Tell your story: Talking about HPV matters

Whether you know it or not, every single thing we do matters. I can’t tell you how many times I have encouraged one of our Cervivor sisters to share her story. I’ve been working with women for years and I am so proud when I see them share their story and the impact that single story makes. I was recently invited to share my story at an event for the NHMA DC-Metro Region Medical Forum: Screening and Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Hispanic Women. While, I never have a problem sharing my story, I knew that this speaking opportunity would be better suited for their target audience – a Latina. I knew the perfect person and I knew she would be terrified but she said yes and she showed up!  Watch as Vanessa shares her story publicly for the first time, and while doing so, she realized the importance of her voice in the cervical cancer space. -Tamika

When Patti asked me to write my story years ago I hesitated at first. But then, I figure, it would be ok because I could hide behind my computer. When Tamika asked me to tell my story in person surrounded by a group of professionals, I have to admit, I wanted to call out sick.

Around one year ago we did a video for Cervivor. Tamika was able to see first-hand how nervous I get when I’m in the spotlight. She didn’t give me much time to prepare last week for the NHMA DC-Metro Region Medical Forum: Screening and Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Hispanic Women. Knowing I would get nervous, I think she withheld that little detail that I would be a guest speaker. Well played, Tamika. Well played.

Before arriving at the event, I felt I was a cheater. Why I should I share my story? I never had cancer or went through chemotherapy. I didn’t loose my hair or the ability to have children. Why should I be there telling my story? And that’s when it dawned on me: I’m what they are fighting for.

For HPV to be caught on time and treated BEFORE becoming a cancer diagnosis. For my women to have a chance to live their lives after having HPV, and being able to have children. I was there to show those doctors they are fighting for us. They fought for ME. I was there to show them that their work is not in vain. I was one of those they saved.

While I sat there in the front row, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Ruchi Garg M.D. and Dr. Larry Maxwell, M.D. before my speech. Sitting there listening to them and the statistics of Cervical Cancer, I couldn’t help to think, “I’m what they are fighting for.”

Even tough I went through a four-year fight with HPV, I was able to have a child. My husband has a wife, my parents didn’t have to lose their child, and my child didn’t have to grow up without a mother because my HPV was caught on time and treated.

Afterward my speech I felt empowered, proud and extremely honored to be able to share my story. I learned that one story, my story, can truly make a difference.

– Vanessa

Celebrating milestones after cervical cancer

Untitled design10/10/2015: the day I turned 44. Pretty amazing I think… for me, celebrating another birthday is pretty amazing!
In the morning of my 44th birthday I look at the mirror and see a few changes: my unmanageable hair has more grays than I can count (thank God for hair color and balayages and whatever new thing my stylist does to hide them!); I notice a few more wrinkles although not too bad for my age; the stubborn age spots that won’t go away courtesy of many years of sunbathing at Playa Azul; oh, and of course, the extra pounds… Yes, I have changed a lot in 44 years, but looking at the mirror I notice something else, the happiness that radiates from my face. Yes, I am in fact happy, and today, I am happy to be alive and I am grateful, so, so grateful!
I find birthdays are a great opportunity for reflection; this is not something I did when I was younger but after you are told “you have cancer” birthdays take a whole new meaning. Cancer almost killed me at 27, I was literally told to decide if I wanted to be resuscitated or not because my condition was not improving. Most people don’t realize that, when you have cancer, you end up fighting a few different battles all at once; there’s the cancer (those bad cells multiplying like crazy trying to make your body their home), then there is the side effects of the treatments (the constant puking, the incredible weakness, the insomnia, the constant bathroom tours because the radiation pretty much messes up all the areas around the cervix); and then there are the complications that come with the illness (the infections, blood clots, anemia, etc.) Fighting cancer is not an easy fight, there are too many things to do and watch for, but it is a fight that you put all your effort into just for a chance to live one more day.

Read Maria’s full post.