Uniting to End Cancer Disparities for All

Every year, during the third week of June, communities across the United States come together to observe National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week. This important week, spearheaded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Oncology Center of Excellence, aims to raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of cancer on Black families and to promote cancer prevention, screening, and treatment within this community.

Understanding the Disparities
Cancer affects all demographics, but statistics reveal a troubling disparity: Black Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

The reasons for this disparity are multifaceted, involving socioeconomic factors, access to healthcare, environmental exposures, and genetic predispositions.

National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week is designed to address these disparities by:

  1. Promoting Education and Awareness: Increasing awareness about the higher cancer risks faced by Black families encourages proactive health measures. Understanding the importance of early detection and regular screenings can significantly improve survival rates.
  1. Highlighting Preventative Measures: Educating the community about lifestyle choices that can reduce cancer risk, such as maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use, is crucial.
  1. Encouraging Participation in Clinical Trials: There is a significant underrepresentation of Black Americans in clinical trials, which can hinder the development of effective treatments for this demographic. National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week seeks to increase awareness and participation in these trials, ensuring that new treatments are tested for efficacy across diverse populations.

Community Engagement
One of the most impactful aspects of National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week is its focus on community involvement.

Local organizations, healthcare providers, and advocates host a variety of events and initiatives to engage the community, such as:

  • Health Fairs and Screenings: Offering free or low-cost cancer screenings and health check-ups to encourage early detection.
  • Educational Workshops: Providing information on cancer prevention, treatment options, and the importance of regular medical check-ups.
  • Support Groups and Counseling Services: Creating spaces for those affected by cancer to share their experiences, receive support, and find resources.

Real Stories, Real Impact
Hearing from individuals who have been affected by cancer can be incredibly powerful. Testimonials from cancer survivors, family members, and healthcare providers highlight the real-life impact of cancer within the Black community. These stories create solidarity and provide hope, reminding us that we are not alone in this fight.

Taking Action
Here are some ways you can get involved in National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week:

  1. Spread the Word: Use social media platforms to share information and resources. The hashtags #Cervivor #CervivorNoir #BlackFamCan #EndCervicalCancer are a great way to join the conversation and reach a wider audience.
  2. Participate in Local Events: Attend health fairs, workshops, and other events in your community. Encourage friends and family to join you.
  1. Volunteer: Offer your time to local organizations that are hosting events or providing support services.
  1. Get Screened: If you haven’t already, schedule a cancer screening. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. The hashtag #Screen4Me is a great way to spread awareness and share the importance of screening.

National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week is more than just a week of activities; it’s a call to action for year-round commitment to addressing and reducing the impact of cancer on Black families. By coming together, we can make significant strides in education, prevention, and treatment, ultimately saving lives and creating healthier communities.

Cervivor Community Members and Cervical Cancer Survivors (Left to Right): Keesha Carter, Gwendolyn Jackson, and Lindsay Gullatte-Lee

As we observe National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week, let’s remember that awareness and action go hand in hand. Together, we can create a future where cancer disparities are a thing of the past, and every family has the knowledge and resources to fight cancer effectively.

Honoring the Legacy of Professor Lynette Denny

It is with profound sadness and a deep sense of loss that we, the community of Cervivor, Inc., join in mourning the passing of Professor Lynette Denny.

A devoted individual in the mission to end cervical cancer, Professor Denny’s contributions to women’s health, particularly in low-resource settings, have left a lasting mark on the world.

As the Chair and Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and a registered sub-specialist in gynecological oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, Professor Denny dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for women globally. Her passion for preventing cervical cancer was evident in her extensive research over the past 15 years, culminating in over 100 peer-reviewed papers. Her insights and findings have guided countless healthcare professionals and researchers in their quest to eradicate this preventable disease.

Professor Denny was a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, gracing numerous international conferences as a keynote speaker. Her expertise and commitment were recognized by many prestigious awards, including the “Distinguished Scientist for Improving the Quality of Life of Women” by the South African Department of Science and Technology in 2006, the Shoprite Checkers SABC 2 “Women of the Year” award for Science and Technology in 2004, and the South African Medical Association award for “Extraordinary Service to Medicine” in 2012. Her accolades also include a Fellowship ad eudeum by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the United Kingdom and the British Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology Founders’ Medal in 2014.

In March 2015, Professor Denny’s outstanding work was further recognized with the SA Medical Research Council award for a Cancer Research Centre project, reflecting her leadership in the SAMRC/UCT Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre. Her efforts were also acknowledged by the CANSA AG Oettle Memorial Award and the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Award in 2015, as well as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Medal of Honour Award in 2016.

As the immediate Past President of IGCS and immediate Past Chair of the FIGO Gynaecologic Cancer Committee, Professor Denny’s influence extended far and wide. Her collaborative spirit and ability to secure substantial funding for innovative research have paved the way for future breakthroughs in cancer prevention and treatment.

Professor Denny’s legacy is not only etched in her scientific achievements but also in the countless lives she touched and improved through her work. Her dedication, compassion, and tireless efforts have created a brighter future for women worldwide, particularly those in disadvantaged communities.

In remembering Professor Lynette Denny, we honor a true pioneer, a dedicated researcher, and a compassionate advocate for women’s health. Her legacy will continue to inspire and guide us in our mission to prevent cervical cancer and support those affected by it. We extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues, and all who were fortunate to know and work with her.

Rest in peace, Professor Denny. Your light will continue to shine brightly in our hearts and in the ongoing mission to end cervical cancer.

Team Cervivor Attends ASCO 2024

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting is a premier event in the oncology community, gathering thousands of professionals from around the globe to discuss groundbreaking research, innovative treatments, and the future of cancer care. This year, Team Cervivor attended ASCO 2024, marking a significant milestone for our organization and highlighting the critical role of patient advocates in the fight against cancer.

What is ASCO?
ASCO, founded in 1964, is a leading professional organization for physicians and oncology professionals. Its mission is to conquer cancer through research, education, and the promotion of the highest quality patient care. The annual ASCO meeting is the largest of its kind, offering a platform for the latest scientific advancements, policy discussions, and networking opportunities. Attendees include oncologists, researchers, pharmaceutical representatives, and patient advocates, all united in their dedication to improving cancer care.

Our presence at ASCO 2024 was a testament to the growing recognition of the importance of patient voices in shaping cancer care and research. Here’s why our participation matters:

  1. Amplifying Patient Voices: As patient advocates, we bring the perspectives and experiences of those directly affected by cervical cancer. Our stories and insights are invaluable in guiding research priorities and improving patient care practices.
  2. Cultivating Collaboration: Attending ASCO allows us to collaborate with researchers, clinicians, and other advocacy groups. These interactions help us stay informed about the latest advancements and ensure that patient needs are at the forefront of scientific discussions.
  3. Promoting Awareness and Education: By engaging with the oncology community, we can spread awareness about cervical cancer, highlight the importance of prevention and early detection, and share our educational resources. Our presence at ASCO reinforces the message that cervical cancer is preventable and treatable when caught early.
  1. Influencing Policy and Research: Our participation at ASCO provides opportunities to advocate for policies that benefit cervical cancer patients and survivors. We can also contribute to shaping research agendas by emphasizing areas that require more attention, such as disparities in cancer care and the psychosocial impacts of the disease.

Team Cervivor Listed from Left to Right: Morgan Newman, MSW, Community Engagement Liaison; Tamika Felder, Founder & Chief Visionary; and Kimberly Williams, MHCM, Chief Diversity Equity & Inclusion Officer

Highlights from ASCO 2024
ASCO 2024 was a whirlwind of inspiring sessions, groundbreaking research presentations, and meaningful interactions. Here are some highlights from our experience:

Networking Opportunities: We connected with oncologists, researchers, and fellow advocates, nurturing relationships that will strengthen our advocacy efforts. These connections are crucial for creating a supportive network dedicated to cervical cancer eradication.

Media and Outreach: We participated in interviews, highlighting the importance of patient advocacy and the work we do. These media opportunities allowed us to reach a broader audience and amplify our message.

We also had the honor of having our Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder, speak on a crucial panel titled, “Bridging the Gap in Cancer Care for Adolescents and Young Adults” hosted by The Atlantic. This enlightening session shed light on the challenges faced by the nearly 1.5 million adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer each year. Addressing issues such as work, health insurance, school, fertility, and emotional distress, the panel explored the unique cancer biology of this age group and the lack of survival improvements compared to other age demographics. Tamika, alongside other survivors, oncologists, and advocates, shared her journey and insights, emphasizing the importance of tailored care and pioneering local programs that support the distinct needs of young cancer patients. Her participation underscored Team Cervivor’s commitment to advocating for comprehensive and compassionate cancer care for all age groups.

Attending ASCO 2024 was more than just an opportunity to learn and network; it was a chance to reaffirm our commitment to the mission to end cervical cancer. We left the conference inspired and energized, ready to continue our mission with renewed vigor. Our presence at ASCO underscores the vital role of patient advocates in the oncology community, and we are proud to be a voice for cervical cancer patients and survivors worldwide.

As we move forward, we will leverage the knowledge and connections gained at ASCO to enhance our educational programs, support initiatives, and advocacy efforts. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by cervical cancer and work towards a future free of this preventable disease. Stay tuned for more updates from Team Cervivor and join us in our journey to eradicate cervical cancer. Together, we are stronger, and together, we can achieve a world without cervical cancer.

Embracing Resilience: Celebrating Survivors, Heritage, and Pride This June

As June dawns upon us, it brings with it a vast spectrum of significance to our community, weaving together the threads of awareness, diversity, resilience, and celebration. This month, we commemorate not just one, but three vital observances: National Cancer Survivors Month, Caribbean Heritage Month, and Pride Month. The community at Cervivor embraces the intersectionality of these occasions and honors the strength, courage, and vibrancy of those who embody their spirit. Read along with us as we navigate each thread.

National Cancer Survivors Month serves as a reminder of the estimated 20 million worldwide who have confronted the harrowing journey of cancer diagnosis and treatment. It’s a time to celebrate the resilience of survivors, who navigate through the storm of uncertainty with unwavering resolve. Each survivor’s story is a testament to strength, reminding us that hope can thrive even in the face of adversity.

Within the realm of cancer survivors, there exists a rich diversity, reflective of the world’s cultures and identities. This June, we also celebrate Caribbean Heritage Month, paying homage to the vibrant traditions, flavors, and rhythms of the Caribbean diaspora. From the sun-kissed beaches to the pulsating beats of Calypso and Reggae, the Caribbean exudes a spirit of resilience ingrained in its history of triumph over adversity. In honoring Caribbean heritage, we recognize the strength and unity cultivated by communities in the face of challenges, a resilience mirrored in the journey of cancer survivors.

Moreover, as we embrace the mosaic of identities that enrich our world, we also commemorate Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community’s courage, diversity, and resilience. LGBTQIA+ individuals facing cancer diagnoses often navigate unique challenges, from concerns about discrimination in healthcare to seeking inclusive support networks. Pride Month serves as a crucial time for visibility and acceptance, creating a culture of empowerment, inclusivity, and support for all those affected by cancer, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

At Cervivor, we understand the power of community, support, and solidarity in the face of adversity. Our mission transcends borders and boundaries, embracing individuals from all walks of life, united by the shared experience of cervical cancer. Through advocacy, education, and support, we strive to empower survivors, caregivers, and allies to navigate their journey with courage and resilience.

As we reflect on the significance of National Cancer Survivors Month, Caribbean Heritage Month, and Pride Month, let us honor the resilience, diversity, and strength that define our collective human experience. Together, we stand as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human soul, capable of overcoming even the darkest of storms with unwavering grace and resilience.

For more content, follow the main Cervivor pages across our social media platforms here.

Breaking The Silence: Mental Health and Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer affects thousands of individuals worldwide every year, striking at the very core of their physical and emotional well-being. Beyond the physical toll, the mental health implications of this disease can be intense and often overlooked. As we shed light on Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s crucial to acknowledge and address the unique challenges faced by cervical cancer patients and survivors.

Receiving a cervical cancer diagnosis can unleash a whirlwind of emotions—fear, disbelief, anger, and sadness to name a few. Suddenly, life takes an unexpected turn, and individuals are thrust into a world of medical appointments, treatments, and uncertainties about their future. The shock of diagnosis alone can trigger anxiety and depression, leaving many feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable.

The journey through treatment is no less taxing. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to treatment. From surgery and chemotherapy to radiation therapy, each step comes with its own set of physical and emotional challenges. Coping with the side effects of treatment, such as fatigue, pain, and nausea, can take a toll on one’s mental well-being, often leading to feelings of isolation and despair. Danielle shares her reflections on navigating the difficulties of a cervical cancer diagnosis and beyond.

Cervical cancer treatments can also greatly impact body image and intimacy. Surgeries and radiation therapy may result in changes to physical appearance, including weight loss, scarring, and an invisible change with loss of fertility, which can shatter one’s sense of self-esteem and femininity. The fear of sexual dysfunction and intimacy issues post-treatment can strain relationships and further exacerbate feelings of isolation, shame, and inadequacy.

Even after successful treatment, the emotional scars of cervical cancer linger. Survivors often grapple with survivor’s guilt, anxiety about recurrence, and the long-term physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatments. The transition to survivorship can be a challenging period marked by a mix of gratitude for life, survivor guilt, and the lingering trauma of the cancer experience. Read how Kyana found support and what she found helpful for self-care.

In the face of these challenges, it’s crucial to break the silence surrounding mental health and cervical cancer. By hosting an open dialogue and raising awareness, we can shatter the stigma associated with mental health struggles and create a supportive environment for those affected by cervical cancer. Support networks play a pivotal role in the mental well-being of cervical cancer patients and survivors. Whether through peer support groups like our monthly Creating Connections, professional counseling services, or private online communities like I’m a Cervivor, connecting with others who understand their experiences can provide much-needed validation, comfort, and hope.

Additionally, healthcare providers play a vital role in addressing the mental health needs of cervical cancer patients and survivors. By integrating psychosocial support into cancer care, healthcare teams can offer comprehensive care that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of the disease. Check out a few community partners and resources below:

As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, we stand in solidarity with cervical cancer patients and survivors–amplifying their voices, validating their experiences, and advocating for comprehensive support services that address their unique mental health needs. We can empower resilience, cultivate hope, and pave the way for a future where mental health is prioritized and no one faces the journey of cervical cancer alone, afraid, or ashamed.

The Vital Role of Clinical Trials

May marks a significant occasion in the medical community: National Clinical Trials Month and National Clinical Trials Day [May 20th]. It’s a time to recognize the invaluable contributions of clinical research to the advancement of healthcare. This month, as we acknowledge the progress made in various fields, let’s focus our attention on the critical role clinical trials play in ending cervical cancer—a disease that affects thousands of individuals worldwide. 

The Importance of Clinical Trials in Ending Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer remains a global health emergency, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Despite advancements in screening and prevention as well as through vaccines, many individuals still succumb to this preventable disease. Clinical trials serve as the cornerstone of progress in cervical cancer research. They provide a platform for testing new treatments, improving existing therapies, and enhancing our understanding of the disease’s biology.

In recent years, clinical trials have led to groundbreaking discoveries in cervical cancer treatment. From targeted therapies to immunotherapies, these trials have expanded treatment options, offering hope to patients who previously had limited choices. Moreover, clinical research has paved the way for personalized medicine approaches, allowing healthcare providers to tailor treatments based on individual patient characteristics, ultimately improving outcomes and reducing the various side effects.

The Role of Participation
Active participation in clinical trials is crucial for accelerating progress in cervical cancer research. Patients who enroll in trials not only gain access to cutting-edge treatments but also contribute to the collective knowledge that drives medical innovation. Each participant plays a vital role in advancing scientific understanding, ultimately benefiting future generations of patients.

Participating in a clinical trial can be a deeply personal decision, influenced by various factors such as medical history, treatment preferences, and access to care. However, it’s essential to recognize the potential impact of participation, both on an individual level and within the broader context of public health. By joining a trial, patients not only receive advanced care but also become partners in the quest to end cervical cancer once and for all.

Addressing Barriers to Participation
Despite the critical importance of clinical trials, several barriers exist that hinder participation. These may include lack of awareness, logistical challenges, concerns about safety, and disparities in access to healthcare. Overcoming these barriers requires efforts from healthcare providers, researchers, policymakers, patient advocates, and the community at large.

Education and outreach efforts are essential for raising awareness about clinical trials and dispelling misconceptions. Providing clear information about the purpose, risks, and benefits of trials empowers patients to make informed decisions about their participation. Moreover, initiatives to address logistical barriers, such as transportation assistance, financial support, and flexible scheduling, can enhance access to trials for diverse populations.

As we observe National Clinical Trials Month and National Clinical Trials Day, let’s reaffirm our commitment to advancing cervical cancer research through participation in clinical trials. Together, we can drive innovation, improve treatment options, and ultimately work towards the elimination of this devastating disease. Every contribution, no matter how small, brings us closer to our shared goal of a world free from cervical cancer. Let us stand united in the mission, embracing the hope that clinical trials offer for a brighter, healthier future.

Have you been on or are currently on a clinical trial? Are you willing to share your personal experience? We would love to hear from you! Email us today at [email protected].

Honors in Advocacy for our Leaders in the Mission to End Cervical Cancer

In the relentless mission to end cervical cancer, every victory, every recognition, is a puzzle piece of hope, a testament to the dedication of those who tirelessly advocate for progress. Today, we are honored and humbled to celebrate the remarkable achievements of three extraordinary individuals who have devoted their lives to championing the cause of cancer patients, survivors, and advocates.

Tamika Felder, Founder & Chief Visionary

At the forefront of our celebration is Tamika Felder, our Founder and Chief Visionary, whose journey from patient to nonprofit founder has been nothing short of inspiring. In 2001, Tamika faced a daunting diagnosis of cervical cancer, a moment that would change her life forever. Determined to turn her personal struggle into a source of strength for others, Tamika founded Cervivor in 2005, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering cervical cancer patients and survivors to share their stories and make a difference.

For the past 19 years, Tamika has been a trailblazer in the mission to end cervical cancer, always advocating for the voices of patients and survivors to be heard. Her commitment and relentless efforts have earned her the incredible honor of being appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board by President Joe Biden. This appointment is not only a testament to Tamika’s extraordinary leadership but also a recognition of the vital role that she and Cervivor play in shaping the future of cancer research, treatment, and prevention.

The National Cancer Advisory Board plays a crucial role in guiding the Director of the National Cancer Institute in setting the course for the national cancer research program. As we work towards President Biden’s ambitious goal of ending cancer as we know it through initiatives like the Cancer Moonshot, Tamika’s appointment ensures that the voices of cervical cancer patients and survivors will be heard loud and clear at the highest levels of decision-making.

Morgan Newman, MSW, Community Engagement Liaison

We are also thrilled to celebrate the achievements of Morgan Newman, our Community Engagement Liaison, who has been selected as a patient advocate member for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Gynecologic Cancer Steering Committee (GCSC) Cervical Task Force (CTF). Morgan’s dedication to ensuring that patient voices are integrated into the development and evaluation of clinical trials is truly commendable. Through her involvement in these committees, Morgan is helping to shape the future of gynecologic cancer research and treatment, ensuring that the needs and perspectives of patients are always front and center.

Kimberly Williams, MHCM, Chief Diversity Equity & Inclusion Officer

Last but certainly not least, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Kimberly Williams, our Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, for her continuous role as a patient advocate member for the Cervix/Vulva Cancer Committee for NRG Oncology. Kimberly’s tireless advocacy efforts have been instrumental in improving the clinical research process and ensuring that patient perspectives are always prioritized. Her recent appointment to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee further underscores her commitment to advancing equity and inclusion in cancer research and treatment for all.

As we celebrate these remarkable achievements, we are reminded of the power of advocacy and the incredible impact that individuals like Tamika, Morgan, and Kimberly can have in the mission to end cervical cancer. Their dedication, passion, and advocacy serve as an inspiration to us all, and we are proud to stand alongside them in the quest for a world free from cervical cancer.

To learn more about Tamika Felder’s appointment to the National Cancer Advisory Board, please see the official press release from the White House [here].

Celebrating National Women’s Health Week 2024

This year National Women’s Health Week takes place from May 12th to the 18th. This particular week we highlight women’s health issues and priorities. We encourage women to engage in healthy practices, and preventive care. This year’s theme is “Empowering Women, Cultivating Health: Celebrating Voices, Health, and Resilience.” Why? Because women need to feel empowered to make their physical and well-being a priority. This includes making sure you get all the screenings needed: preventive cancer screenings along with vision, and dental checkups. (P.S. Did you know our Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder serves as a Women’s Health Week Ambassador?)

As a certified Health, Fitness and Wellness Coach, I was present at a wellness conference where I first heard Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, a professor of Neurology at Harvard University, Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Co-Director of the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a bestselling author.

Dr. Tanzi created the “S.H.I.E.L.D. Plan”. This plan help us remember how to take care of our physical and mental health with the everyday steps you can take to preserve and promote your well-being. This plan really resonated with me, and I incorporated these steps into my daily life. I also teach it to my clients, to my students, and I hope it will help you too.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is an acronym that stands for the following: (not necessarily in this order)

SSleep. You must try to sleep at least 7-8 hours at night. It is during this time that the body repairs, allowing healing and restoration to occur. Lack of sleep is associated with negative health effects. So in other words…get your snooze on.

HHandle Your Stress. Yes! This is easier said than done, but we must try. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Stress is a known component to chronic diseases like diabetes, ulcers, and heart disease.

IInteract With Others. Social connection with others can improve the ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression. In summary, human interaction is an essential part of life, and it has physical and mental benefits. A recent study found that people who experienced social isolation had a 32% higher risk of dying early.

EExercise. Ahhh! That’s something I know about. To be honest, throughout the years of being a fitness professional, I have learned not to even call it “exercise” but just plain and simple “moving the body”. Most people when they hear the word “exercise” think about punishment to the body – it is far from the truth. Finding a movement that works for you is key. Starting small and working up to the recommended 150 minutes a week will give you so many benefits for your mind, your body, and your spirit.

LLearn New Things. Dr. Tanzi states, “Practicing a new and challenging activity is a good bet for building and maintaining cognitive skills.” We can do this at any age. Learning new information can be as simple as trying a new recipe, reading or listening to a book, or taking a class online.

DDiet. For most people, “diet” conjures up thoughts of deprivation and restriction. We feel that it is something that we must do or that we must punish ourselves for the crime of overeating. No matter what you think about diets, we ALL have one. A diet is simply a pattern of eating. Whatever health means to you, the right diet will support it. There is no one-size-fits-all model for dietary patterns and health.

Side Note: I would incorporate hydration here too. Drinking water is crucial for our bodies. The majority of adults do not hydrate themselves close to the recommended level. In fact, multiple studies report that 75% of adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic dehydration. As we age, your body’s thirst signal diminishes, so as a rule of thumb when you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Please drink your water.

So there you have it – that is the “S.H.I.E.L.D Plan” – the daily steps that Dr. Tanzi believes will promote health and longevity! Ideally, you will incorporate these steps in your daily life, and they will become healthy habits.

If these six steps are too overwhelming all at once, which is understandable, take it slow and work one-step at a time. For example, focus on your sleep if you are not getting the recommended hours. After you improve that, then work on the next step, and so on. It is never too late to incorporate these steps. Never too late to start anything. Believe me whatever you do consistently, it will make a difference on your well-being. Do not give up!

Patti Murillo-Casa is a Cervivor Ambassador and Cervivor’s Health and Wellness Coach who manages Survivor Slimdown Facebook Group (Open to any cancer survivor). She also co-leads Cervivor Español. Patti is a retired NYPD police officer and a 15-year cervical cancer survivor. She resides in NYC with her husband of 25 years where she is a Groups Fitness Instructor, Cancer Exercise Specialist and a Health Advocate and Educator.

A May To Remember

As May unfolds its vibrant colors and warmer days, it brings with it a variety of celebrations, honoring rich cultures and invaluable professions. It’s a month of recognition, reflection, and appreciation. In this blog post, we recognize the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, culminating in the heartfelt acknowledgment of National Nurses Week and National Oncology Nurses Month.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May marks a special time to celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the United States. It’s a time to honor the resilience, achievements, and rich heritage of these communities that have shaped the very fabric of American society. 

From the vibrant festivals and cuisines to the profound contributions in arts, science, technology, and beyond, the AAPI community has left a mark on every aspect of American life. It’s a moment to reflect on their journeys, triumphs, and ongoing struggles, cultivating understanding, respect, and unity.

