Breast Cancer Awareness Kara’s Story Part 4

PART 4

Now it’s my turn to give back.

I’m a huge advocate of using my superpowers for good.  I spend every day of my life working with amazing organizations, creating fantastic fundraisers using my favorite marketing medium, promotional products.  As a company, we have put the pieces and parts together to do the same for truly wonderful programs that change the life of those facing a cancer diagnosis. This is our attempt to show the world how much we care about breast cancer research. At the same time, we’re hoping to peel back that curtain a little along the way so if there is a fundraiser that our supporters would like to tackle for something you care about, we are here for you. We think it’s pretty awesome and we want to share that awesomeness with the world.

Promotional products are branded products and apparel that the story of a brand.  Our business curates and designs all the things with corporate messaging and makes a brand shine. We are passionate about the medium as a marketing star and it became very apparent early on as we started working with for-profit, and especially, non-profits that we could make a difference with the thing we were good at.

So when The American Cancer Society and the Real Men Wear Pink Campaign jumped into our lap, we took the call and accepted the challenge.  It’s important to us.  It’s important to so many.  We knew that it was time to use our superpower for good.

Breast Cancer Awareness fundraising The hard work, and platform development, and trial and error, and fundraising that we had been working so hard to do successfully for others has taught us that we can really make a difference.  In true fashion, it’s time for us to connect commerce to purpose to tell the story of your brand, or in this instance, an amazing message of hope. The plan is simple.  For thirty days, my amazing partner in crime has accepted the challenge to be a 2021 class member of the Real Men Wear Pink Detroit campaign.  He’s the most amazing sport and very rarely draws the line, even when it’s a pink satin jacket and headband while carrying a sparkling can coolie.

We promised amazing promotional products to serve as fundraising rockstars and they are leading the charge.  We have a t-shirt representing The Spirit of Detroit and a journal that I designed alongside my mother, which I am so incredibly proud to present to others affected by breast cancer to ease their treatment journey.

We’ve created activity challenge groups and obtained matching funds offers and are on the way to a truly meaningful contribution to The American Cancer Society and their quest to alleviate and eradicate breast cancer.

Once again, we need to thank our tribe.  Our industry network has pulled through and helped create a wardrobe of pink that is one to be envied for our fearless Man in Pink.  Our friends and family have once again rallied and opened their pockets, liked, shared, and commented on this quest we are on.  Complete strangers have shaken our hands and contributed to the cause and told us their stories, and for that, we are forever grateful.

To Amy and the team at The American Cancer Society, a million thank yous for allowing us to be part of your story.  To each and every one of you who has taken the time to listen to my story, I appreciate every second you spent listening or reading.  The task is coming to an end, but it’s not over yet.  We need your help to make strides.  Please consider a donation, a matching offer, a purchase, or a gift.  Your dollar could change a life like mine.

To donate please go to this donation page

 

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Kara’s Story Part 3

PART 3

Kara Keister Breast Cancer fundraiser Find your tribe.  Love them hard.

If it wasn’t for my mom, I could not have done it.  She was right there with me at every appointment.   She said, “We’re going to do this and this is going to be OK”. My mom, my then-boyfriend/now-husband, my immediate and extended family, my dance community, and my coworker; I would not have made it without them.  It takes a village. It honestly and truly does. I mean it. I had so much support behind me.  It wasn’t an option to fail.

I knew that Komen existed because we had been running the Race for the Cure for years. My mom completed treatment ten years prior at that point, so we knew organizations designed to assist with treatment, care, and support existed. I knew that the American Cancer Society existed. I knew that Cancer Patient Services of Hancock County existed. But, there was so much out there that I did not know existed that was brought to my attention during my treatment and I will forever be grateful.

When it’s you affected directly, it changes your perspective and if you weren’t involved before, it could be the catapult that makes you join the charge. And unfortunately, with breast cancer, one in eight women are diagnosed and one in four women are directly impacted. Read it again:  one in four. Directly impacted means your mother, your aunt, your sister, your grandmother. Somebody very, very close to you has been diagnosed or has some kind of breast cancer treatment ahead of them in their future. That’s intense. Look around your table. FOUR!  That’s a big number.

I had just turned 30 when I learned of the diagnosis.  Thirty was hard enough as is it.  I was working multiple full-time jobs. I was still volunteering. I was putting the effort in with my mother, who was a breast cancer survivor, actually a two-time breast cancer survivor at that point, so I kind of knew the drill.  And I needed all my people.  The whole tribe.

Kara Keister Breast Cancer fundraiser Let me be clear. Medical research saved my life. My doctors, nurses, PA’s, the lady that checked me in at the front desk.  They all saved my life.  The organizations that I had grown to know and love proved that every dime we had raised and every mile ran or walked mattered.  Research matters. My diagnosis and treatment were were different than what my mom received, what my great aunts received, and what every person after me will receive.  Those dollars matter and that research save lives.

