(WGHP) — Taneisha Gist was 33 years old when she found out she had stage 3 breast cancer.
“That will never get out of my head, ‘No way, she’s too young. No way, she’s too young.’”
Since first being diagnosed in 2018, the cancer has returned and has spread in stages.
Gist, who is now 38 years old, says the cancer has progressed to stage 4 breast cancer.
“I don’t know if these next weeks… I’m going to be in a hospital bed, in a hospital gown for three weeks… can’t do anything, can’t wash my hair, can’t wash my body, or anything. So, I just want to make the most out of my life,” she said.
Making a lasting impact includes advocating for other women and pushing for all insurance plans to cover mammograms starting at age 30.
Her petition has more than 50,000 signatures on change.org.
“If I leave this world and it’s 100,000 signatures, I want my Breastie over here, who’s going through breast cancer as well, I want her to pick up the torch and keep it going until change is made,” Gist said.
Currently, the draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, released in May, is that all women are screened for breast cancer starting at age 40.
40 is also the youngest age for guidelines under The North Carolina Breast and Cervical Control Program.
“I’ve had to get through some things that I never thought I would’ve had to get through before, and that’s what I want to tell people, how to get through it,” Gist said.
Gist spreads awareness and encouragement through social media and podcasts with her platform “Neishastrong.”
A cancer journey isn’t the only life experience Gist shares to provide support.
She grew up in foster care.
She had to leave Winston-Salem State University her senior year to care for her baby sister.
“I needed to come and get her, or she would be put into the system,” Gist said.
That encouraged Gist to start The Neisha Strong Emergency Fund at Winston-Salem State University.
$500 per semester can go to a WSSU student taking care of a family member or to a student who may be battling their own illness.
Gist is limited on how much work she can do, but most recently started her own business called Fruit Fries WS.
It has helped supplement her income while producing a product she likes seeing people enjoy.
“We don’t have TV cancer,” Gist said.
“It’s people who actually have to get out here and make a living while they’re going through what they’re going through.”
Despite facing challenging circumstances, Gist works to remind herself of the same optimism she shares with others.
“You literally have to take whatever emotions or whatever day you wake up with and make it the best you can.”
The first focuses on children living with different physical and developmental conditions.
The second book under the same title is about adoption, foster care and kinship placement.