I’ve worked in the contact center ecosystem since 1981. For much of that time, this publication has been my number one source for industry best practices and technology insight. I’ve even had the opportunity to write articles and share insights about an industry I love. And, while I’ve always written from a personal perspective—in hope that others can learn and benefit from my stories—this opportunity to share my heart is more important than all those ideas combined.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and women’s health advocacy has become a clear focus for many service organizations. When I approached Linda Harden, publisher of Contact Center Pipeline, about writing this article, we talked about the demographics of our industry. 66.7% of the estimated 2.8 million contact center agents in the U.S. are female: which hopefully makes this message relevant for CCP readers.
While our story is a message of personal loss it is also a message of hope. We hope that by sharing our story you will find yours and will take action—either for yourself or for the women in your lives—your daughters, wives, and friends.
The Story that Launched a Nonprofit
Our sweet daughter, Keesha, was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in late 2013. She was only 30 years old.
For four years Keesha fought the good fight, dealing with 14 different chemo/immunotherapy drugs. There were too many injections to count, but the treatment she received at the West Cancer Center clinic was life-sustaining.
Keesha never stopped fighting the disease that took her life in 2017. During her fight, we began calling her the #WarriorPrincess! The moniker just seemed to be a fit for someone who fought so hard and did it with the grace of a princess. My wife, Susan, and I are still in awe of her strength, her unconditional love of others, and her will to live life to the fullest: both before and after diagnosis. When others described her attitude they often used the hashtag #LiveLikeKeesa!
Throughout her fight, we did not often focus on how this could happen at such a young age to a vibrant daycare teacher who loved her “kids” like they were her own. Instead, we focused on the future: and what we could do to help her live another day, another week, or another year.
But we knew Keesha missed important signs that could have saved her life. I remember vividly the conversation where she asked us to please tell her story: so that others would not go through the same things. Throughout her fight, after diagnosis, she often shared with friends she had not been doing the two most important things for early detection: doing monthly breast self-checks and going to the gynecologist once a year for a clinical exam.
When she had back pain and breathing issues, her doctors diagnosed it as something less than cancer. There were no breast exams given, which is something that a gynecologist does every time. Any woman who has been to one will tell you, a GYN looks at her body through a different lens than a general practitioner.
After I wrote an article about Keesha’s story in The Commercial Appeal newspaper during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we realized that we needed to make her story a mission. The article, “The question every dad should ask his daughter,” went viral and has received more than 100,000 views.
As a father, I asked Keesha most of the “dad” questions. “Do you have enough gas in your car?,” “Are you being careful when you walk to your car?,” and “Do you lock your doors?” Unfortunately, I did not ask her, “Have you been to the gynecologist and are you doing self-breast exams every month?”
In June 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched the nonprofit Keesha Warrior Princess. Our mission is simple: “To save lives by increasing early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in women ages 25-45 through education and community.” We have one focus: to increase early detection by increasing breast self-exams and annual clinical exams. We hope telling her story will impact others to be proactive and knowledgeable about their health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer during her life. 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. While it is a disease that is prevalent, it is also one, that if found early, has a much higher rate of survival.
While cancer took our daughter’s life way too early, we also know she would be very proud that her story might save someone’s life. Several months ago we received a call from a woman who shared that she had followed Keesha’s story and read our social posts. When she found something unusual while doing her self-check, she immediately saw her doctor. While the doctor said she did not expect it was cancer due to her young age of 26 years old, the tests found an aggressive form of breast cancer which led to targeted treatments and a completely positive prognosis for her future. We could not be more thankful for what we call #WarriorStories.
For four years Keesha lived life out loud on Facebook. She swam with dolphins in Mexico. She went to see her beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and met DeAngelo Williams on the sideline. She went to eight Luke Bryan concerts and met him backstage (she was a Luke Bryan nut). She lived out her faith and supported others online who were in similar situations: all the way to her last days. One friend said that she lived more in those four years than most people live in a lifetime.
At her Life Celebration Service, we celebrated a life well-lived. In her eulogy, her brother Kevin summed up her life this way: “When Keesha stepped into Heaven last week, she didn’t lose to cancer. No. She beat cancer. She beat cancer by how she lived, why she lived, and the manner in which she lived!”
Our hope is that her story will become a legacy for saving lives for years to come! And if that happens in the contact center industry that I love, even better. Please take action!
Actions You Can Take Today
I mentioned earlier that our story is one of hope and action. Here is a great list of things you can do after reading this article:
1. Set a plan to do your breast self-exam every month. Commit now to make and keep your annual GYN appointment. If you have not been before or have missed appointments due to COVID or other reasons, call and make your appointment today! 80% of young women find their breast abnormalities themselves.
2. Sign-up on our website by scanning the QR Code to immediately link to our website www.warriorprincess.org. You can sign up and we will immediately mail you a waterproof reminder card. It conveniently hangs on your showerhead to prompt you to do your monthly self-check. It outlines seven steps that could save your life.
3. Learn more about the signs of breast cancer, the associated risks, and the healthy ways you can lessen your chances of being diagnosed.
4. Talk to the women in your life about the need to be a personal advocate for their own health. Tell them about reading this article and suggest they also do monthly self-checks and visit their GYN.
5. You can find more resources and how-to videos on our website.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Bob has given back to the contact center industry through his teaching, writing and speaking for many years. He received the ICMI pioneer award for these contributions in 2017. We are proud to support Bob and his wife Susan on their journey to educate and save lives through warriorprincess.org.