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

The Cervivor School Experience

We’re sharing Cervivor Jennie’s Cervivor School story this week. Since Cervivor School a month ago, Jennie has run with her new advocate roll. She, like me, will be at the National Race to End Women’s Cancer in DC on Nov. 8. I couldn’t be prouder of this Cervivor Sister.

-Tamika

jennie elmsI had a basic idea of what the school would be about, basing off Facebook posts and Cervivor’s website. I was so excited to learn more about this disease, and to meet a whole group of women who had been through what I had been through.

I flew out to San Diego on Wednesday, the day before Cervivor School started. I was VERY anxious. I checked into the hotel, The Horton Grand, in the historic Gas Lamp district of San Diego. The Horton Grand is old fashioned and very quaint. And two rooms are supposedly haunted, rooms 209 and 309. Several of us experienced some odd things during our stay, so I’m a believer!

Things kicked off Thursday evening with a welcome reception. I talked to a few ladies. As we talked and got to know each other, I found myself crying a lot. I was a little surprised by this. I’m over a year out from being declared NED (no evidence of disease), and I thought I had my emotions in check. But sharing my story with Melissa and listening to her story brought it right back up to the surface. I was told this was normal, that there is a lot of crying at Cervivor School, in a good, cathartic way. That was definitely true for me!

Friday’s focus was on telling our stories, and how to go about telling our stories in different situations. I’ve definitely been using Facebook for my own grassroots advocacy, but Friday’s speakers taught me how to be more effective.

It was so interesting to hear all these different stories. Even if we were staged the same, our treatments differed. And our feelings about things were the same about a lot of things. We split up into groups to answer and discuss questions posed to us, and we moved tables and teams for each new question, but the discussions were all very similar.

When I was first diagnosed with cervical cancer, I felt very alone. I found support through a group on Facebook, and have wound up making friendships with women from that group in real life. I have been lucky to have spent time with some of these women face to face. But I had never before been in a room with so many women who had been through what I’d been through, and really and truly GOT IT. It was wonderfully overwhelming, and I felt so blessed. I even found out that some of us at Cervivor School had mutual friends through the Facebook group.

We are all from different places, different socioeconomic statuses, different races, different religions. But we bonded so easily because we had all been touched by a horrific disease that has a stigma of shame attached to it. Cervivor School also helps to teach us how to advocate and knock down that stigma, so women will know that they are not alone.

Read Jennie’s full post.