It’s definitely scary. I didn’t know how to behave or how to act, but what I’ve been taught from a very young age is every day is another day.  Head down and work hard. We always say one day at a time, I know that that’s used for many struggles around the world, but taking one day at a time really got me through it. While life-altering, breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. While there’s much left to do in terms of research and treatment, there have been advances. I had a fast-growing tumor, but my healthcare team knew what to do and my doctors guided me and I was able to make my own medical decisions, which is also incredibly important and ultimately the reason why I can sit here today.

My people are everything and I am forever grateful for your support. To donate, please click here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Kara’s Story part 2

Part 2

And then it was me.

There was a lump.  A lump I ignored.  I had one before and it was nothing.  So at my Friday morning checkup, that turned into an all-day test extravaganza, I thought was nothing.  Once I fully understood that there might be an issue, everyone kept assuring me “This is routine, this is normal, these spots show up, we’re just going to watch it, blah blah blah blah blah”.  I went home, I went about my life and I waited for those “nothing” results to come in.  I got on an airplane on Monday morning and flew to Las Vegas for the annual promotional products trade show. When our flight landed, there was a missed call and a voicemail from my actual doctor saying, “Please call me immediately”. As I sat in a hotel room in Las Vegas with my doctor on the other end of the line saying, “I need you to get on the next flight home”, my response was “No, I don’t”.  I know that sounds really crazy, but at that moment my answer was no.  I needed to process, I needed to get my head on straight, and at that point, I knew I needed to keep my job to keep my insurance to pay for what was ahead.  So no, I don’t.  I decided in that instant that I wasn’t leaving that hotel room, and I didn’t. I think it was a solid twenty-four to thirty-six hours before I even got out of bed because I didn’t know what to do.  I finally got up for a cheeseburger…and a beer.  It wasn’t supposed to be me. Everyone said that it was fine. This is fine. This is normal. These scans happen and it’s your age and it’s your heredity. I just kept thinking, “it can’t be me”. And when they said, “You have cancer”, I just kind of shut down. No thank you.

Everything from that trip to Vegas is largely a blur, but I had an amazing support system and I had someone there with me who picked me up and said, “When you’re ready, let’s do this”. I don’t know what clicked, but it was after about a day and a half there that I got up and said, I’m here to work. We’re going to do this. So, I put my big girl pants on and out we walked, straight to the trade show floor. I told no one.  I wasn’t in that place yet.  In addition to my cheeseburger, I picked up a lovely tattoo to commemorate the experience. When in Vegas, right? I spent WAY too much money in the Mandalay Bay casino that night, but it made me feel better. Then, I got on the airplane and I went home early, just like the doctor asked. That was Wednesday, and on Thursday I officially had my appointment with the doctor and we had a plan of attack. I started that plan the following Tuesday. To donate, please click here.

Kara Keister Breast Cancer survivor

Breast Cancer Awareness and Kara’s Story Part 1

Breast Cancer Awareness Kara I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse, but the joke on the Ward side of my family is that we have a rubber band arm. It just shoots up in the air and we can’t stop it.  My penchant for volunteerism, fundraising, and lending a helping hand started when I was little. I grew up in the Catholic faith where we learned a lot about service and organization. While attending a small, Catholic school you volunteer A LOT; you work in the concession stand with Aunt Carol, you take money at volleyball games, you learn how to count change at a very young age. It’s part of the gig. As a family, we did a lot of volunteering together. We’d work at festivals and events.  We were at every community event frying donuts or flipping hamburgers or cleaning tables or hauling boxes. I was brought up with this sense of service and community and it’s just continuing to be passed down through our family and generations. I started out with my aunt when I was very young helping with the local community parade and now one of my best friends runs the show and I still am out there every single first Saturday of August in the heat, wearing a Sheriff’s vest in the middle of the street, directing traffic. It’s just that small-town mentality. You pitch in, you help out, and it’s how we make the world go round.

On top of that, I am a twenty-three-plus-year volunteer for Special Olympics Ohio. It’s an organization that is incredibly near and dear to my heart. I started there with my uncle and my brother when I was in junior high and early high school, and I haven’t ever stopped. And then comes my love of fundraising.  I love a good event.  Fun run, 5K, family walk, golf outing, poker walk – you name it, I’m here for it.  And when that event touches your heart, affects your or your family, or makes you feel like you are really making a difference, the chances that you are going to give of the time of your money, of your own effort are going to significantly increase.  Those events that truly resonate with me are the organizations that support the Think Pink movement, breast cancer awareness and research, and women’s health. It’s so incredibly important that we talk about women’s health and organizations like The American Cancer Society, Look Good Feel Better, Sephora Brave Beauty, and all of the amazing programs for women who have been diagnosed. Pink ribbons have been prominent in my life from a young age.  We wore pink for our great aunts, we ran in their honor and memory.  When I was in high school it hit even closer to home. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. So immediately our family flocked to those organizations.   We wore pink, we ran, we walked, we gave, and we supported because it meant more to us now than ever.  And now the whole family does it every single year – mom, dad, brother, aunts, uncles, all the way down to the babies in the strollers.  We are out there, loud and proud, rocking our pink ribbons and making a difference for every other person who hears those words, “You have breast cancer.”To donate, please click here:

Kara Keister Breast Cancer survivor