Sharing cervical cancer stories among Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is vital for creating an open dialogue that transcends generations. By sharing their experiences, AAPI individuals not only break the silence surrounding cervical cancer within their communities but also dismantle cultural taboos and stigmas associated with discussing health issues openly. 

Through storytelling, they can address unique challenges, such as language barriers, cultural beliefs, and access to healthcare, which may affect prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. By amplifying their voices, AAPI individuals empower others to prioritize their health, seek preventive care, and engage in informed discussions with healthcare providers. This open dialogue not only raises awareness but also paves the way for improved support networks, advocacy efforts, and healthcare policies tailored to the needs of AAPI communities, ultimately contributing to better health outcomes for future generations. 

National Nurses Week
Amidst the celebration of cultural diversity, May also holds a special place to honor those who epitomize compassion, care, and resilience – nurses. National Nurses Week, celebrated annually from May 6th to May 12th, pays tribute to the remarkable contributions of nurses to the healthcare sector and society at large.

Nurses are the heart and soul of healthcare, providing comfort, healing, and support to patients and families during their most vulnerable moments. Their dedication, sacrifice, and commitment often go unrecognized, yet their impact reverberates profoundly in the lives they touch. If you would like to honor your nurse this month, send us an email at [email protected] with a photo and/or a written shoutout.

National Oncology Nurses Month
In the same vein, May also shines a spotlight on a group of healthcare professionals who provide exceptional care to individuals enduring cancer. National Oncology Nurses Month recognizes the invaluable role of oncology nurses in delivering comprehensive, compassionate, and personalized care to cancer patients.

These dedicated professionals navigate the complex terrain of cancer treatment with grace, empathy, and expertise, offering not just medical support but also emotional and psychological solace to patients and their loved ones. Their tireless efforts and boundless compassion make a tangible difference in the lives of those affected by cancer.

As we traverse through May, let us embrace the spirit of celebration, gratitude, and solidarity. Let us honor the rich tapestry of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, celebrating diversity and cultivating a community rooted in inclusivity. Simultaneously, let us extend our deepest appreciation to the nurses – the unsung heroes of healthcare, whose selflessness and dedication inspire us all. Whether it’s through cultural appreciation or healthcare acknowledgment, May offers us all the opportunity to reflect on how diversity and dedication enrich our lives and communities.

Reflecting On 15 Years Cancer-Free

Every year, on May 5, also known as “Cinco de Mayo”, I celebrate my cancerversary. This year I am celebrating 15 years of being cancer-free. Wow! Let me take that in just a few more seconds – 15 years! – What a blessing. Fifteen years is a big milestone for me. It is a milestone that I thought I would never reach, but here we are.  

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer stage IIB just 3 months after I retired from the New York City Police Department after being a police officer for 20 years. After I retired, my husband and I were ready to enjoy our lives. However, some plans do not happen when we want them to happen. 

My world went dark as soon as I heard “You have cancer”. I did not see the possibility of being here 15 years later. My journey was difficult, to say the least. After 7 treatments of chemotherapy, 35 treatments of external radiation, and 2 treatments of internal radiation (brachytherapy) I was lucky enough to come out on the other side.

I must be honest and say that even when my doctor said I was “cancer-free” I felt lost. Everything was still dark. I did not know what to do. Yes! I was grateful, but I did not recognize myself. I did not know the woman staring at me in front of the mirror. She was not the woman I was before. 

Cancer for sure changed my life forever. It took time to put the pieces back together. It is definitely a slow process. Most people think that when you are cancer-free you can pick up where you left off. This is further from the truth. You become a different person. 

It has been a journey of highs and lows while re-inventing myself. I can look at the negative side and say my body has changed, and even after 15 years, there is still the fear of cancer coming back. I live with the physical and mental scars this monster left me. I deal with the many secondary effects of my treatments, and I can go on with so many other things, but I will not. 

I focus on being positive and grateful for every single day. I choose to live every day like it will be my last, but if it is not – I drop to my knees and give thanks. I embrace the good, the bad, and the in-between. It is all part of my gift of life.

Today, I am grateful that I am also part of an extraordinary cervical cancer community. A community of women woven together. We lean on one another, learn from one another, celebrate together, and grieve together when we lose one of our own. I have met women who are courageous, strong, determined, and supportive. Women who have personally inspired and motivated me to make my survivorship count by becoming an advocate of this disease to help other women. 

Therefore, before I end this– I want to remind women to get their cervical cancer screenings and to vaccinate their children (both boys and girls) with the HPV vaccine to protect them from six different cancers linked to the human papillomavirus. Let us protect the next generation.  

Now, let us celebrate today – have a margarita in my name if you wish, but my true wish is for you to consider donating $15 to Cervivor. Please support our mission to educate, and support women with this disease, and end cervical cancer. This is within our reach. 

Patti Murillo-Casa is a Cervivor Ambassador and Cervivor’s Health and Wellness Coach who manages the Survivor Slimdown Facebook Group. She also co-leads Cervivor Español. Patti is a retired NYPD police officer and a 15-year cervical cancer survivor. She resides in NYC with her husband of 25 years where she is a Group Fitness Instructor, Cancer Exercise Specialist, and Health Advocate. 

Celebrating Diversity Every Day Of The Year

April is Celebrate Diversity Month—a dedicated time to recognize and honor the rich dimensions of diversity within our global communities. At Cervivor, Inc., while we spotlight this month with dedicated enthusiasm, our commitment to embracing and promoting diversity extends far beyond April. It is woven into the very fabric of our mission and activities throughout the entire year.

Why Diversity Matters to Us
At Cervivor, Inc., our work centers on cervical cancer awareness and education, areas where the disparities in health outcomes are stark. These disparities are often shaped by diverse ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Acknowledging and addressing these differences is crucial in our fight against cervical cancer.

Diversity isn’t just about recognizing the varied backgrounds of the people we serve; it’s also about ensuring that everyone—regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status—has access to the knowledge and healthcare resources they need to prevent and fight cervical cancer.

Get Involved:

1. Education Tailored to Needs – We strive to tailor our educational content and outreach to meet the diverse needs of the global communities we serve. This involves creating materials in multiple languages, considering cultural sensitivities, and providing resources that are accessible to all, regardless of their educational background or health literacy levels. Check out our Educational Materials section here!

2. Diverse Voices and Stories – Our advocacy is built on the stories of real people across the globe who have faced cervical cancer. These stories are powerful, not only for the emotional and personal truths they convey but also because they reflect a spectrum of experiences across different communities. By amplifying diverse voices, we bring greater awareness to the unique challenges faced by different groups and foster a more inclusive conversation about health. Join the mission of Cervivor and share your story today.

3. Partnerships and Community Engagement – Building strong partnerships with other global organizations that work with underrepresented groups is another way we ensure our message reaches as widely as possible. Through collaboration, we can address gaps in information and care that disproportionately impact certain communities. We thank them for being our Partners in Purpose.

4. Training and Volunteerism – We also focus on training a diverse group of advocates. Our volunteer advocates come from all walks of life, and all areas worldwide. They are essential to our mission and bring their unique perspectives and skills to our work, helping us reach more people more effectively. Are you looking for ways to volunteer? Sign up today!

5. Donate – Cervivor works tirelessly to ensure marginalized voices are heard, representation is valued, and opportunities are accessible to all. Your donation not only aids in the advancement of equality but also helps build stronger, more resilient communities where diversity is celebrated and embraced as a fundamental strength.

The Impact of Continued Diversity
The continued focus on diversity enriches our organization and improves the effectiveness of our outreach and education efforts. By understanding and integrating the varied perspectives and needs of the communities we serve, we can make a significant impact on reducing the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer.

Looking Beyond April
While Celebrate Diversity Month provides a great opportunity to highlight issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, at Cervivor, Inc., these values are integral to our daily operations. Every day of the year, we are committed to understanding and serving the needs of diverse global communities, ensuring equitable access to information and care, and reducing the health disparities that affect outcomes in cervical cancer.

We invite you to join us in this ongoing work. Whether through sharing information, volunteering, or participating in our programs, your support makes a vital difference. Together, we can ensure that every day is an opportunity to celebrate and nurture diversity, bringing us closer to a world where no one faces cervical cancer alone.

Let’s continue to celebrate diversity, not just this month but every single day, and make a lasting difference in the lives of all we serve.

Apply now for our upcoming Communities of Color Patient Advocacy Retreat and Cervivor School 2024!

Leaving Our Mark: National Infertility Awareness Week and the Cervical Cancer Community

This National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), we at Cervivor, Inc. are embracing the theme “Leave Your Mark” with a focus that is close to our hearts: the intersection of infertility and cervical cancer. From April 21-27, we unite under this banner, not only to raise awareness about infertility issues across the board but also to shed light on the specific challenges faced by those in the cervical cancer community.

The Intersection of Cervical Cancer and Infertility
Cervical cancer and its treatments often pose significant challenges to fertility, a fact that many of our community members know all too well. Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can impact fertility, sometimes temporarily, and in many cases, permanently. This adds an additional layer of emotional and physical complexity to the cancer journey.

For many, the dream of motherhood remains strong, and the grief that accompanies the loss of fertility can be profound. This week, we want to acknowledge that grief, offer our support, and highlight the resources available for those navigating this difficult intersection.

How You Can “Leave Your Mark”
1. Wear Orange on April 24 – This year, wear orange on April 24 to stand in solidarity with those facing infertility. Orange represents a symbol of community hope and support, lighting the way forward amidst the challenges. Tag us and use hashtags #Cervivor, #CervicalCancer, and #LeaveYourMark.

2. Educate Yourself and Others – Take this week to learn more about the fertility challenges associated with cervical cancer treatments. Understanding these challenges can help you support friends, family members, or community members who are dealing with these issues.

3. Share Your Story – If you feel comfortable, share your story. Whether it’s on social media, our blog, our website, or within your circle of friends, talking about your experiences can help to destigmatize infertility issues and provide support to others going through similar struggles.

Use our hashtags #Cervivor, #CervicalCancer, and #LeaveYourMark to join the conversation.

4. Advocate for Fertility Preservation – One way to leave your mark is to advocate for better access to fertility preservation techniques and insurance coverage. These services are crucial for those undergoing treatments that may affect their reproductive health. Check out our amazing community partners over at the Alliance For Fertility Preservation to learn more.

5. Support Research and Charities – Support organizations that are working towards better treatments for cervical cancer and those addressing infertility. Cervivor has a newly established gift fund called the Virginia “Ginny” Marable Cervivor Baby Gift Fund to help those impacted by cervical cancer in their family planning. Your support can make a huge difference in advancing these services even further.

In Solidarity
During National Infertility Awareness Week, let’s come together to leave a lasting mark on the fight against infertility and the mission to end cervical cancer. By wearing orange, sharing our stories, and advocating for change, we can build a community that supports everyone, no matter where they are in their journey. 

Join us to #LeaveYourMark. Remember, your voice, your story, and your support matter now more than ever.

Thank you for standing with us,

The Team at Cervivor, Inc.

Advocating For Health Equity: National Minority Cancer Awareness Week

In the landscape of healthcare, awareness, and action are essential to address disparities that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. National Minority Cancer Awareness Week serves as a poignant reminder of the health inequities faced by populations historically marginalized, discriminated against, and excluded in American society. It’s a time to not only acknowledge these disparities but also to highlight organizations dedicated to promoting health equity. Among them is Cervivor, Inc., providing education, empowerment, and walking in purpose through advocacy to end cervical cancer.

A Call to Action: Under-represented communities in the United States often experience higher rates of cancer incidence and mortality, coupled with lower survival rates compared to the general population. These disparities are multifaceted, stemming from various factors such as socioeconomic status, lack of access to healthcare, cultural barriers, and systemic discrimination. National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, observed annually in April, provides an opportunity to shed light on these issues and mobilize efforts toward change. During this week, conversations around cancer prevention, early detection, and access to quality care are amplified, with a specific focus on underserved and under-represented communities. It’s a time for education, outreach, and advocacy to address the root causes of health disparities and ensure that all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, have equitable access to healthcare resources.

Championing Health Equity: At the forefront of the mission to end cervical cancer and to close the gap in health disparities is Cervivor, Inc. Founded by 23-year cervical cancer survivor Tamika Felder, Cervivor is a non-profit organization dedicated to cervical cancer advocacy, support, and education. What sets Cervivor apart is its commitment to addressing the unique needs of marginalized communities, including communities of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, rural residents, young adults, and those facing socioeconomic challenges.

Cervivor’s mission extends beyond raising awareness about cervical cancer; it’s about empowering individuals to become advocates for their own health and well-being. Through a combination of educational resources, support networks, and community outreach initiatives, Cervivor works tirelessly to ensure that no one is left behind in the mission to end cervical cancer. One of the cornerstones of Cervivor’s approach is its emphasis on health equity. Recognizing that marginalized communities often face barriers to accessing healthcare, Cervivor strives to bridge these gaps through targeted outreach programs, culturally sensitive resources, and partnerships with organizations that share its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Embrace Inclusion: In addition to its focus on cervical cancer advocacy, Cervivor is also actively involved in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the healthcare sector.

Kimberly Williams

Through its DEI programming, Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, Kimberly Williams and Team Cervivor aim to create a more inclusive healthcare environment where all individuals feel seen, heard, and valued. This includes initiatives to address disparities in cancer care, such as advocating for culturally competent healthcare providers, promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in cancer support services, and raising awareness about the unique needs of minority communities. By spotlighting DEI issues within the healthcare sector, Cervivor is helping cultivate a more equitable and compassionate approach to cancer care. Through collaboration, education, and advocacy, Cervivor is making strides toward a future where everyone has equal access to the resources and support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Towards a Future of Health Equity: As we observe National Minority Cancer Awareness Week and shine a spotlight on organizations like Cervivor, Inc., it’s crucial to recognize that achieving health equity is a collective responsibility. It requires ongoing commitment, collaboration, and action at all levels of society – from policymakers and healthcare providers to community organizations and individuals. By raising awareness about health disparities, advocating for marginalized communities, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare, we can work towards a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Let’s honor the spirit of National Minority Cancer Awareness Week by redoubling our efforts to create a world where health equity is not just a goal, but a reality for all.

Reflections From World Health Day: Bridging The Gap in Cancer Across The Globe

On World Health Day, April 7th, we came together under the banner of “My Health, My Right,” echoing a fundamental truth: access to quality healthcare is a basic human right. However, as we reflect on the day’s theme, it’s clear that this right is far from being universally realized, as disparities persist not only on a global scale but also within communities, even in countries like the United States, Canada, Scotland, and across Central America and Africa.

The fight against cervical cancer serves as a poignant example of the multifaceted challenges in healthcare accessibility. In Africa, the lack of resources, including broken machines and long waits for vital screenings, creates barriers to early detection and treatment. Despite the personal choices individuals may make regarding their health, they are often hindered by the absence of necessary tools and infrastructure. Jane was a patient seeking care for a routine physical. She happened to find a free screening clinic being offered at her local hospital. Her cervical cancer was detected and treated early due to access and timely screening. 

In the Caribbean, where the scenery is picturesque, the reality is harsh: limited access to comprehensive treatment options forces individuals to endure costly and emotionally draining journeys for essential treatments like radiation therapy. Countries like St. Lucia face the added burden of relying solely on chemotherapy, necessitating patients like Nymphia to seek radiation treatment abroad, adding layers of complexity to an already challenging situation.

Even in countries like Canada, where universal healthcare is a cornerstone, significant barriers persist, particularly for marginalized communities. Poverty, homelessness, and racism contribute to late-stage cancer diagnoses, resulting in poorer outcomes. Addressing modifiable barriers such as housing instability and limited health literacy is essential to ensure timely access to treatment for all Canadians.

Similarly, in Central America, including countries like Honduras, World Health Day serves as a reminder of the inherent right to healthcare. Despite recent progress, many barriers continue to hinder vulnerable groups and rural communities from accessing essential cervical cancer screenings. Challenges such as lack of awareness, stigma, financial constraints, and inadequate family support contribute to low screening rates, highlighting the need for targeted interventions. Karla is a cervical cancer survivor and patient advocate working to change the narrative.

Even in Scotland, a country with a robust healthcare system, cancer inequalities persist, with higher incidence and mortality rates in deprived areas. The disparity is stark, with cancer death rates being 74% higher in the most deprived populations compared to the least deprived. Urgent action is needed to dismantle barriers to early diagnosis and ensure equitable access to high-quality care across all communities. Cara was diagnosed with stage II cervical cancer after several doctors appointments originally addressing gastrointestinal and stress-related symptoms.   

As we reflect on World Health Day 2024, it’s evident that the journey towards equitable healthcare is ongoing and multifaceted. It requires not only addressing systemic issues but also dismantling barriers rooted in social determinants of health. Together, we must continue to advocate for universal access to quality healthcare, ensuring that “My Health, My Right” is a reality for all, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status.

To get involved and make a difference, community members and allies can:

  1. Advocate for policy changes that prioritize healthcare equity and address social determinants of health.
  2. Support organizations like Cervivor and initiatives working to improve access to healthcare services for underserved communities.
  3. Educate others about the importance of health equity and the impact of social determinants on health outcomes.
  4. Engage in community outreach and support initiatives that address healthcare disparities and promote wellness.
  5. Stay informed and involved in local and global health issues, amplifying the voices of marginalized communities.

Together, we can create a future where everyone has equal access to the healthcare they need and deserve. Let’s work towards a healthier, more equitable world for all.

Take Action and Spread Awareness

In a world brimming with causes and issues, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and unsure of how to make a difference. But fear not! Your voice matters, and your actions, no matter how small, can create waves of change. 

One initiative we are excited to be participating in is President Biden’s declaration of April as National Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Month. The proclamation carries profound significance for our Cervivor community, particularly our mission to eradicate cervical cancer. The re-ignition of the Cancer Moonshot initiative underscores the critical need to accelerate advancements in cervical cancer prevention, treatment, and early detection methods. 

For cervical cancer survivors, patients, and advocates, this proclamation reaffirms our commitment to advocating for accessible screenings, eliminating barriers to healthcare access, and raising awareness about the importance of early detection. With screening playing a pivotal role in detecting cervical abnormalities before they progress into cancerous lesions, this initiative aligns with our mission to empower individuals with knowledge, resources, and support in their journey against cervical cancer.  

This month, we’re urging you to join us and take action to spread awareness for this and other important initiatives. From advocating for health equity to supporting cancer awareness and vaccination efforts, there are countless ways to get involved and make a positive impact. So let’s come together as a community and harness our collective power to drive meaningful change.

National Minority Health Month: This month, let’s recognize the disparities in healthcare access and outcomes faced by communities of color communities. By raising awareness and advocating for equitable healthcare policies, we can work towards a healthier, more just society for all.

National Public Health Week (April 1st – 7th): Public health is everyone’s responsibility. During National Public Health Week, let’s celebrate the progress we’ve made in improving health outcomes and renew our commitment to addressing the underlying social, economic, and environmental factors that shape health.

National Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week (April 1st – 5th): Adolescents and young adults facing cancer often have unique needs and challenges. We’re using this week to raise awareness about AYA cancer issues, support those affected, and advocate for better research, treatment, and support services. Follow along with our social media platforms and check out our partners over at Stupid Cancer.

Adolescent Immunization Action Week (April 1st – 5th): Vaccines save lives, but immunization rates among adolescents are often lower than desired. This week, we’re highlighting the importance of adolescent immunizations and encouraging parents and caregivers to ensure their teens are up to date on recommended vaccines.

Here are five practical tips to get involved:

1) Utilize Social Media Platforms: Social media isn’t just for sharing selfies and pet videos. It’s a powerful tool for raising awareness and mobilizing communities. Share informative posts, engage in discussions, and use relevant hashtags to amplify your message. Need content? We’ve got you! Like, comment, and share directly from the Cervivor platforms or utilize our social media kit. You can find all of our handles at the bottom of our LinkTree page here.

2) Organize or Participate in Events and Activities: Whether it’s a fundraiser, a MeetUp, or an online event, getting involved in local events is a great way to make a tangible impact. Don’t wait for someone else to take the lead—be the change you wish to see! To join any upcoming events by Cervivor, visit our website.

3) Partner with Organizations: Collaborating with established organizations can give your efforts more reach and credibility. Consider teaming up with groups like Cervivor, which focuses on cervical cancer advocacy and support, to maximize your impact.

4) Engage with Media: Media coverage can shine a spotlight on important issues and spark meaningful conversations. Write letters to the editor, pitch stories to journalists, or even start your own blog or podcast to share stories and perspectives that need to be heard. Need some tips to get you started? We have a media kit for that!

5) Donate to Organizations Doing the Work: Financial support is crucial for organizations working tirelessly to create change. Even a small donation can make a big difference in funding research, providing support services, or advocating for policy changes.

Together, we have the power to create a better, healthier world. So let’s roll up our sleeves, use our voices, and take action for the causes we believe in. Whether it’s advocating for communities of color and their health, promoting public health initiatives, supporting adolescent and young adult cancer awareness, or championing adolescent immunizations, every effort counts. Let’s inspire change, be intentional and inclusive of all, and build a brighter future for generations to come. Thank you for joining us on this journey of advocacy and awareness where we know we can make a difference.

Cervical Cancer Survivors Turned Mothers Through Gestational Surrogacy

March is a month of significance for many, particularly within the Cervivor community. It marks Surrogacy Awareness Month, a time to shed light on an alternative path to parenthood that holds profound meaning for those whose fertility has been impacted by cervical cancer treatments like hysterectomy and radiation therapy. Gestational surrogacy is the most common form of surrogacy that involves a surrogate carrying a fetus not genetically related to her. This method allows individuals or couples to have a child using their own genetic material or that of a donor, while the surrogate provides the nurturing environment for the pregnancy.

Cervical cancer survivors like Ginny, Tamika, Gina, Anna, and Kate all have something in common. They have each embarked on unique journeys of resilience, hope, and motherhood through the remarkable path of gestational surrogacy. Their inspiring stories shed light on the triumph over challenges and the profound joy of becoming a mother beyond cervical cancer.

Ginny’s Journey
Ginny’s journey with cervical cancer was daunting, but her determination to become a mother never disappeared. Gestational surrogacy offered her a double dose of hope. With the support of her husband Sean, they embraced the path to parenthood, navigating the emotional ups and downs with grace. Today, Ginny cherishes every moment with her twin boys who celebrated their 3rd birthday. [Click here to watch Ginny’s Cervivor Story].

Tamika’s Path
At the young age of 25, Tamika received devastating news from her doctor: she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and faced the prospect of a life-saving radical hysterectomy, rendering childbirth extremely challenging. She never imagined that the option to have children would be taken away from her and for years she believed becoming a mother would never come true. Until one day, the most exceptional gift came from a woman she barely knew. [Read the Featured Article Here]

The surrogacy process is intricate, involving careful matching of surrogates with intended parents based on preferences and health criteria. Surrogacy agencies or programs often facilitate this matchmaking process, ensuring compatibility and support throughout the journey. Clear delineation of roles and responsibilities is essential in surrogacy arrangements. Surrogates have the autonomy to make health decisions during pregnancy and receive compensation for their invaluable contribution. Intended parents, on the other hand, assume the financial, legal, and medical obligations associated with the surrogacy journey.

Gina’s Grace
In 2016, Gina and her spouse, Dan, received the joyous news of expecting a baby, only to be met with the harsh reality of Gina’s cervical cancer diagnosis. Amidst this challenging time, the medical team at the University of Washington Medical Center played pivotal roles in saving her life not once, but twice. However, the treatments rendered Gina unable to conceive naturally. With hope and determination, Gina turned to social media, where her friend generously volunteered to become their gestational carrier. [Read More of Gina’s Story].

Anna’s Adventure
Anna, a resilient cervical cancer survivor, made a courageous decision with her husband, Soto in 2021 to undergo fertility preservation before embarking on her cancer treatments. Determined to preserve her dream of motherhood, she opted to freeze her embryos. Despite the uncertainties ahead, Anna held onto hope. In November 2023, her son entered the world through a gestational surrogate. Anna’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and the love of becoming a mother. [Read more of Anna’s Cervivor Story].

Kate’s North Star
In the same appointment where she received the sobering diagnosis of cervical cancer at 30, Kate was also informed that carrying children would be an impossibility. Her oncologist presented her with a glimmer of hope, outlining options for biological children through surrogacy in the future. Without hesitation, she embarked on the journey of invitro fertilization, resulting in the preservation of nine healthy embryos. Later, she and her husband Matt dove into the intricate world of surrogacy, navigating through the complexities with the guidance of an agency. The process proved to be arduous, lengthy, and financially daunting. [Read Kate’s Blog].

