‘Girlfriends’ Star Keesha Sharp on Losing Her Mother to Pancreatic Cancer

Four summers ago, Keesha Sharp found out that her mother had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America. Sadly, her mom died in August.

However, Sharp, who starred as Monica on this hit sitcom “Girlfriends,” and has more recently been seen on “Empire” and “The Good Fight,” is turning her grief into action. She has teamed up with Stand Up to Cancer and the Lustgarten Foundation on the Pancreatic Cancer Collective initiative to help promote clinical trials.

“My mom eventually tried them toward the end. She was so sick, and yet, she felt like it was working,” the actor-director tells Variety. “She was given one to three more months to live, but it was still too late for her.”

“The experience is still very raw for me; I want to call my mom every day,” she continues. “But I think that helps me, because it gives me hope. It gives me something to fight for.”

The Pancreatic Cancer Collective debuted a PSA on Nov. 19 to close out Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, following the launch of a health equity initiative inviting patients from diverse races and ethnicities to benefit equally from treatments available through clinical trials.

Sharp says it’s personally important for her campaign to reach the Black community because Black Americans have a 20% higher incidence rate than any other group.

To recharge from a grueling year, Sharp acted in a Christmas comedy movie that is set to debut in December. Looking to the future, she hopes to continue using her platform to share resources and give hope to pancreatic cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones.

“I just want to save other mothers and fathers and sisters, brothers and children out there,” she says.

Stand Up to Cancer and the Lustgarten Foundation have funded more than 400 researchers studying pancreatic cancer at roughly 70 institutions in the U.S. and the U.K. With the launch of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective, they hope to reach new collaborators, improve diagnosis of the disease and find new treatments.

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