Cervivor School to Legislature

In September 2015 I was able to attend my first Cervivor School.  I traveled to San Diego and I did not know what to expect. I knew I was going to meet women who had a similar experience to me, women I could relate to, women with cervical cancer experiences.  I was no stranger to cervical cancer or sharing my story at this point, I had first been diagnosed in 2012 and I started sharing my story on my blog so that others could hear my story.  I had the opportunity to share my story on video so that it could be shared for #CCAM 2016 to medical providers by a company.  I thought I was sharing my story impactfully.  What was I going to learn at Cervivor School?

I can remember sitting in Cervivor School in aww of all the women surrounding me.  Amazed at the amount of women who were ready to get out there and share their personal lives and stories.  It was great to see all the different ways these women were ready to advocate.  It added fuel to my advocacy.  It was like igniting a fire.  I transitioned my blog from just a place that I could share information about my story to a place where I could share information with purpose.  I started using a call to action approach whenever possible.  Cervivor School gave me the tools to reach out to media and have my voice heard.

All of the tools I have learned from Cervivor have helped me to grow in my advocacy.  I learned a lot about speaking to legislators and how to reach out effectively.  My Cervivor story being on the the Cervivor website has been really beneficial for me because if I am working to contact someone I can easily share my story in a great format.

One year ago I was invited to go to the Indiana Statehouse and testify on behalf of House Bill 1278.  This is a bill that was written so that Indiana would need to develop a strategic plan to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates of cervical cancer by December 2018.  I was honored to testify in front of the Senate Health Committee as well as the House Health Committee.  In each committee the HB1278 passed unanimously.

I was welcomed to be in attendance when Governor Holcomb signed the bill into law; a bill that passed unanimously through the entire Indiana Senate and Indiana House.  It was such an amazing experience.  It even helped check something off of my Living Life List – I was able to help pass a bill to make a difference in the cervical cancer space.

Yesterday I was invited back to the Indiana Statehouse by Representative Sharon Negele, the author of HB1278.  I was invited in for a press conference where she was presented a Proclamation in honor of January being Cervical Health Awareness Month.  Following the press conference I was able to go onto the floor in front of the Indiana House and share my excitement with the representatives that Indiana is placing value on cervical cancer awareness and is dedicated in reducing the mortality and morbidity rates of cervical cancer.

I am so glad that I was able to attend my first Cervivor School and become a Cervivor Ambassador.  All of the tools I was given led to helping to make such a huge difference here in Indiana.

Have you shared your story on Cervivor yet? Follow this link to share your Cervivor story.  It is organized into a great format with prompts that can guide you through sharing your story.

Are you interested in becoming an active advocate?  Cervivor School 2018 information is available here.

 

Never In My Wildest Dreams

The day is almost over here on the East coast, but there is no way that I could let this day (January 25th) end with acknowledging how special it is to me and so many others out there. 13 years ago today, Cervivor was founded (as Tamika and Friends, Inc.). This organization was founded out of my own cervical cancer diagnosis 16 years ago. My experience with cervical cancer not only changed my life but also, everyone around me. I made a promise that if I survived this experience that I would make my survivorship count. I honor that promise with every single breath I take.

WNBA Champions Cause to Eliminate Cervical Cancer 2005

When I created this organization I had no idea that January was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, or that teal and white were the official colors for cervical cancer — there was a lot of orange!

All I knew is that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. I didn’t know how or where to start. I just knew that I had to do something.

Washington Post 2011

As most nonprofits, we started small — very grassroots. Sometimes I sit back and think of our first official meeting  — the binders that I created with orange butterfly stickers. They were hideous, but filled with an action plan that has brought us to where we are today. I sit and think of all of the things we’ve done since then, and it just seems surreal.

NYC Walk 2011

We held so many events over the years, but what I’m most proud of is the community that we’ve created. A community of not just women diagnosed with cervical cancer, but a community filled with caregivers, clinicians, researchers, health educations, social workers and so much more. I am proud of the industry partnerships and their support of our much-needed work. A lot of work that goes unseen, but is felt around the globe.

Our first Cervivor School January 25, 2014 NYC

Today also marks 4 years since we launched Cervivor School — our advocacy training retreats. We’ve had over 100 women graduate from our Cervivor Schools. This unique event is the leading advocacy training for women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the country. Our Cervivor School speakers are some of the most sought-after experts in the cervical cancer space. Our graduates are some of the most requested cervical cancer patient advocates.

This year will mark the return of some of our original programs and events (hello Stirrup Stories!), as well as new campaigns (I can’t wait for the big reveal!). We’ll continue providing our community with support and the latest news and updates. Our work has afforded us a seat at the table, and we are thankful for that. We’ve worked hard for that.

First global advocacy trip. Beijing, China 2011

My promise to you, our community is that we will continue to be an expert in the field of patient advocacy. We’re not going anywhere! Not while there are still women not being screened. Not while the HPV vaccine is still underutilized. Not while the stigma of HPV exists. Not while women feel alone. Not while women are losing their fertility, and not while women are still dying. There is way too much work for us to still do. I’m more determined than ever. I know you are, too! You’ve shown it this month alone.

Thank you for your continued support — however small or large. Thank you for helping us spread our Cervivor footprint. Thank you for helping us end cervical cancer. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would be here. But, here we are 13 years later, dedicated to what we started, still doing what we said we would do  – working to end cervical cancer. It hasn’t been easy, but neither was cancer.

xo Tamika                                                                                                                                                                                                                     16-year cervical cancer survivor AKA Cervivor                                                                                                                                          Founder, Cervivor. org

Apply to attend our upcoming Cervivor School here.