As we read in Kate’s story above, one of the significant barriers to surrogacy is its cost, which can range from $60,000 to $150,000, covering legal fees, medical expenses, surrogate compensation, and other miscellaneous costs. This financial burden can be overwhelming for many individuals and couples aspiring to parenthood. In January of this year, Cervivor, Inc. established The Virginia “Ginny” Marable Cervivor Baby Gift Fund: Supporting Your Path to Parenthood. Initiatives like the Virginia “Ginny” Marable Cervivor Baby Gift Fund aim to alleviate these financial barriers and make surrogacy accessible to all. By supporting this fund, donors contribute to removing obstacles and providing hope to those navigating the journey to parenthood.

The stories of Ginny, Tamika, Gina, Anna, and Kate serve as powerful reminders of the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of gestational surrogacy. Through adversity, they found hope. Through uncertainty, they found courage. And through it all, they discovered their pathway to parenthood. Their journeys inspire us all to embrace life’s challenges with grace and to celebrate its blessings with gratitude. This Surrogacy Awareness Month, let’s come together to celebrate the gift of surrogacy and support initiatives like the Virginia “Ginny” Marable Gift Fund. Through awareness, understanding, and collective action, we can ensure that everyone, regardless of financial means, has the opportunity to build the family they’ve always dreamed of. Let’s break down barriers and cultivate inclusivity to ensure that parenthood remains within reach for everyone.

Are you a cervical cancer patient or survivor and would like to share your surrogacy or pathway to parenthood story with us? Email us at [email protected]!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Cervivor Mourns the Loss of Jessica Pettway to Cervical Cancer: Calls for Increased Advocacy

[Upper Marlboro, MD], March 22, 2024 – Cervivor, Inc., a leading advocacy organization dedicated to cervical cancer awareness, advocacy, and support, is deeply saddened by the passing of Jessica Pettway, a beloved beauty influencer, wife, and mother, who tragically lost her life to cervical cancer at the age of 36. Jessica’s story serves as a poignant reminder of the critical importance of early detection and accurate diagnosis in the mission to eliminate this preventable disease.

Jessica’s journey underscores the urgent need for increased awareness, education, and advocacy surrounding cervical cancer. Despite her efforts to seek medical attention, Jessica was initially misdiagnosed, with doctors dismissing her symptoms as “just a fibroid.” This devastating misdiagnosis delayed crucial treatment and ultimately cost Jessica her life.

During this difficult time, Cervivor extends its deepest condolences to Jessica’s family, friends, and followers. We stand in solidarity with all those affected by cervical cancer and remain steadfast in our commitment to preventing any more insurmountable losses.

Cervical cancer is a highly preventable and treatable disease when detected early through routine screenings and HPV vaccinations. However, disparities in access to healthcare, misinformation, and stigma continue to pose significant barriers to timely diagnosis and treatment especially in communities of color.

As advocates for cervical cancer prevention and elimination, Cervivor urges individuals to prioritize their cervical health by:

  1. Advocating for themselves and their loved ones by seeking regular screenings and medical attention for any concerning symptoms.
  2. Educating themselves about cervical cancer risks, prevention strategies, and available resources.
  3. Engaging in open and honest conversations about cervical health with healthcare providers, family members, and peers.
  4. Supporting organizations like Cervivor in their mission to raise awareness, promote education, and advocate for policy changes to improve cervical cancer prevention and care.

Jessica’s legacy will endure as a powerful reminder of the urgent need to prioritize cervical health and ensure that no one suffers the same fate due to misinformation, misdiagnosis, or inadequate healthcare access.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact Morgan Newman, Community Engagement Liaison at [email protected].

About Cervivor:

Cervivor is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cervical cancer advocacy, education, and support. Founded by a now 22-year survivor, Tamika Felder, Cervivor is committed to empowering individuals affected by cervical cancer to become advocates for their health while working to eliminate the stigma surrounding the disease. For more information, visit https://cervivor.org/

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Remembering Our History-Making Cervivor Ambassadors

As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, we take a moment to honor the remarkable contributions and legacies of three inspiring Cervivor Ambassadors who left an undeniable mark on our community and our mission to end cervical cancer.

Laura Brennan: A Light in the Darkness
[September 30th, 1992 – March 20th, 2019]
In the vibrant landscape of Ireland, Laura Brennan illuminated a path of hope and action in bringing awareness to cervical cancer. A tireless advocate, Laura’s journey began with her own diagnosis of cervical cancer at a young age. Faced with this challenge, Laura turned her pain into purpose, becoming a leading voice in the campaign to increase HPV vaccination rates across Ireland.

Her dedication and heartfelt advocacy efforts sparked a surge of almost 20% in the number of young women choosing to receive the HPV vaccine. Laura’s impact rippled far beyond her native shores, inspiring countless individuals worldwide to take proactive steps toward cervical cancer prevention. Despite her untimely passing at the age of 26, Laura’s legacy continues to shine brightly, serving as a place of hope for future generations.

Holly Lawson: Advocating with Heart
[November 8, 1978 – March 13, 2020]
From the heart of Texas emerged Holly Lawson, a force of nature whose passion for advocacy knew no bounds. As a dedicated educator and lifelong learner, Holly’s journey with cervical cancer propelled her into the realm of patient advocacy, where she found her true calling. Embracing her role as a Cervivor Ambassador, Holly poured her heart and soul into supporting and uplifting others impacted by cervical cancer.

Through her leadership roles within the Cervivor community, including her invaluable contributions as the Community Engagement Liaison and Co-Administrator of Survivor Slimdown, Holly touched the lives of countless patients and survivors. Her infectious spirit, Southern charm, and determination inspired all who had the privilege of crossing paths with her. Holly’s legacy of resilience and compassion continues to remind us of the power of advocacy and community support.

Becky Wallace: Fierce Mama Bear
[March 21, 1983 – October 14, 2021]
In the golden state of California, Becky Wallace emerged as a survivor with a heart as vast as the Pacific Ocean. Faced with the challenge of cervical cancer, Becky approached her diagnosis with courage, grace, and determination to make a difference.

As a devoted mother and fierce advocate, Becky dedicated herself to raising awareness about cervical cancer prevention, supporting others on their cancer journeys, and making sure that her fellow mothers and community of Asian women to “Know Their Existence”. Her boundless kindness and infectious laughter touched the lives of all who had the privilege of knowing her. Becky’s legacy lives on in the hearts of those she inspired, a testament to the enduring power of love, resilience, and community.


Thank You for Your Enduring Legacy
As we reflect on the immeasurable contributions of Laura (26), Holly (41), and Becky (38), we are filled with profound gratitude for their dedication to ending cervical cancer for all. Their advocacy, boundless compassion, and courage have left an indelible mark on the world, inspiring countless individuals to take action and stand united in the mission to end this devastating disease. 

We extend our deepest gratitude to Laura, Holly, and Becky for their enduring legacy of hope, resilience, and empowerment. Their voices will forever echo in the hearts of those they touched, guiding us forward in our shared mission to create a future where cervical cancer is a thing of the past.

The Evolution of Cervical Cancer Prevention

Historically, Pap tests have been pivotal in identifying precancerous lesions and enabling early intervention. However, for many years the cause of cervical cancer was unknown. Cervical cancer was often treated differently than other cancers because of the lack of evidence to show the link of what caused it. Scientists shared theories that focused on the virus and a woman’s sexual activity which created a stigma that would continue for years. As medical knowledge advances, so does our understanding of the human papillomavirus (HPV), screening, and vaccination for cervical cancer prevention. Cervivor, Inc. believes in a comprehensive approach that involves embracing new technologies and strategies to enhance early detection and prevention.

Education: A Key Pillar
The organization recognizes the power of knowledge and personal stories in cervical cancer prevention. Education empowers those with a cervix to make informed decisions about their health and to pass that knowledge onto others to do the same. The organization participates in widespread awareness campaigns that not only emphasize the importance of regular screenings but also educate the general public about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), its link to cervical cancer, and the available preventive measures. Would you like to help spread awareness? Check out our social media kit here!

HPV Vaccination: A Game-Changer
Another groundbreaking advancement in cervical cancer prevention is the development of HPV vaccines. Cervivor, Inc. stands firmly behind the importance of screening and vaccination as a primary prevention strategy. By vaccinating young individuals against HPV, we can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. One way we can accomplish this goal is to hold and participate in widespread vaccination campaigns, ensuring accessibility and affordability for all. For more impactful vaccination resources, visit our partners at the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable.

Emotional Support: Nurturing the Whole Person
Cervivor, Inc. understands that cervical cancer prevention goes beyond physical health. We have to treat our whole health and emotional support is a critical component of healing. By addressing the emotional aspects of a cervical cancer diagnosis, Cervivor, Inc. aims to empower patients and survivors alike. The organization provides a safe space for individuals to share their stories and personal experiences that cultivate community and a commitment to the organization’s mission of ending cervical cancer.

Advocacy: Comprehensive Healthcare Policies
Cervivor, Inc. advocates for comprehensive healthcare policies. This includes policies that support widespread HPV vaccination, improve access to screening services, and prioritize emotional well-being in cancer care. The organization actively engages with policymakers to shape a healthcare landscape that prioritizes cervical cancer prevention on multiple fronts.

Founder & Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder moderating the 2024 Cervical Cancer Forum at the White House, Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative

Collaboration: Become Partners in Purpose
Cervivor, Inc. recognizes the value of collaboration in achieving its mission. By partnering with healthcare professionals, researchers, and other advocacy groups, the organization strives to create a unified front against cervical cancer. As lived experience leaders, Cervivor community members serve on guideline development panels, the latest research studies, as advisory board members, and so much more. Together, these collaborative efforts can drive innovation, improve preventive strategies, and provide comprehensive support to those impacted by cervical cancer.

As we move forward in our mission to end cervical cancer, Cervivor, Inc. stands at the forefront, championing the many avenues of cervical cancer prevention. The evolution of cancer prevention tools is exciting and emphasizes the importance of education, vaccination, emotional support, and comprehensive healthcare policies. By addressing cervical cancer from multiple angles, we can create a future where the incidence of this devastating disease is drastically reduced, and the lives of those who have a cervix are safeguarded through a comprehensive and compassionate approach to cervical cancer prevention.

Empowering Lives: Cervivor, Inc. Stands Strong on International HPV Awareness Day

Today, on International HPV Awareness Day, Cervivor, Inc. stands united with individuals, organizations, researchers, providers, and communities worldwide to raise awareness about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and its link to cervical cancer.

As patient advocates for cervical cancer awareness, we believe that education, the empowerment of survivor stories, routine screenings, and vaccination are key elements in the global mission to end cervical cancer. We celebrate the progress made and shed light on the collaborative efforts aimed at eliminating HPV-related cancers.

Education as a Shield Against HPV

Education serves as a powerful tool in the prevention of HPV and its associated cancers. At Cervivor, Inc., we emphasize the importance of understanding the risks, transmission, and consequences of HPV. By cultivating awareness, we aim to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their overall health and well-being.

The first step in preventing HPV-related cancers is understanding the virus itself. HPV is a commonly transmitted infection that can affect both men and women. With over 100 different types, some strains are considered high-risk and are linked to the development of cervical cancer. By spreading knowledge about the virus, we hope to break down the stigma surrounding HPV and encourage open conversations.

Empowering Survivor Stories

Behind every statistic is a person, and at Cervivor, Inc., we believe in the power of survivor stories. Sharing experiences helps break down barriers, reduce stigma, and create a supportive community for those affected by HPV-related cancers. Survivor stories serve as a source of inspiration, proving that a diagnosis does not define an individual’s future.

Through our private social media group we provide a safe space for HPV-related cancer survivors to share their journeys, triumphs, and challenges. By amplifying these voices, we aim to empower others, offering hope and encouragement to those navigating their own HPV-related cancer experiences. Together with our community partners, we build a network that stands strong against the impact of cervical and other HPV-related cancers.

Routine Screenings and Vaccination: A Dual Strategy

Routine cervical cancer screenings and HPV vaccination are crucial components of the strategy to eliminate cervical cancer. Screenings, such as Pap and HPV tests, can detect abnormal changes and the status of an active infection in the cervix early on, allowing for timely intervention and preventing the progression of cancer. Cervivor, Inc. advocates for regular screenings as part of a comprehensive approach to cervical health as well as the elimination of the disparities in accessing these life-saving screenings and vaccinations. 

Additionally, HPV vaccination is a proactive measure to prevent infection with the high-risk strains of the virus. Vaccination not only protects individuals from certain types of HPV but also contributes to herd immunity, reducing the overall prevalence of the virus in the community. By promoting both routine screenings and vaccination, we take significant steps toward a future where cervical cancer is rare. Check out the most recent study results from Scotland showing that vaccination is working!

A Shoutout to Our Partners at IPVS

Cervivor, Inc. extends a heartfelt shoutout to our incredible partners at the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS). Their extensive campaign, involving organizations across the globe, has been instrumental in raising awareness and cultivating collaboration to end HPV-related cancers. We are working towards a world where no one has to face the devastating impact of an HPV-related cancer together.

On International HPV Awareness Day, Cervivor, Inc. reaffirms its commitment to educating, empowering, and advocating for those affected by HPV-related cancers. By embracing survivor stories, promoting education, and supporting routine screenings and vaccination, we strive towards the ultimate goal of eliminating cervical and other HPV-related cancers. We stand in solidarity with our partners at IPVS and the global community in the shared mission to make HPV-related cancers a thing of the past. Together, we can create a future where no one loses their life to a preventable disease.

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Jennifer Walker Myers

In the quiet corners of Pennsylvania, a fierce individual fought valiantly against cervical cancer. Today, we come together to remember and celebrate the extraordinary life of Jennifer “Jenn” Walker Myers, a woman whose strength, resilience, and generous spirit touched the lives of many.

Jenn’s journey with cervical cancer brought her to the doors of Cervivor, a community that became her refuge and her sanctuary. In her own words, “When I discovered Cervivor two and a half years ago, I felt like a weight that I didn’t even know existed was lifted from my mind.” 

This group of women from diverse backgrounds understood the depth of her struggles, offering solace and understanding that transcended the boundaries of a traditional support network. Cancer became Jenn’s unexpected occupation, leading her to leave behind a career she loved. Yet, rather than succumbing to despair, she channeled her 30 years of leadership, mentoring, communication, and support experience to uplift others within the Cervivor community. For Jenn, this became a new mission – a calling that resonated with her heart and soul. “Cancer is my new job, and Cervivor is the platform in which I can help others,” she proclaimed.

Jenn’s dedication extended beyond the digital realm of Cervivor. Despite her ongoing treatments and the physical toll they took, she actively participated in initiatives like the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month planning committee, demonstrating her commitment to raising awareness about cervical cancer. Her advocacy work was not confined to boardrooms or meeting halls; even from her hotel room in the midst of recovery, she continued to lend her voice to the cause.

One of the remarkable qualities that defined Jenn was her passion for helping others navigate the complex landscape of clinical trials. In her role as a patient advocate, she enlightened others on the intricacies of these trials and offered a sign of hope, showing that there were still options for those in the throes of this relentless and unforgiving disease.

While facing multiple recurrences of cervical cancer, Jenn refused to let it impede her mission. She remained an active participant in Cervivor, utilizing various platforms – news interviews, panels, and patient advocate roles – to share her story and bring about change. She served on the National Cancer Institute’s Cervical Cancer Task Force, was an American Association for Cancer Research member and was featured in their 2022 annual report to Congress. Her voice echoed through fundraising efforts, turning her own birthday into a donation drive to support Cervivor’s Comfort Care and Compassion Program as well as gathering her family to do multiple unique fundraisers in her honor — a true testament to her compassion and commitment to the cause.

Even as Jenn continued her journey through cervical cancer, she never stopped spreading awareness about the importance of HPV vaccination and the realities of living with this disease. She shared her story with candor, honesty, and a desire that anyone facing cervical cancer would find the same support and camaraderie she discovered within Cervivor. Jenn was acknowledged with the 2022 Cervivor Champion Recipient, the 2022 Erica Frazier Stum Living with Cancer Recipient and was a 2023 Cervivor School Graduate.

In early 2024, Jenn along with her family established The Nennie Foundation. Jenn was lovingly known as ‘Nennie’ to her nieces and nephews. The nonprofit was developed to help cancer patients by assisting them financially with their cancer journey. Jenn was blessed to be able to navigate her journey financially unlike many others in the same situation. The Nennie Foundation will provide grants to cancer patients who face financial challenges in accessing healthcare. These “small acts of kindness” represent how Jenn liked to shower her family and friends with small gifts as thank yous, get well or milestone celebrations. It was Jenn’s wish that no flowers be sent but instead to consider donations to the Nennie Foundation to help as many cancer patients as possible in her honor.

Jennifer Walker Myers may have left this world, but her legacy lives on. She leaves behind a trail of inspiration, advocacy, and hope that will continue to guide and uplift those who follow in her footsteps. Today, we honor a true Cervivor, a symbol of strength and resilience, and a woman whose impact on the fight against cervical cancer will forever be etched in our hearts.

Cultural Perspectives: Understanding the Impact of Cervical Cancer on Black Women

Cervical cancer is a global health concern that affects women of all races and ethnicities. However, when we look into the cultural nuances surrounding healthcare, it becomes evident that certain communities face unique challenges. 

Black women, despite advancements in healthcare, continue to face disproportionate rates of cervical cancer. The reasons behind these disparities are complex and rooted in a combination of socioeconomic factors, healthcare access, and cultural considerations. To truly understand the impact, we need to listen to the stories of Black women who have faced the challenges of cervical cancer head-on.

Impactful Stories of Black Cervical Cancer Survivors

Shondria’s Journey: Navigating Societal Norms: “Giving up my dream of having children with the man I loved and giving Romeo a sibling was one of the hardest things to deal with. After Matt and I got married, people automatically asked when were we going to have a baby. My son was from a previous relationship and Matt didn’t have any kids and I was hoping that later down the line if we were still together we would be able to have a child or 2. I even told my doctor that I didn’t want to give up my reproductive rights but I still chose the supposed better option. On March 27, 2008, I had my radical hysterectomy where they removed my cervix, the top part of my vagina, my uterus, my Fallopian tubes, and about 20 lymph nodes. I requested a copy of my surgery report that showed that the cancer was about 1 cm. Everything else was negative for cancer. Raising awareness is so important and I don’t know how many times at work I hear my female coworkers say they don’t think they need a Pap or they’re too afraid to find out if it’s bad news. Also, knowing your family’s medical history is so important! My mom never told me that other women in our family have had cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and vulva cancer, which is extremely important to know. Knowledge is power!”

Urika’s Story In Overcoming Systemic Barriers: “Before starting my chemo treatments, my doctor at the time was having issues with my insurance to get my treatment started. She was beginning to get frustrated with my health insurance company because she wasn’t able to begin my treatments without approval. I received a call one day from my doctor saying, “Ms. Fraser. you are young and you have three kids to live for. I can no longer wait for your insurance to be approved. So my next step is to have you come into the emergency room and be admitted into the hospital.” At this point, I had no other choice but to believe in my doctor and do as I was told. I was checked in and admitted. I was mighty scared. My doctor came in and explained to me my chemo plan. She informed me the only way for me to begin treatment was for her to keep me in the hospital and bill my insurance later. After talking to me about my treatments, she brought in the doctor who would be doing my radiation treatments and he informed me he would be doing my radiation treatments for free. I stayed in the hospital for over a month and a half. I even celebrated my birthday in the hospital all while doing chemo and radiation. Eventually, I was released from the hospital and able to go home – not to my kids but instead to a family member’s house because my house was over an hour away from the hospital. I continued my treatments and eventually the tumor was no longer there. However, the cancer had spread to my lungs. I had to have a small piece of my lung removed and started chemo all over again – and this time I lost my hair.”

Felicia Fe Fea’s Advocacy: Empowering Through Education: “I had been experiencing heavier periods for numerous years, but thought nothing of it until in 2017 when the bleeding turned into flowing out like a water fountain and giant blood clots that would randomly fall out. I had gotten to the point of having to wear Depends. I was pale and weak. I kept advocating for myself by asking questions to my OBGYN and my advocating and questioning were ignored and minimized. I was told it may be hormonal and I might be going through menopause. Even though I had been with the same OBGYN for over ten years, who knew my history of abnormal paps and who had performed two LEEPs on me which supposedly burned off the precancerous cells, had never checked for cervical cancer. Instead, they told me to eat rare steak and liver to raise my iron levels, shot me up with hormones, and conducted an ablation on me going straight through my cervix. During my ablation, the OBGYN talked about how she had not seen anyone bleed so much during this procedure but when I questioned her she stated how much experience she had and how she had done 100’s of these. As I bleed I was sent home with no answers. I continued to basically hemorrhage for months. I couldn’t work because large blood clots would just fall out randomly and the Depends could not even hold them. The doctor kept trying to force me back to work and kept suggesting a hysterectomy with no real diagnosis other than the heavy bleeding. I was so weak and tired of wearing Depends so I decided to go along with the hysterectomy. I had labs done and my numbers were so low I had to have a blood transfusion before I could have surgery. Not once did my OBGYN say “Let’s check for cancer”; even knowing my history, as if I were an experiment (much like the Mothers of Gynecology Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey). I had my transfusion and was off to surgery in March 2018. The surgeon contacted me and stated she would be sending my cervix and uterus to pathology because it was “torn up”. After that, I got the ‘you have cancer’ call. My entire cervix was a tumor and I had stage 2B cervical cancer that had moved into my uterus.”

Moving Forward

Understanding the impact of cervical cancer on Black women requires a holistic approach that addresses cultural, social, and systemic factors. It’s crucial to amplify these stories, cultivate open dialogue, and promote education within communities. By acknowledging the unique challenges faced by Black women, we can work towards creating a healthcare landscape that is inclusive, equitable, and supportive for all. We can break the barriers and ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against cervical cancer.

Are you a cervical cancer patient, survivor, or thriver that identifies as Black? Share your story at Cervivor.org! Then join our private group, Cervivor Noir to gain support and learn how your story can create change.

Empowerment Through Knowledge: Understanding HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention

We are Cervivor, a community where empowerment through knowledge is our driving force. We believe that education is the key to preventing cervical cancer, and our mission is to support and empower individuals affected by cervical cancer and eliminate the feeling of being ashamed of an HPV diagnosis.

What is HPV?
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection globally. While many HPV infections resolve on their own, certain high-risk types can lead to cervical cancer. Knowledge about HPV is crucial for prevention, early detection, and effective management. Cervivor is dedicated to providing comprehensive information about HPV to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.

How Can We Prevent Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is largely preventable through vaccination, regular screenings (i.e. Pap tests and HPV tests), and early treatment of precancerous lesions. Cervivor encourages individuals to take charge of their health by understanding the importance of preventive measures. Through our community, we provide a platform for sharing experiences, asking questions, and cultivating a supportive environment for those navigating the journey of cervical cancer.

Empowerment begins with knowledge. Cervivor equips individuals with the information needed to make informed decisions about their health. We believe that by understanding the risks associated with HPV and cervical cancer, individuals can take proactive steps toward prevention, leading to better outcomes and improved overall well-being.

Every year, Cervivor recognizes individuals who have shown exceptional dedication to raising awareness about cervical cancer, supporting those affected by cervical cancer, and advocating for HPV vaccination and routine screenings. The 2024 Cervivor Champions are shining examples of resilience, courage, and commitment to making a difference. Let’s take a moment to celebrate and honor these extraordinary individuals:

  • Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, CEO Susan G. Komen & now The Promise Fund
  • Gilma Pereda, Cervical Cancer Survivor
  • Jennifer Young Pierce, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.O.G., Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at University of South Alabama

  • Jonny Imerman, Co-Founder Imerman Angels & ClozTalk
  • Karen North, Breast and Cervical Cancer Survivor, Cervivor LGBTQIA+ Lead
  • Linda Eckert, MD, Board-Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and an Internationally Recognized Expert in Immunizations and Cervical Cancer Prevention

  • Lorie Wallace, Cervical Cancer Survivor
  • Michelle Whitlock, Cervical Cancer Survivor & Award-Winning Author

Empowerment through knowledge is the cornerstone of Cervivor’s mission. By understanding HPV and cervical cancer prevention, individuals can take control of their health and contribute to the broader effort to eliminate cervical cancer. As we celebrate the 2024 Cervivor Champions, we are inspired by their passion and dedication, reinforcing our belief that together, we can create a world where cervical cancer is a thing of the past. Join us in our mission to educate, support, and empower – because knowledge is the key to a healthier future.

