Keri Burnette is a cancer survivor, fundraiser, and advocate for taking health into your own hands. By sharing her journey, she hopes to encourage others to be their own advocates and strive to remain in touch with their bodies during sickness and health. 

Keri, a native Minnesotan-turned-Memphian since 1988, has worked as a hairdresser and salon manager for many years. Keri was always aware of her family history of cancer, with a father who was diagnosed at the age of 46 and several other family members with breast cancer. Because of this knowledge, Keri got regular screenings and mammograms to check for breast cancer. After one unfortunate checkup, Keri was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and began treatment at West Cancer Center. “When I first heard the words from my doctor saying I have cancer, it was hard to process or even understand. But once I came to terms with what was happening and developed a plan, I never looked back,” Keri says. 

Keri found her sense of humor to be her best way to find levity during this time and remembers often cracking jokes with her husband and friends about her treatments. She also found her physical fitness to bring her peace before, during, and after her diagnosis and treatment, walking three miles daily and enjoying light weightlifting to stay fit. In terms of her mental fitness during this difficult time, Keri recognizes her amazing support team and other inspiring patients she met along the way. “Cancer isn’t picky or choosy at all, and getting to meet so many people from so many walks of life experiencing a similar situation to me was incredibly rewarding,” she says. 

Keri was grateful to receive quick treatment and recovery due in part to her early diagnosis. Eventually, the plastic surgeon who performed her reconstructive surgery following her mastectomy asked about her interest in supporting West through their fundraising foundation, and Keri came on board. She now serves as Senior Director of Operations and Donor Relations at West Cancer Foundation, where she has made it her life’s work to give back by raising funds for patients. This fundraising contributes to supportive care patients need, such as mammograms, transportation, and post-mastectomy supplies — all services that benefited Keri during her diagnosis and treatment. “West Cancer Foundation is continually looking for ways to break down the barriers for cancer care, and it could not be more rewarding to be part of that effort,” she says. 

Reflecting on her journey, Keri recognizes the significance of how proactive she was in knowing her family’s cancer history, remaining in touch with her body, and advocating for her own screening and care while making an effort to retain a positive attitude. “I am so fortunate to be cancer-free and moving forward. I have no time for negativity. Every day, I aim to have a good day, have fun, focus on gratitude, and just keep moving!” 

By Zoe Harrison 

Photo by Tindall Stephens