Today is National Coming Out Day. I reflect on the different aspects of being gay, having been closeted for years, the amount of courage and fear associated with coming out, and the gain in finally being who I am and love, who my soul desires. I reflect on the years that I spent soul searching knowing that the spark was slowly lighting from within when I was given a “post-hysterectomy-oophorectomy cancer diagnosis” in 2010.
However, it was not until another seven years later that I would embark on the journey from within my soul that would actually allow me to comprehend what “truly living in my authentic life” meant.
In January 2016, my best friend, Nikki, gained her heavenly wings after a long battle against ovarian, lung, liver, bone, and brain cancers. In one of my final visits at her bedside, she said something to me that resonated so deep within my soul. She whispered to me “Promise me. Promise me you will start living. Really live life! I love you so much, friend!”
That moment was the beginning of a “shift” in my life.
I realized I owed it to myself and to my daughter to begin healing and authentically seeking who I am because I was living a life that displayed dishonesty of ones’ self to my own daughter. I didn’t want her growing up with less self value than her worth because she was afraid to chase after what her heart longs for.
While the healing process is a long road traveled, I didn’t have the support that I expected. I battled survivor guilt, anxiety, and stress from years of processing the hysterectomy oophorectomy treatment I had undergone.
I learned that a cancer caregiver can be a multitude of people in many seasons of life. While the ones who cared at my bedside post surgery were not the same caregivers helping me with accepting and loving myself while healing from past traumas.
Then I met the caregiver who completed my soul.
On October 9, 2017, I met Tara, who equally challenged and changed my life for the better in every aspect imaginable. It was the amount of wholeness and love that I knew I could not contain from the world so this led to my coming out journey.
As a cancer survivor, I undergo an annual wellness pap test and exam to ensure there is no reoccurrence. As an openly gay woman, there are challenges in finding a provider who is affirming and one that I am comfortable discussing personal aspects of my relationship with.
I say this in my sweetest mama bear voice, ladies — cancer does not discriminate. Cancer does not care about your sexual orientation or history. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you still need wellness exams and cancer screenings. Your health is important. There are many resources available to help find an LGBTQ+ affirming gynecologist.
Since coming out, I have found a new gynecologist who is LGBTQ+ affirming. It took several attempts with researching websites. While it shouldn’t matter, it does. You should feel completely safe, confident and comfortable with your gynecologist.
I have not always had a great support system. I understand the pain and anxiety associated with loss of friends and family in the coming out process, but I also know the happiness and joy in finally filling the void that was keeping me from living my authentic life.
My message to my LGBTQ+ cancer community is quite simple: Kudos to you for owning your story, stepping into your brave, embracing your chaos and breaking free from the chains of conformity to find your contentment.
I know how challenging the journey can be! Even though we travel on the same road as another person, our destination and duration are unique.
Remember, it is necessary to take a rest and exhale. Freshen up. Look in the mirror and remind yourself why you’re on this trip! Seek the adventure that your heart yearns for.
While I cannot promise the road you travel will always be easy, I can promise it is worth every step.
You are not alone, you are loved, and you are worthy! I relate to your life and I am a “safe place” to come out to for support and encouragement. Someday your journey will be someone else’s survivor guide.
Much love and light,
Cervivor community member Tina is a mother of a teenage daughter, partner, and longtime Cervivor supporter. She was diagnosed with cervical carcinoma in situ (CIS) at age 26. Her goal is to help women remember the importance of their cancer screenings regardless of their sexual orientation. She hopes to educate, inspire, and support women, especially in the LGBTQ+ community.