Pioneering Moments in Cervical Cancer with Tamika Felder

Cervical cancer is a global health problem that disproportionately affects Black women. Statistics reveal that Black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with and die from cervical cancer than White women. This disparity underscores the urgent need to address the systemic issues that contribute to unequal access to care and preventive screening that is necessary to eliminate cervical cancer.

In honor of Black History Month, we celebrate Cervivor Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder’s pioneering moments in cervical cancer awareness and advocacy. As a long-time cervical cancer survivor and internationally recognized patient advocate for cervical cancer prevention, Tamika has been a driving force in the fight against this disease. Her journey and advocacy have left an indelible mark on the cervical cancer community, inspiring change, health equity, access to care, and the creation of a community of patients and survivors sharing their lived experiences with others. 

Tamika’s tireless efforts have significantly contributed to the mission of ending cervical cancer once and for all. Founding Cervivor 19 years ago has not only brought survivors together but has also played a pivotal role in spreading awareness, providing education, and offering support to those impacted by this disease. Through her advocacy, she has amplified the voices of survivors and thrivers, ensuring that their stories are heard and their needs are addressed.

The recent Cervical Cancer Summit powered by Cervivor, where Tamika’s presence was felt, served as a testament to the impact of her advocacy. The summit brought together experts, researchers, healthcare professionals, family members, and patient advocate voices to discuss the latest advancements, challenges, and strategies in the cervical cancer space. The discussions and initiatives that emerged from this event have the potential to shape the future of cervical cancer awareness and prevention.

Tamika’s advocacy has also been instrumental in addressing the disparities in cervical cancer education, treatment, and prevention among Black women. Her commitment to empowering individuals with knowledge and resources, promoting early detection, and reducing the burden of cervical cancer in Black communities won’t stop.

Tamika’s story is a part of cervical cancer history. Her advocacy has not only raised awareness but has also paved the way for a future where cervical cancer is eradicated. As we share our stories we stand in solidarity with Tamika and work towards this shared mission.

Her story, your story, and our stories matter. Together, we can make a difference and create a world free from cervical cancer as we know it.

Empowered Voices: World Cancer Day

Today is World Cancer Day!

It’s a day we stand together as a united force, amplifying the voices and stories of our diverse Cervivor Community. Each face and each story carries its own unique impact, shedding light on the challenges and triumphs in the fight against cervical cancer.

In our global community, we celebrate diversity—the strength that comes from our differences and the resilience that unites us. Today, we invite you to see the faces of our Cervivor Community, to feel the impact of their unique stories, and to join us in our mission to eradicate cervical cancer.

Every story shared, every voice heard, brings us one step closer to our shared goal: a world free from the burden of cervical cancer. 

We refuse to accept the status quo. We refuse to let shame, pain, or loss define us. Instead, we choose to stand together, to advocate for change, and to empower one another to take proactive steps toward prevention and early detection. 

Share your story. 

We can make a difference. 

We can and must eradicate cervical cancer. It begins with awareness, with education, and with action. Today, we call on you to prioritize screening—for yourself, for your loved ones, and for our Cervivor community.

Let us make World Cancer Day not just a day of awareness, but a day of action. Let us pledge to Screen 4 Us, to advocate for change, and to stand in solidarity with those impacted by cervical cancer.

Let’s ensure no one faces cervical cancer alone. 

Your support empowers us to educate, advocate, and eradicate this disease. Consider donating to Cervivor today and join us in our mission to see a future free from cervical cancer. 

Together, we can make a difference.

Reflecting on the Cervical Cancer Summit: A Step Forward in Cervical Cancer

Last week, the global cervical cancer community came together for a momentous occasion for the Biden Cancer Moonshot Cervical Cancer Forum with a crucial discussion being led nonother by our Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder.

Then over the weekend, the Cervical Cancer Summit powered by Cervivor was held at NeueHouse in New York City. This event brought experts, researchers, healthcare professionals, family members, and patient advocate voices together under one roof to discuss the latest advancements, challenges, and strategies in the cervical cancer space. Check out the key takeaways from the summit, highlighting the crucial discussions and initiatives that can potentially shape the future of cervical cancer.

The State of Cervical Cancer: The summit kicked off with a sobering overview of the current domestic and global burden of cervical cancer. Dr. Catharine Young or the Biden Cancer Moonshot, emphasized the need for concerted efforts to address this preventable disease. The discussions underscored the importance of raising awareness and implementing widespread screening programs to detect and treat cervical cancer at an early, more manageable stage. Followed by the basics of cervical cancer and treatment by world-renowned Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Onyinye Balogun.

Collaboration and Communication: Local Gynecologic Oncologist, Dr. Jason Wright teamed up with long-time patient advocate and Cervivor Ambassador, Patti Murillo Casa to share how effective communication and partnership have benefited in raising awareness in New York. 

Dynamic Keynote Addresses: By Jonny Imerman, Co-Founder of Imerman Angels and Cloz Talk, and Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Founder of Susan G. Komen and the Promise Fund.

Addressing Disparities: One of the summit’s overarching goals was to address health disparities in cervical cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship. Expert and patient-led panels discussed the challenges faced by marginalized communities, both in terms of access to healthcare and cultural barriers. The summit called for a comprehensive, inclusive approach to ensure that cervical cancer prevention strategies are equitable and accessible to all.

Vaccination and Stigma: Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer, emerged as a central theme. Presenters shared updates on vaccination and strategies to improve HPV vaccine coverage globally. The summit emphasized the importance of education and outreach efforts to dispel myths and misinformation surrounding HPV vaccination, ensuring that more individuals receive the protection they need and eliminating the stigma surrounding it.

The Cervical Cancer Summit is a milestone in the ongoing mission to end cervical cancer. By fostering collaboration, sharing knowledge, and advocating for change, the summit has set the stage for a future where cervical cancer is not just treatable but preventable. As we reflect on the discussions and initiatives sparked by this event, it is evident that the path forward involves a collective commitment to prioritize women’s health globally.

Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder announced on Saturday the establishment of The Virginia “Ginny” Marable “Cervivor Baby” Grant: Supporting Your Path to Parenthood.

Congratulations to the 2024 Cervivor Champion recipients: Jonny Imerman, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Dr. Linda Eckert, Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce, Michelle Whitlock, Lorie Wallace, Karen North, and Gilma Pereda! Your dedication and contributions to Cervivor’s mission are truly commendable. Your efforts make a significant impact in raising awareness, supporting those impacted, and advancing research in the mission to end cervical cancer. Cervivor applauds your commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of individuals affected by this disease.

We appreciate the generous support from our dedicated sponsors: Hologic, Seagen, Genmab, BD, and Roche

PRESS RELEASE: Cervivor Founder & Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder To Speak At The White House For The Biden Cancer Moonshot Cervical Cancer Forum

MARYLAND, January 25, 2024 – Tamika Felder, Founder and Chief Visionary, invited to moderate at the Cervical Cancer Forum at the Biden Cancer Moonshot initiative hosted at the White House on Thursday, January 25th, 2024.

“The 2024 American Cancer Society Facts and Figures Report estimates nearly 2 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and cervical cancer is on the rise for those in their 30’s and 40’s,” said Tamika Felder, Founder and Chief Visionary of Cervivor. “Cervical cancer is preventable with vaccination, screening, and early treatment. We need to raise awareness across the nation to prevent it from taking more lives.”

Leaders, advocates, and survivors will gather to have crucial discussions on the future of women’s health. The public is invited to tune into the opening session from 10:00 AM – 11:45 AM ET. Tune into the live stream: https://www.youtube.com/live/G9rv95jydKA.

“This isn’t just a meeting; it’s a historic moment where we – the advocates, patients, and survivors – sit alongside leaders of the national Cancer Moonshot initiative,” says Felder, “Let’s rewrite the future of women’s health, one powerful conversation at a time!” Those interested in learning more about Cervivor are encouraged to visit www.cervivor.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Cervivor, Inc., [email protected]

What I Learned from Cervical Cancer

I was diagnosed with stage IB2 cervical cancer in February 2017. After my diagnosis, I learned that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. I learned that the colors of the cervical cancer ribbon are teal and white. And I learned that it was hard to find cervical cancer support groups on social media, until I found Cervivor. 

At that time of my diagnosis, I was 31 years old. I battled cervical cancer for nine months, had a hysterectomy in October 2018, and did 27 radiation treatments over five weeks in early 2019. At the end of treatment, I was hoping I would go back to living a normal life, hoping to have a positive outcome with positive results, and hoping to fully heal from having cervical cancer.

The most difficult part for me was the fear of having surgery, becoming anemic, dealing with pelvic infection or other body pain, and feeling alone. But most difficult has been that I can’t plan to have any more children due to my cancer treatment. 

Today, I am cancer free! I try to do my best to live a healthy life. I still go to the doctor for follow-ups and scans. I have learned the importance of continuing after-cancer care with your doctor. I have learned that it is important to get vaccines, like the HPV vaccine. I am thankful for my life after treatment. I am happy and excited that I was able to finish my higher education and receive my Bachelor’s Degree while battling cervical cancer. 

I have learned it is important to stay connected with other cervical cancer survivors, to get involved in the community, to go to events, to join Cervivor’s monthly Creating Connections meetups, and to support current fundraisers. As members of the Cervivor community, we all can learn from other cervical cancer survivors and raise awareness to end cervical cancer.

Rachel Sutton is a cervical cancer survivor from Orange County, California. She is a single mom who was diagnosed with stage IB2 cervical cancer at the age of 31. She underwent cancer treatment while raising her son and pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree. 

Trust In Your Care Team

My cancer posse is comprised of some of the best folks—kith and kin from around the country who rallied in April 2022 when I was first diagnosed with synchronous cervical and uterine cancers. Throughout this unchartered journey, my husband, married daughter in Mississippi and son in Massachusetts have each been effective posse leaders, giving me strength for the road, dispensing loving advice (whether solicited or not!) and serving as liaisons for meal trains, care packages and other generous support. They truly have been my first line of defense.

Dr. Mark and Doris

But, when I look back on this odyssey, I must admit that any success along this journey was determined by my relationship with the principal guide on this trip: my gynecologic oncologist. Captain of my medical team, he was instrumental in shepherding me through the cancer maze: treatment plans; laboratory results; side effects; scans. How blessed I am to have this particular medical professional on my posse.

Dr. Jaron Mark was referred to me after the biopsy and diagnoses. I was slightly surprised at our first consultation. The white-coated doctor who walked in and shook my hand did not appear much older than my son. A soft-spoken but confident young Black man, I was rather pleased that my oncologist would look like me, but I needed to be assured that he was ready for THIS middle-aged Black woman (who has occasionally been deemed a crusty old broad) as a patient. I recall one of the comments I made to him that day to let him understand my mind-set: “Doctor, I plan to celebrate my 100th birthday, and you’re going to help me get there!”  

He looked somewhat taken aback, but then recovered well, smiled and nodded. He seemed up for the challenge.

I was also impressed when he shared that he is an alumnus of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Established in 1876, Meharry was the only medical school to admit Blacks in the South and was the training ground for generations of Black doctors. As a graduate of an historically Black institution in Ohio myself, I always feel a special bond with other such alumni. His esteem was elevated further in my eyes when I discovered he was in practice with his father. Fighting cancer is very much the family business, I suppose.

The true value of our relationship was revealed during those early months of treatment. My oncologist carefully explained every step along the road, using lay terms to describe complicated procedures. He made certain to discuss side effects while also providing realistic possibilities. He never sugar-coated information, yet maintained an optimistic demeanor. And he was proactive. Although my cervical malignancy was Stage 3b1, he informed me that the Stage 1A uterine cancer was far more aggressive and deadly. He advised that I start chemotherapy immediately after brachytherapy, delaying a scheduled family vacation to Boston. When I protested, he very gently but firmly reminded me of the need to stall the progression of the uterine serous cells. He did not arrogantly reprimand me or condescend that he was the expert and I a mere patient; he actually appeared apologetic and concerned that I have all the facts to make an informed decision (the vacation was cancelled). 

Doris and her Radiology team at the START Center 

I ended chemotherapy on January 9, 2023. A scan later that month indicated no evidence of disease. However, by June I began experiencing digestive disturbances, abdominal discomfort and appetite loss. A further scan indicated recurrence of the uterine cancer in the peritoneum. My oncologist booked me for an immediate consultation and we discussed a plan of action that included oral chemotherapy and immunotherapy. But we also discussed a “Plan B” if the desired results were not achieved. I appreciated that he did not advise repeating the treatment plan that did not work the first time. And, if the medicine still fails to eradicate the cancer cells, he does not want to waste precious time; after 3-4 infusions of immunotherapy, he will order a scan to determine effectiveness. If there are no positive results, I will then take the clinical trial route. 

I now understand why so many patients complain about the medical attention (or lack thereof) received from too many doctors and nurses. From the first meeting, I sensed that my young oncologist translated my verbal and nonverbal messages accurately. He was respectful and attentive and I reciprocated the same. Even though I was an entire generation or two ahead of him, he did not patronize or minimize. He answered every question asked, even those posed by my family members. Also importantly, his staff clearly was expected to behave similarly. When a nurse bungled some insurance issues and miscommunicated with me during the first months of treatment, I expressed my displeasure to the doctor and they were no longer employed there at my next appointment.  

When Dr. Mark shook my hand at the end of our consultation last month, he looked me squarely in the eyes, smiled and shared words of encouragement that helped boost my spirits. In that moment, an unspoken bond was reaffirmed: he was not only my doctor, but a trusted fellow combatant in this war against my own cells, a posse member who continues to accompany me up hills and down valleys along the way. I could not ask for better!

A sixth generation Texan from San Antonio, Doris Helene White earned a B.A. from Central State University in Ohio (an historically black institution) and a juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law. Her career in the government sector as a Massachusetts trial attorney reaffirmed her commitment to an equitable legal system. Her husband Steven Soares, daughter Dr. Leigh Soares and son Steven Cooper Soares lead the best “cancer posse” in the galaxy! 

Cervivor Cares: Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s profound legacy of public service and activism, Cervivor, a global organization on a mission to end cervical cancer, is proud to introduce the Cervivor Cares initiative. Driven by a commitment to impact communities positively, Cervivor Cares aims to embody the values of compassion, equality, and service Dr. King championed throughout his lifetime.

Cervivor recognizes the importance of addressing health disparities and advocating for anyone with a cervix’s well-being. The Cervivor Cares initiative seeks to amplify Dr. King’s message of justice and equality by providing support, resources, and education to those impacted by cervical cancer. It is also a way to thank the medical teams that screen, treat, and support cervical cancer patients and survivors. 

By engaging in community outreach, awareness campaigns, and collaborative efforts, Cervivor Cares is dedicated to promoting preventive healthcare, destigmatizing conversations around the Human Papillomavirus (or HPV) and cervical health, as well as ensuring that every individual, regardless of their background, has access to the information and resources they need.

As we celebrate the lasting impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, Cervivor Cares stands as a testament to the belief that collective action and service can bring about positive change. Through honoring Dr. King’s legacy, Cervivor strives to create a world where cervical cancer is ultimately eliminated. Join us in this meaningful journey towards a healthier and more equitable future for all. 


You can provide the support and educational resources by donating directly through the Cervivor website or by shopping with purpose and sponsoring donation-based items in the Cervivor Shop!

Want to support Cervivor in another way? Sign up to volunteer your time and unique skills.

PRESS RELEASE: Governors and Mayors Across the U.S. Declare January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month aims to raise awareness and encourage women to schedule their screenings

MARYLAND, January 14, 2024 – In states and cities across the U.S., Governors and Mayors have declared January as “Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.” Proclamations have been issued at the request of patient advocacy group Cervivor and have been signed to raise awareness a disease that claims the lives of over 4,000 U.S. women a year.

“The U.S. Cancer Statistics Work Group states that in 2020, 11,542 new cervical cancer cases were diagnosed, and 4,272 lives were lost from it,” said Tamika Felder, Founder and Chief Visionary of Cervivor. “Simply put, death from cervical cancer is preventable with vaccination, screening, and treatment. We need to raise awareness across the nation to prevent it from taking more lives.”

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the five-year survival rate of individuals diagnosed with cervical cancer is 67.2% due to improved treatment, early diagnosis, and vaccinations. However, cervical cancer incidence rates and death rates are still high among certain populations in the U.S., according to NIH, largely due to limited access to cervical cancer screening and vaccinations. In 2015-2019, African-American women were more likely to die of cervical cancer than any other group, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, white, and then Asian/Pacific Islander.

Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective against types of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers, and the results from a simple Pap test and HPV co-test can be used to help prevent cervical cancer or detect cervical cancer in its earliest and most curable stages.

Patient advocacy organizations like Cervivor, who inspire and empower those affected by cervical cancer by educating and motivating them to use their voices for creating awareness to end stigma, are on a mission to ensure the disease is eradicated.

The following cities and states, by way of Cervivor, have issued these proclamations:

“We thank the Governors and Mayors for signing these proclamations and for their commitment to raising awareness of this disease,” says Felder. “Cervivor urges women to use this month to schedule their necessary health screenings to stay cancer free.” Those interested in learning more about Cervivor are encouraged to visit www.cervivor.org.

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About Cervivor: Cervivor is a global community of patient advocates who inspire and empower those affected by cervical cancer by educating and motivating them to use their voices for creating awareness to end stigma, influence decision and change, and end cervical cancer. Learn more at www.cervivor.org or visit us on Instagram, Facebook or X.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Kate Weissman, Cervivor Ambassador Phone: 610-324-3239 Email: [email protected]

Our Scars: What A Beautiful Mess

Here is an ‘artified’ version of my port scar. Currently if I wear a v-neck or scoop-neck piece of clothing it will show. Once my port is removed, it may change shape slightly but it will still be there unless I choose to have plastic surgery.

There is a lot of debate among my teal sisters about scars. Many have been so affected by their experience that they choose to cover them up through makeup, corrective surgery or tattoos. I absolutely respect their choices. I am choosing to embrace my battle scars.

I find it oddly comforting to see it. It’s also a great conversation starter. I have had people ask, “what happened?” I welcome that because then I am able to share my story and hopefully spread more awareness about cervical cancer. Like my c-section scar, it is a reminder of not just my physical journey but my emotional and spiritual one as well.

Wabi-sabi

Wabi-sabi is a concept that motions us to constantly search for the beauty in imperfection and accept the more natural cycle of life. It reminds us that all things including us and life itself, are impermanent, incomplete and imperfect. And it seems a much healthier way of looking at the world when you realize perfection is NOT the goal.

Kintsugi

An ancient form of art stems for wabi-sabi, whereby you mend broken objects with gold fillings, giving them ‘golden scars’. It’s know as Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi.

Think of a bowl or teapot that has been dropped onto the floor. What would you do with it? You’d most likely pick up the pieces and throw them away. But not with Kintsugi. Here you bring the pieces of broken pottery back together and glue them with liquid gold. Wouldn’t that make them imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed yet somehow more beautiful? Kintsugi reminds us that there is great beauty in broken things because scars tell a story. They demonstrate fortitude, wisdom, and resilience, earned through the passage of time.

“Why hide these imperfections or golden scars when we are meant to celebrate them?” ~ Omar Itani

That’s how I see my scar – a beautiful imperfect that shows that brokenness can be healed and made whole again. Real… not perfect.

One of my favorite quotes is from Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.Maybe that cracks or scars actually let your light out, to be seen and shared with others?

Christy Chambers is a 2023 Cervivor School Graduate and Cervivor community member thriving beyond Stage IVB cervical cancer. She resides in Monroe, North Carolina with her husband, son, and doggo, Ethel Mertz.

Closing the Door on 2023

We are just hours from closing the door on 2023 and jumping into 2024 with a jam-packed Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM)! Can we count on you to join us? But first, let’s check out some of the impact you have helped us achieve in 2023. Please take a moment to read Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder’s special newsletter and watch the video below.

Beyond this video, the Cervivor Community has…

  • Hosted in-person events like our Cervical Cancer Summit in New York City, kicking off with Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder, ringing the closing bell at Nasdaq; Hosting the Communities of Color Retreat in Washington, D.C., and we headed to the Pacific Northwest for Cervivor School Seattle where we celebrated 21 new graduates and awarded 5 new Cervivor Champions!
  • The Comfort Care & Compassion Program served over 300 individuals impacted by cervical cancer.
  • Inspired, supported, and empowered hundreds of cervical cancer patients and survivors from around the world to share their stories.
  • The addition of a Cervivor staff member, Kimberly Williams, as the Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, was a position to make it clear on our commitment for health equity and closing the disparity gaps. Cervivor Noir,Cervivor Asian and Pacific IslandersCervivor AfricaCervivor Caribbean, and a group for LGBTQIA+ Survivorswere developed, and the expansion of our private groups to include more safe spaces for necessary conversations and support. 
  • We continued to host many meaningful conversations through our monthly Creating Connections support group held every second Tuesday.
  • Season 3 of the Cervivor Podcast was launched in January with Joslyn Paguio returning as the host. The podcast has now reached listeners in 50 countries! Be sure to follow Cervivor Podcast on your preferred listening platform and check out the last episode of Season 3 featuring Team Cervivor here.
  • Virtual events were elevated by the creation of Below the Belt Conversations, HPV Cancer Survivors Connect to strengthen support beyond cervical cancer so that no one feels alone from any HPV-related cancer, and a virtual Advocacy Retreat for Communities of Color allowing several women from Africa and the Caribbean to join the discussion.
  • Continued with daily motivation, fit tips, and monthly challenges powered by Survivor Slimdown to over 452 cancer survivors in our private Facebook community. A huge thank you to both Hearts Bio and the University of North Carolina Weight Research Program for their continuous partnerships. 
  • In addition to using our voices to participate in various research studies, raising awareness in media interviews, and guiding new legislation, we gained the opportunity to serve as patient advocates for various committees and task forces through the White House’s Cancer Moonshot, President’s Cancer Panel, National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Cervical Cancer Roundtable, and the World Health Organization.
  • Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder, and Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, Kimberly Williams were recognized by the American Cancer Society National HPV Vaccination Roundtable for Mentor/Mentee and Lived Experience Ambassador awards.
  • We became a member of the Union for International Cancer Control to further our commitment to our global advocacy work.
  • Hosted an intern from the historic HBCU Claflin University, Summer Edmond, who is majoring in Public Relations and was part of our strategic planning behind the scenes.
  • And we celebrated the #CervivorBaby’s first birthday! (That year went by pretty fast!)

As we reflect on the accomplishments of 2023, we are profoundly grateful for the generosity that has enabled us to make significant strides in achieving our mission – to our monthly donors, our one-time donors, and our incredible fundraising volunteers, we appreciate your support always. We would like to thank our generous sponsors who have helped support us through 2023: HologicSeagenGenentechGenmabRocheSt. Jude HPV Cancer Prevention Program, and Regeneron.

And as we transition into 2024, Cervivor, Inc. remains dedicated to its commitment to ending cervical cancer. Our community has been the driving force behind our achievements, and we recognize that none of this would be possible without your ongoing support and generosity. We wish to remind you that there is still time to make a tax-deductible year-end contribution. Your support will contribute to furthering the initiatives that have represented our efforts in 2023. 

We appreciate your consideration and look forward to your continued support as we strive to make a meaningful difference in the mission to end cervical cancer.

With Gratitude,
Tamika Felder, Founder & Chief Visionary
Morgan Newman, MSW, Community Engagement Liaison
Kimberly Williams, MHCM, Chief Diversity Equity & Inclusion Officer
Team Cervivor

Happy and Healthy Holidays with Survivor Slimdown

The holidays are upon us, but this does not mean your health habits have to fall completely off the rails. We realize it is a season for family, friends, festivity, and food – lots of food. Temptations will be everywhere and this will disrupt your daily routines. Here are some tips and tricks that may help keep you on track:

Eating During the Holidays

Don’t Skip Meals. If you want to “party smart,” never starve yourself throughout the day thinking that it is going to help you save calories for the night.  It is a big mistake to try to “save” calories by skipping meals before the event. This will lead to overeating and making poor food choices. 

Stay Hydrated. Drink plenty of water during the day so you do not feel sluggish the next day. Staying hydrated not only helps maintain your water intake, but it can also reduce feelings of hunger.

