Barbara Knight, the President and Director of the Barbara Knight Foundation, is a female entrepreneur, cancer survivor, and mother. While successfully beating breast cancer in 2018, she was later diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in 2021. Her mission is to beat AML and raise awareness for this deadly disease that other cancer organizations often overshadow. Her focus is raising awareness about AML while giving back to AML patients to ease some of their stress through grants to cover health co-pays, groceries, bills, and other expenses.
We sat down with Barbara to get to discuss her foundation and her inspiring personal story.
Grit Daily: Please tell us about yourself, fighting cancer, and how the Barbara Knight Foundation came to life?
Barbara Knight: I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 7 when I made chocolate lollipops and sold them on the bus before arriving at school. In 2001 I founded JustGot2HaveIt!, an international gift and home decor sales agency. Just Got 2 Have It! Inc. soon became a leader in the industry, having a premier presence in the Atlanta and Las Vegas Gift Marts.
While continuing to run the sales agency, I expanded my business enterprise by crossing over to residential real estate investments. In 2014 I founded Honey Tree Properties. My greatest achievement, however, is my daughter Lucy. There is no better title in the world than Momma.
In 2017 I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer—a rare and deadly form of Breast Cancer requiring heavy doses of chemo and radiation. In 2018 I became a breast cancer survivor.
Just when I thought the waters were safe again, I was diagnosed with treatment-related AML in February of 2021. It’s like winning the reverse lottery. Having only a .0045% of getting leukemia from breast cancer treatment. With the help of family, friends, supporters, and God, I am determined to beat Acute Myeloid Leukemia!
On my birthday, May 12, 2022, I posted a request to my friends on Facebook to help me help other AML patients who are in financial need during their battle with acute myeloid leukemia. I raised $90,000 with one donation request Facebook post. I realized right then I could make a real impact on the small community of patients that get diagnosed each year. Only about 19,000 people are diagnosed each year with acute myeloid leukemia. With $90,000, every patient can be touched who has been newly diagnosed. 75% of all patients diagnosed do not survive past two years. Creating awareness for this deadly and rare cancer is very important to those affected by this disease. There is not enough attention given to our AML community.
Grit Daily: You’ve started a cancer foundation, all while fighting cancer yourself. What motivates and drives you to keep fighting and working towards your goal?
Barbara Knight: This is a great question, and I often ask myself why I chose to take on such a big but important role. My heart breaks for anyone fighting this terrible disease, especially those who cannot have the help needed to make each day a little bit easier. It’s so hard to do daily chores like cleaning the house, taking care of the kids, driving yourself to and from appointments, or simply showering and getting ready for the day. So many patients do not have caregivers and have to travel hours away to get treatment leaving their families behind. Not only are they out of work to battle this disease, they now have extensive new costs to travel to have the proper medical care. Picking up a prescription could put them in financial distress, having to choose between rent or life-saving medications. No one should have to choose between a place to sleep or staying alive. The Foundation’s mission is to alleviate these situations.
Grit Daily: What are your goals for the Barbara Knight Foundation? What do you hope to accomplish through the foundation?
Barbara Knight: Founded in 2021, the Barbara Knight Foundation strives to promote awareness of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), the vital need for bone marrow donors, and to provide financial and emotional support to AML patients. With the support of donors, we can help make the battle against AML something of the past!
We aim to be the leading resource for acute myeloid leukemia patients who need the help that everyone should have and do not have to worry about anything except fighting to stay alive.
Grit Daily: There are many cancer foundations. Why do you feel it’s so important to spread increased awareness about Acute Myeloid Leukemia?
Barbara Knight: With so few people being diagnosed with AML compared to the estimated 7 million being diagnosed each year with breast cancer, there’s not enough focus on AML. This leads to underfunding for research and less available financial support to patients needing medications and overall financial support. It is not possible to work and fight this disease. So many patients are left without income, having to choose between life and being able to afford living expenses. Seven million breast cancer patients get diagnosed each year. These patients have a lot more attention than 19,000 AML patients. We lose out on all the research funding due to the limited number of diagnosed patients. It’s always a numbers game in the cancer market.
Grit Daily: What is the significance of organ donation, and how that affects people who are sick and people who are fighting cancer?
Barbara Knight: So many AML patients need bone marrow transplants to survive. Their current immune system has stopped working and needs to be replaced with a new immune system from a donor. It’s the only chance at a cure. Without bone marrow donors, they don’t have a fighting chance. 70% of patients don’t have a match in the family, so bone marrow donors are so important to help patients who don’t have a related match.
Grit Daily: How do you stay so positive with the current odds against you?
Barbara Knight: Everyone has a choice to be happy or not. I choose happiness. I believe that the day we are born and the day we die has already been written. Being unhappy would not help make a difference, so choosing happiness is better for me and all those who are in my life.
Grit Daily: Are you planning on expanding the Barbara Knight Foundation to other states? What’s on the horizon for you and the foundation?
Barbara Knight: Absolutely! We are hosting our first annual Gala this year on April 1st at the Mar A Lago club. Our goal is to have one on the West Coast too. We’re currently offering stipends nationwide. We plan to offer stipends globally as we grow.
Grit Daily: Your story is inspiring; as a female founder of a foundation and someone who is fighting cancer, can you give some inspiration or tips to anyone else wanting to start their own business?
Barbara Knight: You have to have passion for whatever you want to start, and then you need to have a great team behind you that is as passionate about your vision as you are and who can drive the vision forward. If you keep dreaming and never take action toward your goal, your dreams will always remain untouchable. My biggest tip would be just try, even if you fail. Most often, you will, at minimum, learn something and grow.