesha Warrior Princess.
Keesha Warrior Princess’ mission is to save lives by increasing early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in women ages 25 to 45 through education and community. This age range is critical because according to the Center for Disease Control, 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. Another concern is that adolescent and young adult females ages 15 to 39 in the United States are less likely to be diagnosed at an early stage of breast cancer (47%) compared to women older than 65 (68%). This difference partially may be due to delays in screening younger women. “We want to share two simple messages to women, and to the men who love them: Be sure to conduct a monthly self-breast exam and go to your OBGYN annually for a clinical exam. I often asked my daughter, ‘Do you have enough gas in your car? Are you being careful when you walk through parking lots? Are you sure you know who is at the door before you open it? But I never asked ‘Are you going to the gynecologist?’ because that’s not what dads do, but I can tell you this dad tells this story everywhere he can” says Furniss.
Although still in its infancy as an organization, Keesha Warrior Princess has attainable goals to help fulfill their mission such as
1) to educate women 25-45 that breast cancer is not just for older women
2) to increase the number of women completing monthly self-breast exams
3) to increase the number of women completing regular gynecological visits and
4) to provide community, information and encouragement.
In addition to these organizational goals the nonprofit has plans to
1) provide community grants to women’s clinics to support women who cannot afford annual OBGYN appointments
2) partner with like-minded nonprofits 3) create and distribute various reminders for monthly breast self-checks and annual clinical check-ups and
3) speak at events to share Keesha’s story and the importance of early detection.
To learn more about how you can become involved with Keesha Warrior Princess visit: warriorprincess.org.