Double Up on Veggies. This is always a great idea. Consider bringing a nutritious side dish to the gathering. This way, you can ensure there will be a healthy option available. For example, you could prepare Brussels Sprouts and sweet potatoes. 

Back to Routine. Go back to regular eating after a big holiday meal. Sometimes people keep indulging after the event is over. Remember, one day will not make that much of a difference, but several days certainly will.  

Drinking During the Holidays.

We understand that drinking might be part of the equation for holiday get-togethers.  Here are tips that may help you not to overdo it, and pack in those empty calories. 

Make Mindful Choices. Juices, soda, and alcoholic beverages are high in calories and sugar – especially those fancy cocktails.  Go for low-calorie alcohol beverages and sip your drink slowly. 

Drink Water Between Drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic so it is important to make sure that you stay hydrated by replacing the water that is lost when drinking alcohol. Drinking a glass of water before and between alcoholic drinks can help reduce the risks of dehydration.

Limit Yourself to 2 Drinks. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends drinking in moderation by limiting intake to two drinks or less.

Do not give in to peer pressure. Sometimes friends might make you feel obligated to keep on drinking to feel like you are part of the group, but do not give in. Remember you have goals that you want to reach.

Bonus Tips and Tricks

Make sure you are rested. The holidays can interrupt your sleep-wake cycle which affects your weight management goals. Get your sleep.

Avoid stress eating. Stress is one of the biggest triggers for overeating, especially during the holidays when there are so many tempting foods and sweets.

Practice self-care. Spend a few minutes each day by yourself. Take a walk, meditate, write in your journal, read a book, or even take a hot bath. 

Move your body every day. Go for a long walk. Do a 20-30 minute workout or even dance a couple of songs.  This will help your mindset and you will burn some extra calories. Your mind and body will thank you.  

Staying on track does not mean you have to deprive yourself or feel guilty because you overindulge. It means just being aware and planning ahead. It does not need to be perfect Planning will help you stay focused during the holidays and to be ready for a brand new year.

Happy Holidays Everyone! Wishing you all good health for the upcoming 2024 year.

Spreading Joy Through Acts of Kindness

Cervical cancer, a disease that affects women globally, is not just a diagnosis; it’s a life-altering experience that can test the limits of resilience and strength. The journey through cervical cancer is one that often involves not only physical and emotional challenges but also the search for a supportive community that understands and uplifts. In the face of this challenge, cervical cancer survivors and patients often emerge with a newfound determination to make a positive impact on the world. Many of these remarkable individuals transform their resilience into advocacy, becoming beacons of hope for others. Their stories and experiences not only inspire but also demonstrate the profound ripple effect of compassion and support within the Cervivor community. Read the inspiring experiences of these community members, whose acts of kindness and advocacy are creating a powerful impact, fostering hope, and building a network of support for people within their reach.

Arelene Simpson is a stage IB3 cervical cancer survivor residing in Washington State. She shares an experience that made an impact on her, “A few months ago, I met “Miss S” on the Next-Door app. She was going through some hard times and moved to Washington with just the clothes on her back and a new hope to find peace in her life. She needed new clothes, household items, and someone she could trust to help her get back on her feet again. She ran away from an abusive relationship, so trust was a big issue for her. It took several tries before she finally responded, and we arranged a meet-up where I gave her two boxes of clothes, shoes, and household items. She also asked if we knew anyone who had an affordable car for sale.

At the time, we had just sold our home in California and we had so much stuff transported to Washington. We also had an old car that we have been wanting to sell. We could have easily sold it to our neighbor who was offering double what we sold it to Miss S but, because of her situation, we decided to sell it to her. Miss S continually sends messages and every time she lets us know how our act of kindness hugely changed her life. I believe that God works in truly wonderful ways and brings the most unexpected blessings. I like to live by having an “Attitude of Gratitude” and live with purpose daily. To give more and to help people positively. When I think my days are hard, I think of Miss S and others who are going through even harder challenges, and it makes me want to give back even more. Paying it forward and giving back with acts of kindness makes me an even more grateful being. Gratitude is my attitude!”

Cervical cancer treatment is physically and emotionally taxing, often requiring a support system to navigate the journey. Survivors are finding creative ways to offer encouragement to those currently undergoing treatment, one of which is through inspirational bracelets. Christy, a North Carolina cervical cancer survivor with a heart full of compassion, started a project where she purchases and distributes inspirational bracelets to individuals going through treatment. Each bracelet is carefully selected with words of encouragement, strength, and hope. The simple act of wearing these bracelets becomes a tangible reminder that they are not alone in their journey.

Christy adds, “I have been a collector of ZOX bracelets for a few years. I love the designs, but more importantly, the goal of the company resonates with me: ‘to build a community that would welcome others with kind words and a gentle heart’. When I was diagnosed I could not find a cervical cancer support group in my area. I was in desperate need of a community; persons who understood what I was experiencing and who could offer a camaraderie that my friends and family could not. I realized I would simply have to build my own.

So I attached cards to 30 ZOX bracelets with a link to a Facebook page I started to chronicle my journey. The cards read: Hi, I’m Christy! I’m a cancer warrior currently battling Stage 4b Cervical Cancer. Please accept this little reminder that NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE!”. I left them at my local infusion and radiation departments with instructions that they be given to both patients and staff. A few months later I left 20 more, then 20 more. To date, I have leftover 100, but I also keep some in my purse and hand them out as I am out living life. Little by little my online community has grown; and that group of people, some of whom I have never met, have been instrumental in my journey! I saw a quote that read: “Kindness is giving hope to those who think they are all alone in this world.” 

I would like to think my simple act of sharing has given hope to many; I know it has fostered hope and joy in me! I’m choosing hope daily.”

The significance of acts of kindness cannot be overstated. They possess the remarkable ability to profoundly impact lives, instilling both the giver and the recipient with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Research consistently demonstrates that kind acts are associated with increased life satisfaction. Kindness is not merely a fleeting gesture; its enduring impact resonates through communities, inspiring others to perpetuate this cycle of compassion. Each act of kindness, regardless of its scale, contributes to a collective reservoir of empathy and support, nurturing a network of strength and resilience. In the face of adversity, the profound effects of kindness serve as a testament to the enduring human spirit and the boundless capacity for empathy and generosity.

Have you carried out acts of kindness and would like to share your experience with us? Email us at [email protected]!

Navigating Loss and Stepping Into Healing

As a psychotherapist, I work often with individuals experiencing grief and quite regularly, find that people do not realize they are going through the grieving process when they are experiencing something that is not related to death. When we think of grief, we think of funerals and tears, not the loss of a friendship, the loss of a job, or our own health declining. On July 27th, 2020, at 8 am, I was beginning my workday when my phone rang. The voice on the other end of the call was the same warm, comforting voice that helped me stay breathing during my colposcopy only a few weeks earlier. “Your test results have come back. I am sorry, but you have cancer, and we have sent your paperwork up to an oncology team…” I spent the rest of the day, with a best friend by my side, staring at the floor in silence. I had no clue how my life would change or that grief would be part of my journey in some of the worst ways.

The next few weeks went by quickly, meeting my oncologist, setting up a treatment plan filled with backup plans, and many tearful calls with my mentor, Dr. Steve, who was also a cancer patient. I realized quickly what I am sure many others in this community have, cervical cancer is addressed but not often or in-depth enough, and breaking the rules I was given: DO NOT GOOGLE YOUR DIAGNOSIS, I immediately began feeling confused, ashamed, and guilty as I read everything I could find: HPV caused this? No one even told me I had HPV. I attended my exams as recommended, there was never a mention of abnormal pap, just a sore lower back and a lot of confusion. After diagnosis, there are a lot of questions that go through our minds such as: Am I going to die? What if my treatment has complications? Will I still be able to have children? What will happen to my body from the cancer? From my perspective, as a cancer patient and in working with cancer patients, rumination is our best friend and worst enemy.

So many of us in the cancer community have experienced “cancer ghosting” to some degree. When we need people the most, where are they? Quick to offer a kind word and prayers, but when we need help at home after surgery or a ride to and from chemo, where are these wonderful people who offered their support? We grieve the loss of friendships we thought we had. We grieve the way our bodies change from treatment and the loss of our hair from chemo, we grieve the time we lose during active treatment. And sometimes we develop friendships with some people we always wish we knew, and then they are gone. There are so many ways in which we grieve during this experience, and it seems to me that we only understand that grief as we go through it. We grieve how difficult it becomes to relate to others who have not had the same experiences, how could they possibly understand? When I first got sick, my mentor, Dr. Steve, told me, “…with cancer, sometimes we will come to deeply love someone only to lose them, and sometimes we are the ones they lose”. Sadly, we lost Dr. Steve in June 2023 to both
multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer. I did not realize at the time that he was preparing me for losing him and, of all the things cancer took from me, losing him to cancer while I was still in remission was the hardest pill to swallow.

In connecting with other cervical cancer patients throughout the several months following diagnosis, there was a common theme of being fixated on the HPV portion of the diagnosis. Some said to me that it made them feel shameful because of language used such as “promiscuity” and “contracted through sexual partners”. One woman told me they could not stop fixating on the number of partners she had, a small amount, and began to feel anger toward previous partners. When I addressed the cancer diagnosis as a traumatic experience to this individual, I was met by a baffled expression… “I do not have PTSD”, they told me. Recent research will show that a vast majority of individuals dealing with cancer have either a prior diagnosis of a stressor-related disorder such as PTSD related to experiences in early childhood or will begin to develop symptoms during active treatment which makes the process, and survivorship, a sometimes very difficult period to navigate. To this, the best recommendation I can make is to take care of your mental health in any way possible beginning with your initial diagnosis. If you are a survivor and still feel lingering emotional pain, Psychology Today is a great resource in which you can find a trauma-informed counselor who specializes in working with illness.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist, identified that there are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance in her book “On Death and Dying”. One important thing to acknowledge is that though there are stages listed, they are not linear, and some components can strike even years after finding out we are free of disease. When we think of the moment that we found out we had cancer, can we also recall the emotions surging through our bodies? For me, it was denial followed immediately by depression, and now, three years later, there are more moments of acceptance, but still periods of deep denial, almost to the point where I feel like an imposter. A cancer imposter. Some clients of mine have shared ways in which bargaining presented for them, feeling though if they had just done something differently, they would not have been “punished” with cancer. And that’s the thing about grief, and with cancer, it is not a punishment nor is it something to feel ashamed about. Cancer and loss are things that happen to you, but they do not have to be what defines you.

Through community, we can begin the healing process. The best thing I did for myself when I was diagnosed was to work with a mental health professional individually to process the changes I was about to endure; for my clients, we talk as little or as much as they want about what cancer is doing to them emotionally and/or to their loved ones, and I encourage them to use resources for support such as groups available through the Bright Spot Network, local therapy offices or their cancer center, and programs such as the Cancer Support Network. When someone we love passes, or we have a terminal diagnosis, I encourage joining groups through local hospices, a great and not well-known source in terms of support. It is important to not be fixated on one specific type of therapy, as there are many options, and while something like EMDR may seem appealing, it may not be an appropriate fit at a specific point in time but something such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy may be. Connecting with others in the cervical cancer community, or the cancer community in general, can be tremendous because it allows us to see and truly feel that we are not alone regardless of where we are on our journey. Cervivor is the best resource, in my opinion, for those with a cervical cancer diagnosis, not just because we are meeting others who had or have cervical cancer, but because we truly are a group of sisters who stand behind and support one another in a way I have never seen elsewhere. There has never been an unkind word from one sister to another because of things such as different treatment, different stages, different complications, just pure and unconditional love and support.

Another thing I often find myself suggesting to clients is to read books on grief, and at times, stories of others’ journeys through cancer. A friend of mine, Gina Moffa, LCSW, is a grief and trauma specialist who recently published a book called, “Moving on Doesn’t Mean Letting Go”, which I initially began reading to help me through the loss of my mother, my best friend Andrew, and Dr. Steve, who all passed within a 10-month period of one another not long after I finally began to feel consistently healthy. Her book provided tools and insight into the grieving process that helped me reframe my entire cancer experience, and through the loss of my loved ones, and continues to inspire the way in which I approach grieving. One thing that makes her book so special is that it feels as though she is speaking directly to you and could be encouraging to those who are still unsure about meeting individually with a counselor, with the reminder that in fact, moving on or through our grief does not mean we have to let go of what occurred in order to move forward. With clients who have loved ones with cancer, are experiencing cancer or grief themselves, I have recommended books such as, “When Cancer Strikes a Friend,” by Bonnie Draeger, “The Grieving Brain” by Mary-Frances O’Conner, “The Beauty of What Remains” by Steve Leder, and “Between Two Kingdoms” by Suleika Jaouad. These books can be read at any point and maintain relevance in many ways as we go through our grief or cancer journey. It is important to remember that our journeys are individual, what may help one may not help another, but encourage you to remember that there are many paths to healing and you are never as alone as you may feel.

Countdown to Giving Tuesday: Join us in Making a Difference!

As the anticipation builds, we are thrilled to share that we are just hours away from Giving Tuesday—a global day of generosity and a chance for us all to come together to make a positive impact. At Cervivor, Inc., we are gearing up for this incredible day and want YOU to be a part of the magic!

Why Giving Tuesday Matters:

Giving Tuesday is more than just a day—it’s a movement that transcends borders and brings people together in the spirit of generosity. It’s a day to celebrate the power of giving back and making a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

For Cervivor, Inc., this day holds special significance. It’s an opportunity for our community to rally together and support our mission to end cervical cancer through awareness, education, advocacy, and support. Every donation, no matter the size, helps us take one step closer to a world free of cervical cancer.

How You Can Make a Difference:

This Giving Tuesday, we invite you to join our movement and be a part of something bigger. Here’s how you can make a meaningful impact:

  1. Donate: Your financial support enables us to continue our vital work in cervical cancer education, awareness, advocacy, and patient support. Make a donation here.
  2. Educate: Knowledge is power. Take a moment to educate yourself and others about cervical cancer prevention, early detection, and the importance of regular screenings. We have some great resources to check out here.
  3. Spread the Word: Share our mission on your social media platforms. Use the hashtags #Cervivor and #EndCervicalCancer to join the conversation and inspire others to get involved.
  4. Volunteer: Your time and skills are invaluable. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, reach out to us at [email protected].

Our Progress and Future Goals:

Thanks to the generosity of our community, we’ve achieved significant milestones in the mission to end cervical cancer but there is still much work to be done. With your support, we can:

  • Expand our outreach programs to reach more individuals and communities.
  • Provide crucial resources and support for those affected by cervical cancer.
  • Advocate for policies that promote cervical cancer prevention and awareness.

Join Us on Giving Tuesday:

The countdown has begun, and we can’t wait to see the impact we can make together on Giving Tuesday. Your support matters, and it’s the collective efforts of individuals like you that drive positive change.

Visit Cervivor.org on Giving Tuesday to make your contribution and be a part of the movement to eliminate cervical cancer.

Thank you for being an essential part of the Cervivor community. Together, we can make a difference.

Empowering Communities of Color: A Recap of the Fall Virtual Advocacy Retreat

The Fall Virtual Cervical Cancer Patient Advocacy Retreat for Communities of Color, held on October 28th, was an inspiring and informative event that brought together cervical cancer survivors and speakers dedicated to closing the gap in cervical cancer disparities. The retreat aimed to provide a platform for empowering and educating communities of color across the globe to become advocates in the mission to end cervical cancer. With a dynamic lineup of speakers, engaging and impactful conversations, and a clear advocacy action list, the retreat left attendees feeling empowered and equipped to make a difference in their communities and beyond.

The retreat’s success was undoubtedly due to the incredible speakers who graced the virtual stage. Each speaker brought unique insights and experiences to the table, making the event an unforgettable experience for all who attended:

  • Kimberly Williams, Cervivor’s Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer gave the opening remarks, shared how her personal journey has progressed over the last several years, and discussed the unwavering commitment Cervivor, Inc. has to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the mission to end cervical cancer.
  • Tamika Felder, Founder and Chief Visionary of Cervivor, Inc. inspired attendees to define their ‘why’ while sharing her personal experience of building what she didn’t have, the vision turned into a reality with the creation of the Cervivor, Inc. organization of nearly 19 years ago.
  • Nancy Peña, ONP-CG, CMI, BS, Director and Founder of Navegación de Pacientes Internacional, Inc. (NPI), was our morning keynote to share the important work to end cancer disparities by identifying and providing cancer patients support resources throughout the continuum of their care.
  • A Cervivor-filled panel moderated by Tiera Wade included the voices of Joslyn Paguio, Kadiana Vegee, and Karla Chavez to show their journeys from cervical cancer survivors to Cervivors.
  • Chicago-based duo, Dr. Nita Karnik Lee and Dr. Paris Thomas teamed up to share the importance or representation in clinical trials, how to access the opportunities available, and advocate for others to seek the care they deserve.
  • Dr. Jennifer Cunningham Erves, PhD, MPH, MAEd, MS, CHES, Director of Community Engaged Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center shared what attendees needed to know about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the importance of cancer prevention through vaccination.
  • Dr. Jane Montealegre, Baylor College of Medicine, was the closing keynote to address the unique opportunities and challenges we face in eliminating cervical cancer.

Throughout the retreat, attendees from across the globe engaged in meaningful conversations and breakout discussions that shed light on various aspects of cervical cancer and advocacy. Several survivors logged in from islands in the Caribbean and a large group of survivors gathered together in Milicent Kagonga’s home, a Cervivor Africa Ambassador, to learn more about patient advocacy. 

But the retreat didn’t just stop at discussions; it moved the speakers and empowered attendees with a clear action list to ensure that the knowledge gained translated into impactful change:

  • Advocate for Improved Access to Healthcare: Support initiatives to increase access to cervical cancer screenings and vaccinations within communities of color.
    • Attendees expressed the importance of holding workshops to share screening and vaccination information not only for the public but to bridge the gap between patients and providers.
  • Education and Awareness Campaigns: Join Cervivor, inc. and participate in community-driven awareness campaigns to educate individuals on the importance of cervical cancer prevention, early detection, and self-advocacy.
    • Attendees expressed the need to bring men into the discussion as cervical cancer impacts the entire family structure and the very virus that causes 5 more cancers.
  • Community Engagement: Strengthen partnerships within their communities and collaborate with local organizations to promote cervical cancer awareness and advocate for accessible healthcare services.
    • Community outreach days with mobile screening and vaccination clinics are necessary to communities who do not have regular access.

In closing, the Fall Cervical Cancer virtual retreat has been a powerful journey of connection, support, and empowerment. As we reflect on the stories, insights, and shared strength of our attendees, we are reminded of the urgency to end cervical cancer once and for all. Together, we can make a difference. Whether you’re a cervical cancer patient, survivor, caregiver, or an ally in this fight, your voice and your actions matter. Join us in raising awareness, advocating for regular screenings and vaccinations, and supporting research for better treatments. Let’s unite to ensure that one day, cervical cancer is a thing of the past. Together, we can make this vision a reality. Join us in our mission by visiting cervivor.org, and together, we can help end cervical cancer.

Lastly, Cervivor, Inc. would like to thank our generous sponsors for supporting our mission of educating and empowering individuals impacted by cervical cancer to take action and create change in their local communities and beyond. Thank you to SeagenGenmab, Roche Diagnostics, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital HPV Cancer Prevention Program, and Genentech.

Caregiving is a Gift

Cervical cancer is an issue that affects countless individuals around the world. For those battling this disease, the journey is often filled with challenges, both physical and emotional. In the face of such adversity, the role of a caregiver becomes all the more essential. From the perspective of Cervivor, Inc., caregiving is indeed a gift, an invaluable act of love, support, and generosity that plays a pivotal role in the lives of those affected by this disease. We value the tireless efforts of caregivers who offer their unwavering support.

Caregivers are unsung heroes in the fight against cervical cancer. They are family members, friends, or healthcare professionals who selflessly step up to provide physical and emotional support to those diagnosed with this illness. The role of caregivers encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, including providing emotional support, assisting with daily tasks, offering companionship, advocating for necessary healthcare needs, and managing practical or logistical matters.

One Cervivor, Lindsay Gullatte-Lee shares how her daughter played an important role as a caregiver:

“My oldest daughter Aja Gullatte, on the days my husband couldn’t take me, drove me to the hospital for procedures and treatments before Jesus in the mornings, in the wee hours of the night, and any time in between. On top of being a Mom to her daughter and a wonderful big sis to her siblings, making sure the household was straight while I was in the hospital and the months after. She stepped in and paid bills when I couldn’t and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to see me the way I was. She got the brunt of it because I didn’t allow my other children to see me in the hospital or let them in on just how bad it really was. I don’t have favorites. As a mom, your heart is big enough to love all your children the same but she has been with me the longest, the most, and we have grown up together. I don’t know how I would have gotten through any of it without my husband and my children. They are who I fought so hard for and I’m extremely grateful to GOD for my life…I love you, my chocolate girl. I’m so blessed to be your Mom.”

Caregiving is a profound gift for several reasons:

  • Unconditional Love: Caregivers offer support out of love and a deep sense of responsibility. They make countless sacrifices to ensure the well-being of their loved ones, often putting their own needs on hold.

  • Strength and Resilience: Caregivers display remarkable strength and resilience in the face of adversity, uncertainty, and challenges of cervical cancer head-on, providing a source of inspiration for patients.

  • Enhanced Quality of Life: Caregivers significantly improve the quality of life for those going through cervical cancer. Their presence and care create an environment where patients can focus on recovery and healing.

  • Complementary Care: Caregivers work hand in hand with healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive holistic care. Their contributions complement medical treatments and therapies.

  • Emotional Support: The emotional support caregivers provide is immeasurable. Knowing that someone cares deeply and is there for them can boost a patient’s mental and emotional well-being, which can be instrumental in the healing process.

Where caregivers give so much to us, it is essential to recognize and support the caregivers as well. Providing caregivers with educational resources and support materials can help them navigate the complexities of cervical cancer and caregiving more effectively, offering respite care services allows caregivers to take breaks and recharge, reducing burnout and stress, caregivers may experience emotional and mental health challenges so access to counseling and support groups can help them cope with these issues, and lastly, acknowledging the vital role of caregivers within the community and society can go a long way in showing appreciation for their dedication.

Caregiving is a gift that plays an integral role in the journey of those affected by cervical cancer. Caregivers provide invaluable support, love, and strength during challenging times. We deeply appreciate and honor the contributions of caregivers in the challenges that come along with this disease. Through education, support, and gratitude, we can ensure that caregivers continue to play a pivotal role in the lives of those enduring cervical cancer, offering hope, comfort, and safety in their journey toward healing.

Bridging the Gap for Native American Heritage Month

November is not only a time for Thanksgiving, it is also National Native American Heritage Month. Let’s come together to celebrate the rich cultures and contributions of Native Americans while shedding light on the importance of cervical health and the disparities surrounding cervical cancer diagnosis in Native American communities. 

Cervical cancer is a disease that impacts individuals of all backgrounds, including those in the Native American community. Cervical cancer disproportionately affects underserved and marginalized populations, including Native American women. These disparities are often due to limited access to healthcare, educational resources, and cultural barriers. Native American communities, like many others, face challenges in cervical cancer prevention and early detection which can detect abnormal changes in the cervix early, when they are most treatable.
Beverly is a Cervivor community member who is a part of the Easter Band of Cherokee Indians. As we acknowledge National Native American Heritage Month we take a look at Beverly’s Cervivor story.

“When I learned at age 40 that I had stage IIIB cervical cancer, it sounded like a death sentence. I remember thinking “My children are too young to be left alone!”

Immediately, I went into a series of traditional ceremonies with my community. During sweats, I pictured the tumor melting. My children sang healing songs. But I didn’t pray for instant healing—I prayed for strength and clarity. At the sun dance, where prayers were said for me, I received items like eagle plumes and prayer ties. The water ceremony was also very powerful—and the hospital showed respect for it. I can never forget the amazing change the ceremony brought to the lymph node surgery I had less than an hour later. My traditions are everything to me, and they were what I held onto during this time.”

Kristine, a Cervivor community member representing the Navajo Zuni Clan shares:

“When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer I had to lean on my heritage for my source of strength. It was a great reminder of the those that came before me and what it meant to have their blood run through mine. Navajo women are the matriarch and we (all Navajo’s) introduce ourselves by clan which identifies and defines relationships between individuals and families. When you meet someone with one or more of your same clan, you become related by clan. You can also tell a region by someone’s clan. 

According to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, American Indian and Alaska Native women are nearly twice as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to white women and four times as likely to die from it. Those are statistics I would like to help change. Cervical cancer is preventable. I share my story to remind you to be proactive with your health. Make those uncomfortable gynecologist/prevention visits and ask about the HPV vaccination for your child(ren). ”

Through the work with Cervivor, Inc. and community partner organizations, we can reduce and close the disparity gap:  

  • Education: Promote awareness about cervical cancer and its risk factors within Native American communities. Partner with local health organizations, community leaders, and tribal authorities to host workshops, webinars, or informational sessions and include patients and survivors to share their stories and experiences.
  • Access to Care: Advocate for improved access to healthcare services, including cervical cancer screening and vaccination, in underserved areas with high Native American populations.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Tailor educational campaigns to respect and acknowledge the cultural beliefs and practices of Native American communities. Building trust and understanding is essential for effective outreach.
  • Support and Resources: Collaborate with healthcare providers and organizations to ensure that Native American women have access to affordable screenings and follow-up care, if necessary.
  • Encourage Vaccination: Promote HPV vaccination to protect young girls and boys from the virus, ultimately reducing cervical cancer rates.

We can make a significant difference in the lives of Native American communities and all those affected by this preventable disease. Let’s honor our past while working towards a healthier future for everyone. Do you identify as Native American or Alaskan Indian? Share your Cervivor story today!

Celebrating Team Cervivor’s Dedication to Cervical Cancer Prevention

We are thrilled to share some incredible news that fills our hearts with pride and gratitude: Our passionate and dedicated Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder, and our Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, Kimberly Williams have both been recognized with awards from the American Cancer Society for their unwavering commitment to cervical cancer awareness and prevention. This recognition is a testament to our incredible work, and it’s a reason for all of us to celebrate.

The American Cancer Society’s acknowledgment of Team Cervivor’s efforts is confirmation of the impact we are making on this critical issue.

Kimberly Williams was recognized with the Lived Experience Ambassador Award. She says, “What a surprise and honor to be acknowledged in this manner. Thank you ACS! This reminds me that my story matters and changes lives! I am an ambassador for change! Together we are better. My Cervivor story has power!”

And Tamika Felder was awarded with a Mentor-Mentee award for her service as a steering committee member with the National HPV Vaccination Round Table and her 2023 Emerging Leader, Kiara Long, MPH, CHES. Kiara shares, “I attended the annual meeting for the American Cancer Society National HPV Vaccination Roundtable and the American Cancer Society National Roundtable on Cervical Cancer in Atlanta this week. I was overjoyed to have received the Mentor-Mentee Award with Tamika Felder. Words can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity to learn from her. I am honored to be a part of the Emerging Leaders program with such a dynamic group of women!”

Our cancer journey is like any advocacy endeavor. It has its highs and lows but it is through unwavering dedication and imperative partnerships that we’ve reached this milestone. The tireless commitment to raising awareness, offering support, and advocating for prevention, early detection, and vaccination has not gone unnoticed. Team Cervivor’s collective efforts along with the partners at the American Cancer Society have helped save lives, educate communities, and support those impacted by cervical cancer.

We know that this recognition isn’t just all about the accolades, it serves as a reminder that our work is truly making a difference. Our voices are being heard, and our actions are creating change. Together, we have helped make significant strides in cervical cancer prevention, and we have no doubt that the future holds even greater achievements for our community.

Let’s continue our journey together, advocating for cervical cancer prevention, supporting those who need it, and sharing our voices to make a difference. We look forward to celebrating many more successes with our community at large. Together, we can and will make a difference.

Mind, Body, & Spirit: The Importance of Self-Care

As a cervical cancer patient and survivor, you’ve shown immense strength, resilience, and courage, but your self-care journey doesn’t end with a cancer diagnosis or even at the end of treatment; it’s a continuous life path toward self-discovery and healing.

Self-care is essential to help you heal physically and nurture your mental and emotional well-being. Check out these five practices for cervical cancer patients and survivors that promote self-care.

Prioritize Mental Health and Wellness

Your mental health is just as important as your physical well-being. After enduring something like cervical cancer, you may experience a wide range of emotions, including anxiety, fear of the unknown or the “new normal,”, and even survivor’s guilt. Prioritizing your mental health is crucial to help you navigate these complex feelings. 

You can accomplish these things by: 

  • Seeking Professional Help: Reach out to a therapist or counselor who specializes in cancer survivorship. They can provide valuable guidance and support as you process your emotions and concerns.
  • Joining a Support Group: Connecting with other cervical cancer patients and survivors can be incredibly healing. Sharing your experiences and hearing others’ stories can reduce feelings of isolation and provide a sense of community. Cervivor offers a virtual online support group on the second Tuesday of each month. Sign up on our events page here.
  • Practicing Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises can help you stay present and reduce anxiety. Apps and online resources make it easy to get started.

Read for Healing

Reading can be a powerful form of self-care for cervical cancer survivors. It allows you to escape into different worlds, gain knowledge, and find solace in the written word. Start by: Choosing some inspirational memoirs. Many cancer survivors have shared their experiences in memoirs or self-help books. Reading these can provide you with insight, inspiration, and a sense of connection. Or explore fiction and fantasy. Sometimes, losing yourself in a good novel or immersing yourself in a fantasy world can provide a much-needed break from reality. Reading fiction can be a great way to relax and recharge. We strongly believe knowledge is power. Take some control back by learning about nutrition after cancer. Reading about nutrition can help you make informed choices about your diet and overall health. Jump in and join the Cervivor Book Club!

Get Creative

Engaging in creative activities can be therapeutic and fulfilling. It allows you to express your emotions and discover new passions. Start a journal to help you process your feelings and reflect on your journey as a cervical cancer survivor. It’s a safe space to express yourself freely. Exploring art therapy with drawing, painting, or crafting as it can be immensely cathartic. You don’t need to be a professional artist; the act of creating can be a soothing and expressive outlet. Or considering learning a new skill or hobby. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, cooking, or dancing, mastering something new can boost your self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Get Physically Active

Maintaining a regular exercise routine is essential for physical and emotional well-being. It helps with managing stress, improving mood, and maintaining a healthy weight. Depending on your physical condition, start with gentle exercises like yoga or walking. These activities can improve flexibility and strength without putting too much strain on your body. To ensure your safety and well-being during and post cancer treatment, look for cancer-specific exercise programs and classes designed to address the unique needs and concerns of cancer patients and survivors. These classes often provide a supportive and understanding environment along with modifications to fit your physical limitations. Survivor Slimdown is powered by Cervivor, Inc. and lead by Cancer Exercise Specialist and cervical cancer survivor, Patti Murillo-Casa.

Cultivate a Supportive Environment

Surrounding yourself with a supportive and caring community is vital for your healing journey. Connect with friends and family who offer encouragement and empathy. Start by communicating your needs. A lot of us fear being seen as weak or a burden when we ask for help. We’re here to say don’t. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs with your loved ones. Let them know how they can support you on your path to recovery.

Another way to cultivate a supportive environment is to get involved with your local community and beyond. Many organizations and hospitals host events specifically for cancer patients and survivors. Attending these gatherings can provide you with opportunities to connect, share, and celebrate your journey as well as discuss the hard things you face on a daily basis. Connect with Cervivor at upcoming events or consider hosting your own MeetUp on behalf of Cervivor! (Email us for more information).

Remember, self-care is a lifelong commitment to nurturing your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Prioritizing your mental health, finding peace in reading, and expressing yourself through creativity can all be powerful tools in your healing journey. Additionally, staying physically active and cultivating a supportive environment can further contribute to your overall well-being. And as another reminder, you are never alone. There are many resources and communities ready to offer support and encouragement. Embrace these self-care practices and various programming put on by Cervivor. Together they will help you thrive as a cervical cancer patient and survivor and continue your journey towards a healthier and fulfilled life.

Cervivor School Seattle Reflections

In the heart of the Pacific Northwest, amidst the city landscapes of Seattle, Washington, a group of resilient cervical cancer survivors recently gathered to embark on a patient advocacy journey that transcended the boundaries of a traditional classroom.

Cervivor School, an immersive patient advocacy training program for cervical cancer survivors hosted by Cervivor, Inc. trained 23 new attendees with a deep dive into the psychosocial aspects of cervical cancer and paired it with the latest science to help them understand the scope of the national and global disparities. In this blog post, we will take you on a reflective journey through the empowering experiences, inspiring stories, and invaluable insights gained during the Cervivor School in Seattle:

“I went to Cervivor School, afraid of not belonging, but I returned with a feeling of sorority and acceptance. Cervivor School exceeded my expectations by far. There was an energy and a contagious passion. I felt enlightened and empowered like never before. After hearing the stories of these extraordinary women, it gives me more reasons to do something to end cervical cancer.” – Claudia Perez-Favela, California

“This past weekend was amazing. Cervivor School was so informative. The knowledge gained is beyond words. I felt so empowered being in a room filled with so many powerful women and the love and support given is just fantastic. I felt a sense of belonging from the get go, there was no awkward moments in the room and I loved that. I admired how everything tied in nicely. I applaud Team Cervivor for the work they put into Cervivor School to make it a reality.  Once again, thank you for allowing me to be part of this.” – Nymphia Emmanuel, St. Lucia

“Firstly, I was so privileged and grateful for the opportunity to attend Cervivor School in Seattle Washington. Meeting with other Cervivors, sharing our stories encouraging each other to be empowered, and learning together how we can all make a difference in our society by advocating for others against cervical cancer and HPV. My personal goal is to gain my voice, knowing that I have the power to help eradicate cervical cancer mortality rates. Sharing my story and being a “Pillar” of hope to someone is making a difference.” – Davina Woolward, Guyana

“It was an incredible opportunity to connect with fellow survivors and advocates with whom I have shared journeys and passions. The sense of belonging and support within the Cervivor community is a big extended family and the knowledge and skills I gained during my time there were invaluable. Learning from experts in cervical health and hearing the inspiring stories of resilience from others was not only educational but deeply empowering. It was a reminder that I am part of a strong, compassionate, and dedicated network working together to raise awareness about cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccination and make a positive impact and a change in women’s health. Cervivor School left a permanent mark on me, and I am grateful for the chance to be a part of such an incredible community.” – Julianna Colley, Georgia

Before we shift our focus to celebrating the remarkable individuals who have earned the prestigious title of Cervivor Champion, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the dynamic speakers and passionate advocates who graced our event with their insights and experiences – Thank you to Dr. Linda Eckert of the University of Washington, Dr. Hyo Sook Bae of the National Cancer Institute, Roshanda Pratt of the REP Network, Kiara Long of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Carolyn Kay of Roche Diagnostics, Dr. Sarah Villarreal of the University of Washington, Dr. Leeya Pinder of the University of Cincinnati, Christina Turpin of the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, Dr. Yolanda Evans of Seattle Children’s Hospital, Kate Weissman, Cervivor Ambassador, and the incredible team at Cervivor for the impactful conversations and necessary information to become well-informed patient advocates. A special thank you also goes out to Mike Hill and Sue Collins of Moonshine Agency for selecting Cervivor School as an exclusive film screening for Conquering Cancer in the United States.

Next, we extend our warmest congratulations to the exceptional individuals who have been named as the newest Cervivor Champion award recipients. Your dedication, resilience, and unwavering commitment to the fight against cervical cancer have not only transformed your own lives but have also left an indelible mark on our community.

As Cervivor Champions, you embody the spirit of advocacy, turning your personal journeys into powerful forces for change. Your voices and stories inspire, educate, and empower others to take control of their health and join in the mission to end cervical cancer. We celebrate your achievements, and we look forward to witnessing the positive impact you will continue to make in the world of cervical cancer advocacy.

Congratulations to Anna Ogo, Anne Zajic, Cindy Trice, Josyln Paguio, and Kadiana Vegee!

In our relentless pursuit to end cervical cancer, the voices of patient advocates are not just valuable; they are absolutely necessary. Patient advocates are the heart and soul of our movement, the driving force behind the progress we’ve made, and the torchbearers of hope for a future free from this devastating disease. Their lived experiences, their determination, and their unwavering commitment serve as inspiration and hope for individuals facing a cervical cancer diagnosis, and as a powerful catalyst for change within healthcare and policy systems.

Patient advocate voices remind us that behind every statistic is a human life, and that the fight against cervical cancer is not just a medical journey, but a deeply emotional taxing one. As we move forward, let us continue to amplify these voices, to listen, to learn, and to stand together in the unshakable belief that one day we can, and will, bring an end to cervical cancer.

Together, we are a force to be reckoned with, and with each voice that joins our mission, we come one step closer to a world where cervical cancer is but a distant memory.

Lastly, Cervivor, Inc. would like to thank our generous sponsors for supporting our mission of educating and empowering individuals impacted by cervical cancer to take action and create change in their local communities and beyond. Thank you, Hologic, Seagen, Genmab, and Genentech.

Cervivor School Heads to Seattle

Excitement is in the air as Team Cervivor and several attendees from across the globe prepare to converge in Seattle, Washington, this week for Cervivor School!

We are thrilled to welcome an incredible group of survivors, advocates, and speakers who are dedicated to making a difference in the mission to eliminate cervical cancer.

Cervivor School is a unique opportunity for us to come together, share our experiences, and gain valuable knowledge that will empower us as patient advocates to drive change and raise awareness about cervical cancer prevention and the many facets of being a Cervivor. It’s a place where we can learn, grow, and connect with one another, all with the shared goal of eliminating cervical cancer.

Over the course of this event, we will engage in meaningful discussions, hear from expert speakers, and participate in workshops and activities designed to strengthen our advocacy efforts. Whether you’re a seasoned Cervivor or attending for the first time, this is a chance to expand your knowledge, network with like-minded individuals, and become an even more effective advocate for cervical cancer awareness and prevention.

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has made this event possible, including our generous sponsors and community supporters as well as the dedicated Cervivor team. Together, we are creating a world where cervical cancer is front and center in awareness so it can become a thing of the past.

If you would still like to give to our Cervivor School fundraiser, there is still time! Please make a donation directly through our website or through our Classy fundraising page. Every donation matters!

As we gather in Seattle, let us embrace the spirit of unity and collaboration that defines the Cervivor community. Together, we can drive change, support one another, and work towards a future where no one has to face the challenges of cervical cancer.

Safe travels to all attendees, and we look forward to seeing you in Seattle!

It’s Time to Spark More Below the Belt Conversations

Cancer is a life disrupter that can test one’s physical, emotional, and mental strength to the brink. Those who have endured this relentless disease and emerged often feel called to do something more so others don’t have to go through the same thing. Sharing their story becomes an invaluable source of hope, inspiration, and surprisingly, healing. 


This is the importance of sharing your story and sparking more below-the-belt conversations.

Breaking the Silence
Gynecologic cancer often carries with it a heavy stigma, and many patients and survivors initially find it challenging to talk openly about their diagnosis and treatment. However, sharing your story helps break the silence surrounding these cancers, making it a topic that is easier for others to learn and discuss. This shame resilience fosters a sense of community and support, as others facing similar challenges can relate to your experiences.

Providing Comfort and Hope
This journey can be a frightening and isolating time, both for patients and their loved ones. When you share your story, you offer comfort to those who are in the midst of their own experiences. Your insights provide them with hope and reassurance that they, too, can overcome this formidable adversary. 

Empowering Others
Your story can empower others to take control of their health. It can motivate individuals to prioritize regular check-ups, engage in healthier lifestyles, and advocate for themselves when it comes to their medical care. By sharing your journey, you become a beacon of strength and resilience that encourages others to take action.

Raising Awareness and Changing the World
Your story can contribute to increased awareness about the disease. By describing the symptoms you experienced, the importance of early detection, and the challenges you faced during treatment, you can help educate others about cancer prevention and the need for regular screenings and it can even improve the way the treatment is provided in the future. This knowledge can ultimately save lives.


Sharing your cancer journey as a patient and survivor is a profoundly meaningful and impactful endeavor and can make a lasting difference in the lives of others. Cervivor encourages you to share your story today starting with our easy-to-follow template. It might be exactly what someone needs to hear to find the strength to face their own cancer battle with courage and determination.

Join us in our last Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month Below the Belt Conversations live on the Cervivor Facebook page on Thursday, September 21st starting at 7 PM EST!

September is National Hispanic Heritage Month

As we progress through one important awareness month, we intersect with another: National Hispanic Heritage Month.

During this time, we are honored to embrace the vibrant colors, rich traditions, and contributions of the Hispanic community. Cervivor stands in solidarity with our Hispanic and Latinx members in raising awareness about cervical cancer within this population.

National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15th to October 15th, provides us with an opportunity to not only celebrate the incredible cultural diversity and history of Latinx individuals but also to shed light on important health disparities that affect this community.

Let’s Talk About It

Cervical cancer is a highly preventable and treatable disease, yet it disproportionately affects Latinas in the United States. Here are some key statistics that highlight this issue:

  1. Higher Incidence: Latinas have a higher incidence rate of cervical cancer compared to non-Hispanic white women. This means they are more likely to develop cervical cancer.
  2. Lower Screening Rates: Latinas are less likely to undergo regular cervical cancer screenings, such as Pap tests and HPV tests, which can detect cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus at an early and treatable stage.
  3. Increased Mortality: Latinas face a higher mortality rate from cervical cancer, primarily due to late-stage diagnosis.

These statistics underscore the importance of raising awareness and promoting regular cervical cancer screenings within the Latinx community. Regular screenings are crucial for early detection and intervention, which can save lives.

Get Involved

At Cervivor, we are committed to supporting all individuals affected by cervical cancer, including those within the Latinx community. We offer a safe and inclusive space where you can find resources, share your stories, and connect with others who understand your journey.

Here are a few ways you can get involved during National Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond:

  1. Are you a cervical cancer patient, survivor, or thriver? Share your Cervivor story. Your story has the power to create change.
  2. Support and empower others to schedule their cervical cancer screenings.
  3. Knowledge is power. Check out all the amazing educational resources on our website and content across our social media platforms. Share it with your networks to help spread awareness.
  4. Stay connected with Cervivor to learn more ways to advocate and ultimately, end cervical cancer.

As we celebrate the vibrant and diverse Latinx culture during National Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also take a moment to remember the importance of health and well-being by empowering our health below the belt. Regular cervical cancer screenings can save lives, and Cervivor is here to provide support and resources to help anyone on their journey.

Cervivor thanks you for being a part of the community, and together, we’ll make a difference in the cervical cancer disparity gap among Latinas.

Empower Your Health Below-the-Belt

As fall quickly approaches, we find ourselves entering a month of profound significance for Cervivor and all those impacted by gynecologic cancers. September is not just another month; it’s Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness, educating, and advocating for those affected by gynecologic cancers. It’s a month where we come together to make our voices heard and support one another in our journey towards better health and well-being.

Did You Know?

Gynecologic cancers, which include cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, impact the lives of thousands of women and individuals with female reproductive systems each year. The statistics may be alarming, but they underscore the importance of dedicating a month to raise awareness and promote early detection:

  • In the U.S. alone, an estimated 98,000 women will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer each year.
  • An astonishing 30,000 lives will be taken by the disease.
  • Gynecologic cancers are often diagnosed at advanced stages, making early detection crucial for improved outcomes.
  • Each of these cancers comes with its unique set of challenges, but they all share the common thread of affecting the lives of those we care about.

Our Role in Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Cervivor plays a pivotal role in the fight against gynecologic cancers. We are not just a support network; we are a community that empowers survivors, advocates for change, and educates the public about the importance of prevention and early detection. Here’s how we’re making a difference:

  1. Support and Empowerment: Cervivor provides a safe space for survivors to share their stories, connect with one another, and find solace in knowing they are not alone. Through our online platforms, events, and resources, we empower individuals to take control of their health and well-being.
  2. Education and Awareness: Our organization is dedicated to spreading awareness about gynecologic cancers, with a special focus on cervical cancer. We offer educational resources, campaigns, and outreach initiatives to ensure that women and individuals are informed about the risks, prevention, and early detection methods.
  3. Advocacy: Cervivor is at the forefront of advocating for policy changes and improved access to healthcare services. We work tirelessly to promote HPV vaccination, regular screenings, and equitable healthcare for all. Become a partner in purpose with Cervivor today!

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Share Your Story: Your story is a powerful tool for raising awareness. Share your journey, your triumphs, and your challenges on social media, using the hashtags: #GCAM, #Cervivor, #WeAreCervivor, #EndCervicalCancer.
  • Educate: Take the time to educate yourself and others about gynecologic cancers. Knowledge is the first step towards prevention and early detection.
  • Support Cervivor: Consider making a donation to Cervivor or participating in our fundraising initiatives. Your support enables us to continue our mission to empower, educate, and advocate for those affected by gynecologic cancers.
  • Join Our Community: If you or someone you know has been affected by gynecologic cancer, join our community. Together, we can make a difference and support one another in our journeys.

As we progress through Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, let us remember that together, we are a powerful force for change. By raising our voices, sharing our stories, and supporting one another, we can make strides in the fight against gynecologic cancers. Thank you for being a part of the Cervivor community, and for standing with us in this important cause. Stay tuned for our upcoming events and activities throughout the month of September!

Empowering Change for Cervical Cancer Survivors

Give 8/28 is a national giving day dedicated to supporting Black-led nonprofits. Cervivor is sharing the incredible impact of your support on our mission to eradicate cervical cancer and improve the health outcomes of Black women and marginalized communities. 

At Cervivor, we are committed to addressing the disparities in cervical cancer education, treatment, and prevention among Black women. Our mission is to empower individuals with knowledge and resources so they have access to care, promoting early detection, and ultimately, reducing the burden of cervical cancer in our communities.

1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: As Cervivior continues its longstanding commitment to diversity work with the addition of Kimberly William’s role as the Chief DEI Officer, Cervivor has expanded and developed four diverse private groups to provide a safe, relatable space for members to express how cervical cancer impacts their lives and their communities.

2. Advocacy and Education: Along with our premiere educational patient advocacy program, Cervivor School, and the Cervical Cancer Advocacy Retreat for Communities of Color, our team and dedicated volunteers have been working tirelessly to raise awareness about the importance of regular screenings and HPV vaccinations. By participating in community events, health fairs, and online campaigns, we aim to normalize conversations around all things cervical cancer.

3. Support for Cervical Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Thrivers: We offer emotional and practical support to those diagnosed with cervical cancer. From connecting patients with our support group, Creating Connections, to providing educational resources, we strive to create a strong network of empathy and care during their journey no matter where they are located.

Give 8/28 is a pivotal opportunity for us to expand our reach and amplify our impact even more. Your generous contribution on this day will directly enable us to:

  • Expand our educational initiatives to reach more communities.
  • Provide increased access to diverse, equitable, and inclusive spaces for those impacted by cervical cancer.
  • Strengthen our advocacy efforts to eliminate disparities in cervical cancer outcomes.

How can you help?

1. Donate: Visit our donation page on August 28th to contribute towards our Give 8/28 campaign. Your support, no matter the amount, will make a significant difference in the lives of those we serve.

2. Spread the Word: Share our mission and the importance of Give 8/28 with your friends, family, and colleagues across all social media platforms. Together, we can create a ripple effect of positive change.

3. Volunteer: If you’re passionate about cervical cancer and health equity, consider joining our team of volunteers. Your skills and time can contribute to making a lasting impact.

By supporting Cervivor on Give 8/28, you are directly contributing to our efforts to eliminate cervical cancer disparities within our communities. Together, we can achieve better cervical cancer outcomes for Black women and marginalized populations.

We thank you for your unwavering support. We look forward to standing beside you on Give 8/28 and beyond.

National Patient Advocacy Day Recap

Last week presented to be a busy week for patient advocacy. Wednesday was recognized as National Nonprofit Day where Cervivor was chosen as a nonprofit partner of choice through the Kendra Gives Back program through Kendra Scott. The Tampa store location hosted Avi Grant-Noonan, a cervical cancer survivor and patient advocate. Together, we fundraised around $250 for Cervivor in honor of the national awareness day. Avi states, “It was amazing! We had such a great time.”

And this past Saturday was recognized as National Patient Advocacy Day. Our Cervivor community was in action painting coast-to-coast teal and white. The event blended a collaborative approach to cervical cancer patient advocacy including patients, survivors, medical professionals, and industry partners. This day was meaningful for the Cervivor community as it allowed for them to discuss patient advocacy and its importance, along with understanding the impact of sharing their stories in their communities. Attendees were encouraged to spark the conversation surrounding cervical cancer and create change in their local communities.

Community members from Cervivor Caribbean and Cervivor Africa tuned in via the virtual meet-up. This brought about awareness of disparities that members face even in the global community. This open discussion of disparities helped attendees work together to encourage, develop, and plan in adding to our mission to eliminate cervical cancer. Cervivors and industry partners left this event (in-person and virtual) with a reminder that no one fights alone. 

Phyllis Adams (NY Event Attendee): “What a great event meeting with other Cervivors and sharing our unique stories!!! It was a pleasure meeting you in person and allowing me to share my story! Awesome day!”

Anna Ogo (WA Event Co-Host): “We had a blast We covered so many important topics – scanxiety, mental health, dilators, support for caregivers, cervical cancer screening guidelines, HPV, stigma, vaccination, education, ADVOCACY, and the list goes on…”

Sara Johney (VA Event Co-Host): “What a great day! We had an amazing time meeting Cervivor sisters in Fairfax Va! What a perfect way to celebrate National Patient Advocacy Day: Fairfax, VA! Thank you to Caboose Commons for hosting us!”

Lorie Wallace (MI Event Host): “What a wonderful event. Considering there are over a million people right now who are attending the world’s largest car cruise just down the street from this event, I’m very thankful that I got a wonderful group together. Thank you. Happy National Patient Advocacy Day: Metro Detroit, Michigan!”

Check out more event photos below!

On National Nonprofit Day

Since 2017, National Nonprofit day has been recognized on the 17th day of August annually. This day is set aside to acknowledge nonprofit organizations and the impact they have made on the communities they serve. Here at Cervivor, we are reminded of the impact that nonprofits have on communities by making the world a better place. This day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the vital role that nonprofits play in addressing societal challenges, fostering empathy, and creating positive change. From local grassroots initiatives to international humanitarian efforts, nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes, yet they share a common purpose – to uplift, inspire, and provide aid where it’s needed most. 

Founder and Chief Visionary of Cervivor, Tamika Felder, created this nonprofit organization understanding the importance of cervical cancer education, empowerment, advocacy, and support. Originally founded as a small support group, it now spans across the globe spreading awareness, support, and advocacy for those that have been impacted by cervical cancer. As a global organization Cervivior continues to work diligently to ensure that no one feels alone in their fight. No matter where in the world you are, if you’ve been impacted by cervical cancer, Cervivor has a place for you, with a community that will support you throughout your journey. This organization understands the importance of “community” even when it is virtual, and continues to create opportunities for life long connections and bonds. 

Sophie shares how this organization has impacted her life as a Cervivor community member in the UK:

“Cervivor has helped me to not feel alone. I met my wonderful friend in this group and we have journeyed together for the last 2 years almost. I am from the UK and currently visiting her in Canada. Forever thankful for the beautiful friendship I’ve gained from this group. Cancer was nowhere near as lonely as it would have otherwise been.”

Additionally, the Comfort Care and Compassion Program was officially launched on this day two years ago with the help of Community Engagement Liaison, Morgan Newman and a committee of volunteers. The program was developed to support those impacted by cervical cancer at any stage of their journey. It served 121 individuals by the end of 2021.

Now, in the eighth month of 2023, it has served nearly 200 individuals with tote bags, support resources, words of encouragement, and more. Cervivor now offers the request form via the website allowing more patients, survivors, family members and friends, as well as care teams to request the right support for their loved ones.

Understanding the continuous need to expand our footprint, Kimberly Williams was added as the Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer here at Cervivor. In this role, she is a key contributor in recommending, developing, implementing and managing Cervivor’s U.S. and global diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. This organization understands that diversity is a strength and when these differences are embraced it can encourage better results in our communities. 

As Cervivior continues its longstanding committment in diversity work with the addition of Kimberly’s role, Cervivor has developed four diverse private groups to provide a safe, relatable space for members to express how cervical cancer impacts their lives and their communities. The four private groups include: Cervivor Africa, for those that were born, raised, or reside in the continent of Africa; Cervivor API for those who identify as Asian or Pacific Islanders; Cervivor Caribbean, for those that were born, raised, or reside in the Caribbean islands, and Cervivor Noir, for those that identify as Black. Adding the aforementioned groups provides us with access to communities through education and trained patient advocates who can provide influence to ultimately end cervical cancer.

We could not work toward our mission to ultimately eradicate cervical cancer without your generous support. On this special day, we encourage you to join the movement and show your support for this nonprofit organization. Here are a few meaningful ways you can get involved:

  • Volunteer: Dedicate your time and skills to a cause you care about. Sign up here.
  • Donate: Every little bit counts. Consider making a financial contribution to Cervivor to help further our mission.
  • Spread Awareness: Use the power of your voice and social media to raise awareness about cervical cancer. Share stories, impact, and accomplishments to inspire others to get involved too!
  • Attend Events: We have plenty of amazing events coming up on the calendar. Check it out and register to join us!

As we celebrate National Nonprofit Day, let us express our deepest gratitude for being a part of this journey with us. Together, we can continue to uplift one another and drive positive change that ripples far beyond our immediate reach and one day, eliminate cervical cancer once and for all!

Our Light at the End of the Tunnel

I was informed I wouldn’t be able to carry children in the same appointment I was told my cervical cancer was Stage IIB at the age of 30. Luckily, my badass oncologist provided me with options to have biological children down the road via surrogacy. I immediately started IVF and froze nine healthy embryos.

Years later, when the concept of survival was on more solid ground, we began our surrogacy journey. We contacted an agency and learned the process. Long, grueling, and expensive, typically in the $80-$100,000 range. I’m sorry what? We moved forward because, simply, we were able to. So many women and loving couples don’t have this privilege.

Finding our surrogate was an arduous and awkward process. There is no manual for meeting someone that is going to carry your child. “Hi, we’re Kate and Matt. Can we put our baby inside of you? Here’s an orchid to show our appreciation of your consideration.”

When we finally got matched with J, our surrogate whose name I’ll keep to just us, we were so relieved. A mom to three of her own and a foster mom, she is just a special woman. She was so sensitive to our situation. She had never been a surrogate before so we knew we would be stumbling through this together, but we had a tight bond from the get-go. We trusted each other. We always put each other first.

And that trust was tested when it was time for all the necessary legal protocols. Even though Massachusetts is a surrogacy-friendly state for both intended parents and surrogates, the legal process is extensive, to say the least. The lawyers propose endless scenarios you need to agree upon. The most trying topic for discussion is abortion or reduction if there are multiples, as you need to be aligned on all possible situations that may rise. Legally, J’s decisions would be the only one honored while she carried the fetus. We had no legal rights until the baby came out. Luckily, we were fundamentally aligned on decisions we would make if faced with these difficult circumstances. Other things to consider were how the birth would go, what we were comfortable with her doing or not doing during pregnancy, and then of course her payment structure.

Never did I think starting a family would require signing on so many dotted lines and having to rely on the ideologies of another woman to dictate how we would make decisions about our family. This is the reality of surrogacy. The experience is no longer just yours; it’s shared.

Once we finally got everything signed, J started IVF. Right before we started, there were rumblings about a global pandemic. At the time we didn’t understand the gravity, so we proceeded. But midway through our cycle, COVID-19 started taking more lives, and the world shut down. We made the heart-wrenching decision to stop everything. I broke down. We had been trying to start a family for 18 months at that point, and we were still so far from it becoming a reality. We consoled each other and just focused on protecting ourselves.

In July, IVF clinics began opening as studies were showing COVID-19 had minimal impact on a fetus. After agonizing over the decision, we started another cycle. We transferred two of our healthiest embryos, one boy and one girl. On transfer day, Matt and I met J outside the hospital and FaceTimed during the procedure. Most people get to have sex while making a baby. Us? A sterile waiting room at a hospital on FaceTime. Good times. J was incredible that day. She made us matching shirts and just kept saying, “This is going to happen!” We soaked in her optimism.

We began the dreaded “two-week wait.” I was so paralyzed with anxiety those two weeks it was hard to focus. There were also multiple pregnancy announcements among family and friends during that time too which was so wonderful and overwhelmingly difficult.

Because let me be very clear about something – when you’re in the thick of this and someone shares a pregnancy announcement with you, you feel everything. You’re happy. You’re gutted. You’re thrilled. You’re devastated. You feel every single emotion at the highest level. Very few people say it’s ok to feel this way. But I’m here to say it’s ok. You can be thrilled for the people you love while feeling devastated. We are humans with complex emotions, we aren’t robots. Feel everything. You’re not a terrible person. But maybe stay off social media. That’s my best advice.

Fortunately, at the end of the wait, we received amazing news. J was pregnant. We were pregnant. With twins? They didn’t know. We would have to wait for our scan. A few days later, J called to say she was bleeding. A lot. Our hearts stopped. The next day we went to the hospital for a scan, but with COVID protocols I wasn’t initially allowed in with her. J stood up to the security guards and proclaimed, “She’s coming with me, she’s the mother!” They let us through. I had never appreciated her more than in that moment.

With Matt on FaceTime in the parking lot, not with me holding my hand like how we normally face everything in life, we learned it was a hematoma which is very common with IVF. No major risk, but they would keep an eye on it. But then we also saw, for the first time, our baby. One baby. We felt a million things. Heartbroken one of the embryos didn’t take, thrilled one did. I just wanted to be with Matt. I felt horrible showing J my disappointment both didn’t take but then when we got back to the waiting room, she looked at me and said, “I was really hoping they both took for you.” I let the tears flow. She understood how momentous that moment was. It felt like a massive loss and victory all at once. I met Matt back in the parking lot and cried. But we were pregnant with a healthy singleton who we found out weeks later was a baby girl. And woah, that changed everything.

The next ten months were as wonderful as they were hard. What was it like having someone else carry my child? Surreal. The moment that babe became real to us, a primal instinct came over, and protecting her was all we cared about. But the fact that our protection could only go so far, as it was in the hands of someone else, was brutal. Zero control. Especially during a global pandemic. I had to trust her. Which of course I did but it wasn’t always easy. J was incredible about communicating, sending pics of her growing belly, and keeping us updated anytime Lou would kick or have hiccups. She texted me every morning from the line she waited in to get a smoothie, claiming Lou just really wanted one! It was difficult to hear from someone else what your daughter was up to or craving. We missed Lou and we didn’t even know her. Further, with COVID protocols, Matt couldn’t come into any of our appointments. He would wait in the parking lot and be on FaceTime or speaker phone. He never saw his daughter on the screen in real-time. Never heard her heartbeat in the doctor’s office. Never got to feel her kick in my belly. And our experience was so vastly different we didn’t always feel included in the mother or intended parent community. Even to this day, I feel isolated.

The time ticked closer to our delivery date. We decided to induce J so we didn’t risk missing the birth. We checked in at 7 am on a sunny day. J, her husband, and Matt and I hung out all day just waiting. It was a beautiful time. Finally, it came time for pushing. I believe that was the single hardest part of the surrogacy experience. I wanted to be the one pushing. Not the one sitting on the sidelines. When J struggled to get Lou out (she was sunny side up that little stinker), I just remember thinking that I should be the one struggling. That I should be the one fighting to get her out. I had zero control in that moment, and I wanted to crawl out of my skin. My daughter was right there, but so far away. Finally, after two hours of hard pushing, Lou was immediately placed in my arms (something that we had to legally agree upon) to start skin-to-skin. Matt and I locked eyes. He put his hands on his head in disbelief. We started sobbing. She was here. She was ours. We made it.

At the beginning of our journey, J had said to me, “You can only say thank you to me when that baby gets placed in your arms.” I looked at her and just kept saying over and over, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Louella was magical. Carbon copy of Matt and all his relatives. It took us all a moment to bond and to get to know each other, I was so worried she wouldn’t be comforted by our voices. But she was. That girl knew she was ours from the first second she came Earthside. She took her bottle immediately. She tinkled all over me. She was so beautiful.

Not a single day with Lou is taken for granted. She turned two in May, and we are astounded by her intelligence, her curiosity, her hilarious one-liners, her curls, her love of drawing and scooting, her bravery, her everything. She’s everything.

The surrogacy journey is like surviving cancer. You are so happy you did but are angry you even had to. Cancer took so much from me, and the ability to carry children is certainly the most painful. But we just stay grounded in our gratitude as much as we can. We are so grateful for J. Grateful for my Cervivor sisters like Ginny who provided support during that time. Grateful for each other. Grateful for our family and friends who kept us going. Grateful for our doctors and medicine. Grateful for Lou, our light at the end of our tunnel.

If you’re in any part of this journey, beginning middle, or end, I’m here. We are all here. We know how hard this is. Feel everything but keep going. You’ll reach your light too.

Kate Weissman was diagnosed with stage II squamous cell carcinoma at the age of 30. She is a 2018 Cervivor School graduate, a Cervivor Ambassador, and a 2023 Cervivor Champion Recipient. Kate also serves as the Massachusetts State Lead Ambassador for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) where she lobbies to Congress for policies that would improve the lives of cancer patients and their families. She lives in Boston with her husband, their beautiful daughter Louella who was born via surrogacy after her treatment, and their fur baby Giada. She is the SVP of Operations at Weber Shandwick, and loves to read and cook!

My Legacy, My Cervivor Footprint…In my Community

Cervivor is committed to closing the disparity gaps that have plagued communities of color for decades. In an effort to close those gaps, Cervivor invited cervical cancer patients and survivors from around the United States to participate in the Cervical Cancer Patient Advocacy Retreat for Communities of Color in our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C.

Why is this so important to our mission?
Research shows that while the rate of cervical cancer has been declining for decades in the U.S., health disparities persist. Hispanic women have the highest incidence rate of cervical cancer, followed by non-Hispanic Black women. Additionally, Black women are more likely to die from the disease than women of any other race or ethnicity. 

So, what is the consistent theme with these health disparities?
The consistent theme for these health disparities are health literacy and trust within the communities of color. As we navigated these themes, Cervivor ensured that each attendee:

  • Had a safe place to share their struggles, hurdles, and concerns in reference to their community and cervical cancer.
  • Was provided with information concerning cervical cancer, treatments, and screening. 
  • Understood their role as a trustworthy change agent in their community.
  • Embraced the opportunity to learn from various speakers and their fellow survivors about how they could utilize their voices to end cervical cancer in their community.
  • Developed a strategic plan to impact their communities specifically.
  • Made a commitment to assist in closing the cervical cancer disparity gap in their community.

It’s imperative that those impacted by cervical cancer have the knowledge and empowerment to lead the charge in changing the narrative for communities of color. Read the personal testimonies from a few of the attendees and the progress they have made since the retreat below.

Gwendolyn shares her thoughts on what this retreat meant to her:

The Community of Color Retreat had great impact on my life and I have not been the same since. The moment I arrived at the retreat, I noticed everything was planned with so much love and hope, and personalized for us as a collective but also individually as well. We cried, we laughed, we learned, we inspired each other, we listened, and we gained confidence and much knowledge to not only advocate for ourselves but for others as well – within our families, jobs, and communities.

Since the retreat, Gwendolyn has been instrumental in planning the National Patient Advocacy Awareness Day event with other Houston Cervivors and in co-leading an upcoming health fair for cervical cancer awareness.

Rosalinda shares her insights:

For many of us, conversations easily continued into dinner, late evening, and early morning coffee meet-ups! We were clearly vibing and opening up to be vulnerable, witnessing and holding space for each other. Native American, African American, Asian, and Latina cervical cancer survivor’s coming together to listen, share, teach, and support each other was a powerful experience! My heart is filled with gratitude for how effortlessly this all unfolded. My most precious take away? Tamika’s loving challenge that following the retreat we step up and use our talents, abilities, gifts, unique perspectives to Do Something small or big, to end cervical cancer.

After her retreat experience, Rosalinda has jumped in on National Patient Advocacy Day planning, joined as a Cervivor Español Outreach Committee Member, and continues to set goals for reaching low-income populations to ensure they have access to education, screening, and cancer prevention resources.

Janice gave us her thoughts too:

Hope – grounds for believing that something good will happen. This retreat provided a breadth of information about studies on cervical cancer, as well as how to raise awareness in our communities. Discussing the health disparities across the nation opened my eyes that more needs to be done and that we need to be able to have open, sometimes uncomfortable dialogue to inform others so that they do not have to go through the same things that we did.”

Following the retreat, Janice has been spreading awareness about HPV and cervical cancer through various tabling events at her local college campus and by helping Cervivor raise funds during an early 2023 Kendra Scott Gives Back event.

Although the retreat has ended, the work does not stop. Each attendee made the commitment as a Cervivor Patient Advocate to assist in closing the cervical cancer disparity gap; by creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion which includes supporting, educating, and motivating their communities that have been affected by cervical cancer.

It’s a great reminder that each day we all have an opportunity to provoke change by elevating our voices. We hold the power to save lives for generations to come. Help us continue to shine a light on these disparities by sharing our content with your networks.

Cervivor, as an organization, authentically embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion across all aspects, ensuring that individuals from various backgrounds feel valued, respected, and represented. The organization recognizes that diversity encompasses a wide range of identities and experiences, including persons with disabilities, religious or ethnic minorities, people of color, native/Indigenous peoples, women, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Interested in learning more about future Cervical Cancer Patient Advocacy Retreats for Communities of Color? Connect with us at [email protected]!

Finding My Footing After Cervical Cancer

In 2019, my beautiful son was born. I had my first abnormal pap a month after his birth.

A year and a half later, with multiple colposcopies, I was finally told to have a LEEP. A month later, I got a phone call from my gynecologist while at work. It was the phone call that changed my life; I was told that I had adenocarcinoma of the cervix.

I rushed home with tears in my eyes. Not wanting to tell my husband or, for that matter, my mother. She had just started feeling better after her own treatments and a stem cell transplant. Her hair was finally growing back. How can I share this news with her, that I, too, have cancer? My brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2018, my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2019, and then a year after her diagnosis, I was told I had cervical cancer. How can this be happening to one family? What did we do wrong?

The very next day, I distinctly remember asking myself, “How did I not know what HPV was? How did I not know there is a vaccine to prevent my cancer?”. I needed to create awareness for my fellow lady friends. We need to be made aware of what our pap tests are looking for. 

Being a new mom is already a challenge. Your whole world has turned upside down for this beautiful little creature who never sleeps, constantly eats, and cries all the time. I was already drowning. I absolutely love my son, but at that moment in time, I felt like I lost a part of who I was. Now, I’m just a mom, not Victoria.

Then a cancer diagnosis slaps you in the face.

My Family

Surviving cervical cancer gives you a whole new perspective on life. My attitude towards living and being a part of my family has changed dramatically.

My son, Jude, is now three years old. Knowing that cancer was in my body and knowing that if I didn’t find it or treat it, he would have been left without a mom; tears up my heart. I cherish every moment I have with him. Yes, even the crazy tantrums and the days I want to pull out my hair!

When my mom had her stem cell transplant, I was one of her caregivers. I saw firsthand what it was like to watch your mom fight for her life. I was fortunate enough to not have to go through radiation or chemotherapy; my son only knew mommy was “ouchie” (after my radical trachelectomy) and to let me heal.

I am here for my family. I am present in all things good and bad.

Being shown that cancer doesn’t discriminate on your age, really made me appreciate life and live it to the fullest. No more saying “well, maybe one day, I’ll do it” – now is the time!

My Friends

Explaining to my friends that I had cervical cancer truly felt like an out-of-body experience.

Like me, they were very uneducated on what HPV was and how it can cause cancer. My goal at the time wasn’t to create awareness, but more to let them know what was discovered and my treatments. My friends are the family I chose, and they needed to know.

Having this conversation and sharing everything with my friends is really what drove my desire to get involved in advocacy.

Creating Awareness

Bringing awareness to cervical cancer has been the biggest part of making my survivorship count.

As I mentioned, I had no idea what they look for during my pap test and just how important that truly is. How science and researchers have discovered a vaccination that can prevent certain HPV cancers.

During this cancer journey, I have found my voice. I need people to hear it, and not just hear it, listen! Educating my friends & family became my priority.

Originally, I shared my story and created awareness through social media. I attended a conference held in Toronto, Ontario, called “Health eMatters”. Here I met other advocates and heard about their journies. I have learned tips/tricks and other resources/tools to engage with more people.

My mom and I have started an Instagram account about a mother and daughter duo fighting cancer together. This is a newly formed platform and I’m excited about the possibilities and the number of people we can reach!

Being a survivor of cervical cancer, I find it is my responsibility to share my story and create awareness of cervical cancer. Don’t ignore the uncomfortable five minutes of a pap test! Get your vaccination!

If I help just one person or encourage just one person to get their pap test, I have done my job as a cervical cancer survivor and advocate.

Ending the Stigma

I, along with a lot of my Cervivor friends, have taken the challenge of stimga head-on.

We all know that cervical cancer has a stigma with it because it is related to HPV. So, it must be a “dirty” cancer. Educating the world about how common HPV is and how most people will have it at one point in their lives. Most immune systems are able to fight it off, while some aren’t so lucky and it can turn into cancer.

I was told I had cervical cancer caused by HPV and I automatically went to the thought of, “How? I’ve been with my husband for over ten years!”. I had no idea HPV could lay dormant for years!

So, back to educating because this is important. Everyone needs to know that just because you have cancer caused by HPV, it does NOT mean you “sleep around” or that you are “dirty”. It only takes one encounter!

We must end this stigma. I am not ashamed of it. I am not embarrassed. I will voice it loud and clear that I had cervical cancer and that you can prevent yourself from getting it.

TOGETHER, LET’S END THE STIGMA around cervical cancer!

Future

Looking towards the future, I would love to be able to connect with other cervical cancer survivors in Canada and truly make a support group here.

I want to be able to help those who have been newly diagnosed and be able to provide them with as much information and support as humanly possible.

I want to share my story with media outlets and really create awareness here in Canada. I’ve been talking with my local MPP about getting the Gardasil vaccination a priority and covered by our OHIP here in Ontario.

There are many steps left in my future of making my survivorship count. I am only two years out from being cleared of cancer and I’m just getting started on my advocacy!

Victoria Falla is born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She is a 33-year-old cervical cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with stage IB2 cervical cancer in 2020. Victoria is an active cervical cancer advocate who will make her survivorship count with every breath she takes.

Our Scars

As cancer survivors and patients, we carry our scars, visible and invisible, with us forever. These scars hold pain and trauma but they are also reminders of how we do heal, how we move through our new world changed but still living our lives out loud.

Whether you wear your scars as badges of honor, gently acknowledge why they are here or chose not to give them the time of day, we commend your choice. You have been through too much to ever feel you need to conform to anything outside of your own comfort.

This post was inspired by community member Christy Chambers and her post, What A Beautiful Mess.

Tiera W – 6 Leeps. 6 biopsies. 1 oophoropexy. 36 rounds of radiation . 5 rounds of chemo. 6 brachytherapies. 3 PET-scan. 10 MRI’s. 2 Bone Scans. 40 Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments. Left Hydronephrosis. 120+ Pelvic Floor therapy sessions. 1 Bilateral Ureter reimplantation. I’m still here surviving and thriving.

Amanda Z – I’ve learned to accept all my scars as badges of bravery. Some are big and some are small – much like the battles I fought during each of them. But each one is a reminder that I prevail. I can and will win. And I’ll keep winning as long as I can. Yes, sometimes I wish I didn’t have them but beauty goes deeper than my scars and I truly try to remember that every day. With scars and a stoma, it’s important for me to remember my victories and use my scars to pull strength from everyday and live my life!

Tammy B – My Laporotomy scar is beginning to fade, but there’s no hiding it. I also have the scars and a lump in my chest from my port. Those things, along with the 50 pounds I’ve gained from the steroids, and my short newly grown hair regrowing since chemo, I don’t look anything like myself. I’m still learning to accept the new person in the mirror.

Dorrie K – When people ask me if I have any tattoos I tell them that I have FIVE but they can’t see them unless I wear the right bathing suit. I’m proud of my tiny black pinpoint sized radiation tattoos – they are my battle scars and remind me of the warrior I was 25 years ago!

Ana R – After 6 abdominal surgeries my stomach is a road map of scars. I wish that when I looked at them I felt strong for all that I have endured, but instead they are a reminder to me of all my body has been through and they make me sad. It took me a full year before I would let my husband touch my stomach after my third major surgery. I hope someday they will be a source of strength to me, but for now, they are just a reminder of the many things cancer has changed about my life.

Sara J – Leep/Cone 2019. Radical hysterectomy 2022. Chemo/Radiation 2022. Chemo 2023. I wasn’t sure how I felt about my large abdominal incision but after my radical open hysterectomy, it’s just one more step I took to help save my life. It shows strength, beauty, and courage.

Leesa J – My scar is my blessing and my nightmare all wrapped up in one. It’s one single scar that represents both birth and death: the birth of my one and only child and the death of any future pregnancies. A birth that saved my life because had I not gotten pregnant, my cancer would have been very advanced by the time it was found, and a death that took my uterus and my ability to grow another life inside of me ever again. I carry my scar proudly and even though it is a painful reminder of all that was lost, all I have to do is look at my son and see the beauty in it.

Rachel S – I am living the new normal being a survivor. I have scars that are visible. The invisible scar was having a cancer nobody could see.

Thank you so much to our community members who shared their reflections on what it means to survive cervical cancer everyday.

Our bodies have carried us through trauma and to the other side of grief. Invisible scars are just as painful as those that change the landscape of our bodies. Do what you need to do to live and thrive with them and despite them.

In case you need a reminder, you are beautiful. Inside and out. You are a Cervivor, inside and out.

Bringing Community Impact Through Fundraising

Cervivor started as a grassroots organization in 2005 founded by Chief Visionary, Founder, and 22-year cervical cancer survivor, Tamika Felder. A vision that has blossomed with hard work, persistence, and a ton of volunteers to help carry out the mission. 

Now, Cervivor is known as a global community that goes above and beyond to reach those affected by cervical cancer. The organization’s mission is to empower cervical cancer patients and survivors by educating and motivating them to use their voices for creating awareness to end stigma, influence decision and change with the ultimate goal of one day ending cervical cancer.

One reason Cervivor has been so successful in providing programming and support to its community is because of the generous donors and community members who fundraise on behalf of Cervivor. Funding and fundraising are critical components for a nonprofit to effectively operate, expand its reach, measure its impact, and work toward its mission. Without these resources, nonprofits may not be able to provide essential services, respond to emerging needs, and create meaningful change in their communities and beyond. 

Each year, the fundraising committee and community members brainstorm new ideas to have fun, spread awareness, and raise funds for Cervivor and its programming and outreach efforts.

Outside our typical grants and sponsorships, in 2023 we have fundraised:

There are so many simple ways you can show your support for Cervivor and every dollar matters! 

We understand that everyone has a different comfort level and depending on your circumstances, not all of these options will make sense but if Cervivor has been meaningful to you, please consider supporting us today by creating your own fundraiser with our 2023 Fundraiser Toolkit. This toolkit covers a wide variety of options for all levels of fundraising.

Sign up to host your own fundraiser for Cervivor or email us with your ideas at [email protected]!

I Get To: A Journey of Resiliency

The lotus flower, in addition to being beautiful, grows in bodies of water from the bottom. Through mud and water, the flower leaves float on the surface in hues of pink or white. The concept of resiliency was not new to me. Though young in age, I have felt I have gone through many challenges. None as hard as the year 2021. 

The year of misery began with my thirtieth birthday. Not only did I turn the dreaded 3-0 but that same day my car broke down. Not a great start to the year. Shortly after that, I began showing bizarre symptoms I couldn’t explain. Becoming concerned as they continued a few months later, I began seeing doctors. And more doctors. And more doctors. Ultimately leading to the diagnosis of stage II cervical cancer in May. 

 It is weird to believe that it was not the worst thing to happen that year. A few weeks after my diagnosis I celebrated my son’s second birthday at my house which lead to the bursting of a pipe in my walls that flooded not only my kitchen but my bathroom as well. This led to the deconstruction of the area to get rid of the mold. I was left with no counters, no flooring, and missing half a wall between the bathroom and kitchen. 

I had never felt stress like that. And I had not even begun treatment yet. I was worried about construction, my treatment, and my son. I started my chemo and radiation in July and a week later my beloved dog, Cookie, passed away due to her own battle with cancer. 

Cookie

To give a short background, Cookie was the dog I got in college and who had been with me for a decade through many challenging mental health battles. After she passed, I got low. I didn’t want to fight. I wanted to end it all. But then I remembered I was a mom to a beautiful toddler who needed me. I could not give up. 

I muddled through treatments with low spirits. The construction finished and my home was put back together. My treatments ended and everything looked ok. But my moods had not improved. 

It wasn’t until I attended a conference with a keynote speaker who hit on the concept of changing the words “I have to” into “I get to”. He used examples of “getting to wash the dishes” and so on. His words struck something inside me. In a follow-up meeting with my team after the talk we went around the table saying things we get to do. Most of my colleagues spoke about getting to do laundry because that means they had clothes and other great things. When it got to me I very quietly said “I get to be with my son because the cancer did not win”. 

Silence filled the room followed by light applause. I wasn’t exactly looking for that type of response but suddenly my mood clicked. I get to continue my life. I get to continue learning and sharing precious moments with my son. I get to give another lonely dog in a shelter a happy life. I get to live! 

And since that conference, every time I feel that I am hitting a wall especially when dealing with doctor follow-ups and tests, I just silently tell myself “I get to do this”. 

Rachel Rump lives in South Bend, Indiana. She is a mother of one and a stage II cervical cancer survivor. New to Cervivor, Rachel hopes to connect with others as well as serve as an advocate in the ongoing battle against cancer. 

Raising Awareness to Build Health Equity

Health equity must be pursued relentlessly in communities of color including the Black community to address long-standing disparities and ensure the well-being of every individual. Achieving health equity includes dismantling systemic barriers, such as discriminatory practices, unequal access to quality healthcare, and socioeconomic inequities that disproportionately impact Black individuals.

Here are a few holidays and awareness campaigns to share with your networks during the month of June:

Juneteenth
Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual celebration observed on June 19th to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Originating in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, Juneteenth marks the day when Union General Gordon Granger arrived with the news of freedom, proclaiming the end of slavery in Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It has since become a significant cultural and historical milestone, symbolizing the triumph of freedom over oppression and serving as a reminder of the ongoing pursuit of equality and justice for all.

Caribbean American Heritage Month
Celebrated annually in June, is a time dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the rich contributions and vibrant cultures of Caribbean Americans in the United States. In conjunction with this important observance, it is crucial to shed light on significant health issues that affect the Caribbean American community, such as cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the Caribbean and Caribbean American populations. During this month, we’re raising awareness about the importance of regular screenings, early detection, and prevention strategies to combat cervical cancer and promote women’s health in the Caribbean American community. We can empower individuals to take proactive steps toward a healthier future.

National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week
An important week-long observance that aims to shed light on the disproportionate impact of cancer on the Black community and raise awareness about prevention, early detection, and treatment options. By addressing disparities in healthcare access and providing support networks, this initiative plays a crucial role in fostering resilience, advocating for equitable care, and ultimately working towards eliminating cancer-related disparities among Black families.

By implementing culturally sensitive care, increasing healthcare access and affordability, and prioritizing community empowerment including sharing personal stories, we can foster a future where every person in the community enjoys equitable opportunities for their best health and is free from the burden of historical injustices.

Are you a cervical cancer patient or survivor?
Add your story to our Cervivor Stories and help spread awareness of cervical cancer! Your story has the power to create change and it matters.

Embracing Inclusivity

It’s officially Pride Month so let’s talk about it, embracing inclusivity. 

Language has the ability to shape our perceptions, build understanding, and foster a world where everyone feels seen, respected, and celebrated. By using inclusive terms and adopting inclusive language, we can create an environment where people of all gender identities and sexual orientations can express themselves authentically without fear of judgment. 

Remember, words like “cisgender,” “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” “pansexual,” and “asexual” hold immense significance by validating and honoring the diverse experiences and identities within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Let’s educate ourselves and others, not just on pronouns but on the beautiful tapestry of identities that exist. By doing so, we pave the way for a world that embraces and celebrates the full spectrum of human diversity. 

Cancer disparities within the LGBTQIA+ community are a pressing concern that demands attention. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, including social determinants of health, limited access to healthcare services, and unique behavioral risk factors. LGBTQIA+ individuals often face discrimination and stigma, which can lead to higher rates of tobacco and alcohol use, as well as mental health challenges. 

Additionally, inadequate healthcare coverage and cultural insensitivity can create barriers to early detection, prevention, and timely treatment. Addressing cancer disparities in the LGBTQIA+ community requires comprehensive efforts, including targeted outreach, education, and policy changes to ensure equitable access to healthcare services and reduce the burden of cancer in this marginalized population.

Cervical cancer poses a significant health concern for individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community, highlighting the importance of inclusive and comprehensive healthcare practices to address the unique needs and experiences of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

We encourage and support individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ to share their stories. Each personal narrative has the power to create empathy, break down stereotypes, and change the future to reflect the change we want to see. 

 We are Cervivor and we want you to know that you are never alone. Your story matters!

Cervivor Celebrates Survivorship

During this National Cancer Survivors Month, Cervivor celebrates each and every one of you who has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis. This month, we come together as a community to celebrate your resilience, strength, and unwavering spirit despite the obstacles and challenges you’ve faced and may still be facing.

As cancer survivors, our journeys have been marked by countless moments of fear, uncertainty, and pain – one that has tested your physical, emotional, and mental limits. It’s no surprise that we rely on hope, determination, and community to uplift, support, and empower us all to continue our day-to-day lives. This community reminds us that there is always light even in the darkest of times.

Let this month be a reminder that cancer does not define you. It is a part of your story, but it does not diminish your worth or limit your potential because…

  • Your stories both individually and as a collective, have ignited hope in the hearts of others facing their diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and your unwavering optimism has shown us that the human spirit is indomitable.
  • This community has shown us what it means to truly live – to cherish every waking moment, to find joy in the simplest of things, and to appreciate the beauty of life.
  • Your resilience has taught others to value their health, relationships, and the precious moments we often take for granted.
  • We also recognize the impact each of you has on the future of cancer care, research, policy, treatments, health equity, and so much more.
  • You have become a community of support, advocates, caregivers, and beacons of hope for those who are still fighting.

Let us continue to raise awareness, and promote early detection and vaccination to prevent cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. Keep shining your light, continue to inspire others, and know that you are never alone in this journey.

Happy National Cancer Survivors Month!

Are you sharing your story?

If you haven’t yet, add your story to our Cervivor Stories. Write a blog post about your experience, your advocacy, a milestone, or simply a memory or reflection, and send it to [email protected]. We can publish it, add it to the patient voice, and reach of our Cervivor blog.

How We Went from Pudding to Acceptance

Two years ago, my husband and I received the devastating news that I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. At the time, the mere mention of the word “cancer” was enough to send us into a state of panic. To cope with the fear and uncertainty, we came up with a unique way of talking about my diagnosis: we referred to it as “a pudding.”

This simple act of renaming the disease allowed us to talk about it more openly, without being overwhelmed by fear. We could discuss my treatments, prognosis, and how we were feeling without feeling like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. I used this little cute pudding emoji when I texted someone about it, and encouraged some of my close friends to do the same. 

As the months went by, we faced numerous challenges and struggles, from painful treatments to emotional turmoil. But with the support of family, friends, and a dedicated medical team, we slowly but surely found the strength to keep fighting. Over time, our outlook on life changed as we learned to embrace each day and live in the moment.

Fast-forward two years, one of my friends texted me saying “how is your pudding?”, and this was when I realized that the word “pudding” is no longer a part of our vocabulary; we can now say “cancer” without fear or hesitation. My husband didn’t even remember the fact that we used to call it a pudding. This represents a major shift in our mindset and how we perceive the disease. We have learned to accept the reality of my diagnosis and move forward with it. We have come to understand that cancer is just a word, and it does not define who we are or what our future holds, although I also feel like cancer is now a big part of my life in both good and bad ways.

This journey has been incredibly difficult, but it has also taught us so much about ourselves and life. We have learned that it’s okay to be afraid, and it’s also important to face our fears and embrace the journey. By being open and honest about our experiences, we hope to inspire others who may be going through a similar situation and help them overcome their fears and pains.

In conclusion, our journey from “pudding” to acceptance has been a powerful reminder that we are strong, bonded and we get through difficulties together. By embracing the reality of my diagnosis and focusing on one thing at a time, we have found the strength and resilience to overcome the difficult situation and move forward with hope. I am currently facing issues with my body due to side effects from cancer treatments, and those sometimes make me feel like I am mentally not well, but one thing we know is I will feel better again. We will get through this. I am now much more confident and have more faith in myself.

Survivor & Caregiver

Looking back over the past two years, time and patience were the most important things in this process of moving forward. In my darkest moments, I turned to a support group of fellow cancer survivors, Cervivor, who provided me with comfort, encouragement, and a sense of community. I am amazed by the resilience of these individuals, who have gone through similar experiences and come out on the other side. Their stories gave us the courage to keep moving forward, even on our toughest days. This is why I am writing this blog post, hoping to give a ray of hope for anyone who is currently suffering. I will continue to tell my story as a way to inspire others and to remind you that you are not alone. 

Anna was born and raised in Japan and came to the U.S. in 2015. After she survived cervical cancer in 2021, she became a Cervivor School graduate in 2022. She is a business development professional working for a Japanese corporation. She currently lives in Washington state with her husband and their fur babies. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cooking and watching shows & movies. She is passionate about fostering dogs to give them a second chance.

Teal Blue Japan: An Interview with Michiyo Namba

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Month! As we continue to celebrate, check out this interview between Cervivor Ambassador and Cervivor Japan Liaison, Anna Ogo, and Ms. Michiyo Namba from Japan. Anna met Michiyo through Tamika Felder, Founder & Chief Visionary of Cervivor during Cervivor School Nashville. In this article, Michiyo shares her story with cervical cancer and the challenges the Japanese community face with this disease. 

Anna: Can you start by telling us a little more about yourself?

Michiyo: My name is Michiyo Namba, President of Think Pearl. I started my own PR and event casting company for women when I was 29 years old, got married at 31, and had a baby at 33. In 2009, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 36 years old. I wish I had known more about cervical cancer, vaccines, and screening before I got cancer; and this was my reason I started an organization called Think Pearl. That was right before my hysterectomy surgery in December of the same year, 14 years ago. Our mission is to make everyone healthier and happier both physically and mentally, through our education and advocacy on cancer prevention and women’s health including cervical cancer awareness.

Anna: Tell me about your cancer journey in Japan. How does your story begin? How did you feel about your diagnosis?

Michiyo: In the summer of 2009, I had a routine pap test, which came out abnormal. I had no symptoms at that time. In January 2010, I underwent a radical hysterectomy, and it was confirmed that I had stage 1A1 cervical cancer. I had the option of preserving my uterus, but I chose to have a hysterectomy because of the size of my tumor. I immediately thought “Cancer = death” as I didn’t have any knowledge about it. I asked a friend of mine, who was a gynecologist, for explanations about my diagnosis, which helped to sort out my feelings. As I researched cervical cancer more, I learned that this disease was not uncommon, and it didn’t make sense to me that  I had never heard of this disease before.

Anna: How did you share the news with your family and friends? What was their response and what kind of support did you have?

Michiyo: I informed my family and friends after I had come to terms with the situation. It was reassuring to hear that they would support me no matter what happened during treatment, as long as my life was not in danger. The doctor had told me that I could continue with my usual routine until the surgery, which made me feel conflicted. However, my family and friends were there for me as usual, and their constant presence made it easier for me to share my troubles without feeling like a burden.

Anna: Can you share with us about your treatment? What were the most difficult things? How are you doing now? Has your life changed after treatment?

Michiyo: I underwent a radical hysterectomy and was hospitalized for three weeks (which is longer than the current average for this procedure at the time of my surgery in 2009). I did not undergo any other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation. Realizing that people can die young and unexpectedly and that the risk of death can be so close, was the most difficult and challenging aspect for me. It has been about 14 years since my surgery, and I am in remission. There were not many physical changes in my daily life. However, my perspective on life has changed as I feel like I have been given a second chance, and I want to contribute to society in any way I can.

Anna: Let’s talk about the Teal Blue Japan project. What was your inspiration for the project?

Michiyo: In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer and an event was held on November 17 each year to light up landmarks around the world in the teal blue color associated with cervical cancer elimination efforts. The event was organized by WHO, and it was first held in Kyoto in 2020. In 2021, the Teal Blue Japan campaign was launched nationwide to promote cervical cancer screening and to improve understanding of the proper knowledge about the HPV vaccine in cooperation with local communities. The campaign is hosted by Think Pearl, but doctors and physicians across Japan are actively working on educating and raising awareness in their respective communities. The success of the campaign is due to the support and contributions of like-minded individuals who believe that doing good for society is important, rather than just the know-how of organizing campaigns, which is the core business of Think Pearl.

Anna: What challenges do you see regarding cervical cancer in Japan? What would you like to see for the future of cervical cancer in Japan?

Michiyo: In order to make impactful communication, I believe that all stakeholders, including the government, education, healthcare, and media, need to work together. While each is working to improve the situation in their own position, it seems that information has not yet reached people all over Japan. Everyone has knowledge about cervical cancer and its risks, and everyone is properly informed about the choice of getting vaccinated against HPV.

Anna: Looking back at your cancer journey, what are some of the cultural obstacles you had to overcome? What advice do you have for other women diagnosed with cancer in Japan?

Michiyo: Since the primary cause of cervical cancer is the HPV infection and that is related to sex, I think that stigma towards sex are similarly present in many cultures and maybe cannot be erased. However, in Japan, we have various projects in progress to promote cervical cancer prevention, early detection, and so on, and to implement those systems into society and educational systems. I believe that if we continue to progress in this direction, we can definitely overcome these barriers. In Japan, there are many fellow cancer survivors around you, even if you don’t know it. I think there may be times during treatment when it is very difficult and you feel hopeless. However, I hope you won’t hesitate to rely on those around you and ask for help. Japan has some of the world’s best treatment options available. Trust in reliable medical professionals, take your time and try to find happiness in even the smallest things every day.

Cervivor would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Michiyo for sharing her cervical cancer journey from patient to advocate with us and to Anna for her dedication to bringing more awareness globally to cervical cancer awareness and prevention.

The Language of Cancer

Cancer gives us a new vocabulary. Some words and phrases we embrace and some just do not resonate with us. We asked our Cervivor community to share a word or phrase that they find or found challenging to hear during and after cervical cancer treatment.

Just saying or writing the word ‘cancer’ hurts so much. ~ Marlene B

There was a resounding, collective group sigh at the phrase “new normal”. Nothing about cancer is normal and the ability to go back or to regain any sense of BC (before cancer) normalcy is completely unattainable. Treatment may end, surgery is done but we live with life-long physical and emotional side effects that you just do not ‘get over’. As Anne Z says, “Cancer is something I just have to deal with”.

“You don’t look sick”

This hosts a multitude of triggers for those living with both acute and chronic illness. It’s taken me years to learn how to unpack (to recognize why I react) and respond authentically to this one… yet can still really hurt emotionally. To everyone here, you are seen… even if the illness or situation is not. ~ Lori S

“You look good”

Although I know it comes from a good place, I hate when people say ‘you look good’ knowing I don’t look anything like I did before my third diagnosis. I am not sure why it bothers me so much but I always smile and say ‘thanks’. I also cannot stand when people say, ‘I don’t know how you do it’… like what was I suppose to do, give up? I wish they could just simply say, ‘I admire your strength’. ~ Jenn M

“You got this”

I think I prefer the statement, ‘I’ve got you’ as it comes across as more supportive. ~ Hilary B

“Preventable”

This word really stings for me. This is truly just my hang up because of my situation but I completely understand and agree with why it’s used now. For me though, it gives me chills because it makes me feel like if I would’ve done something different I wouldn’t have cancer. It just stings because the HPV vaccine wasn’t an option for me (I’m too old) and I have had my screenings religiously every three years since I was 18. ~ Tammy S

“Only”

Like, it’s ‘only surgery’ or it’s ‘only stage __’. It can come from anyone but it especially stings when it comes from fellow Cervivors. This cancer is life changing, brutal and leaves us with awful after effects no matter the stage or treatments. It makes you feel like you’re viewed as a lesser cancer patient. ~ Elizabeth A

“Incurable”

I have put zero stock in this word since I first heard it. Fact is I’m living with cancer not dying from it and I have a lot of living left to do. ~ Christy C

“They lost their battle” or “They beat cancer”

I don’t think it’s a competition and no one wins or loses. I chose to say ‘I’m surviving cancer.’ ~ Carol L

I hate thinking about people losing… ~ Jessica S

When someone says this, it always makes me cringe. ~ Brooke W

“Move on”

Don’t you think I know that already? It’s a process that takes time to heal both physically and mentally. ~ Anna O

People who have maybe not gone through or cared for a loved one with cancer, often have well-intended but somewhat off-putting comments that many of us struggle to accept. We smile, accepting these ill-fitting words, as we know they come from a place of kindness and concern, but we hope that others can be more mindful when speaking to cancer patients and survivors. Or perhaps chose to say nothing and simply offer your hand to hold — this speaks volumes.

What Our Mothers Gave Us

I am a daughter of women. And in my little world, it was my grandmothers and my great-aunts, along with my mom, who shaped my early years with their unconditional love, kindness and most of all their joy. They were a consistent presence in my young life when nothing else was. As I grew up, and especially when I found myself in the cervical cancer world, their words became the armor I wore to take on whatever the world tossed my way.

This Mother’s Day, we want to celebrate how we have been transformed by the women in our lives. Our mothers, grandmothers, aunties — these are women who made a lasting impact on who we have become. Our community members reflected on what their family matriarchs bestowed upon them and how that guides you today. You shared your heartfelt memories and they really spoke to how diverse the celebration of Mother’s Day can be.

Doris

“My dear mother passed away in August 2020, just five months after her 100th birthday. Her spirit has kept me going throughout the cancer journey. I can imagine if she were here, watching me through this past year, she would encourage me with expressions of faith and determination. As she frequently pointed out when I was growing up, ‘You are a child of God and, if He marks the fall of even one sparrow, how could He not keep up with you?’ She modeled how to thrive through troubles, with head unbowed, hear unbroken and soul unbothered. I am made better for it.”

Anne

“At the end of my grandma’s life, she was suffering from macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. We knew she was about to pass so I went to visit her to say goodbye. When I walked in and held her hand, she said, ‘Annie’. She hadn’t spoken in weeks! I told her how much I loved her, how much I knew she loved me and that she had always been my champion. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately. I’m trying to raise my girls to be strong, kind, intelligent women. May we all have strong women in our lives, championing and cheering us on.”

Kimberly

“After my father passed away when I was 11, I was left with frustration and also confused. I was a ‘Daddy’s girl’ and I was hurt. My mother stepped in and nurtured the pain that I carried and allowed me to become a strong, resilient fighter. When I became a mom, I wanted to share those same strengths with my children. And my children have taught me to hope, dream and love. They have taught me more than I believe I’ve taught them at times. Their blind faith reminds me that I can love even when I’m hurt, mistakes do not have to be your defining moments, and your next levels are created by your desire to see your end result.”

Tamika

My best piece of advice from my mother reflects my own parenting style: “Happy, Healthy, Alive”. My mother often commented how happy I was, and shared that she prayed that I would always be so happy in life. I want Chayton, our Cervivor Baby, to know that he is loved. I grew up in a huge family, but also had a lot of close family friends that were a part of my village, and I love that my son has that too. There is so much pressure in life to cross all of the “successful” things off a list. But we often forget the pure joy of living a well-lived life.

Let’s take a moment to remember and thank our loved ones for bestowing unwavering love, guidance and wisdom upon us. We treasure our memories of these women who gave us grace and strength. Perhaps we are missing our special person today but we can keep them in our hearts forever, and carry their light within us as we move through life. We also have the compassion and kindness of this resilient Cervivor community that we can turn to when we need to be uplifted.

Carol Lacey is our Lead Cervivor Ambassador and 2020 Cervivor Champion. She wants to thank her mother, Margie, for loving her fiercely. Read or watch Carol’s Cervivor Story.

My Story as a Traditional Asian Daughter

Both my parents immigrated from Thailand at a young age; met, fell in love, and had me. My grandmother and aunt moved from Thailand to Southern California, a completely foreign land, to help raise me while my parents strived to obtain their American Dream. Even though I was an American kid who listened to News Kids on the Block on the radio, I was still a traditional Asian daughter removing my shoes before entering my home and eating delicious home-cooked Chinese meals. Not only was I physically raised in the Asian culture, but I also absorbed all the traditional Asian characteristics as well.

I was taught to follow strict directions, strive for perfection, and above all conceal my emotions. When you are fortunate enough to be born with the “crying mole”, a beauty mark beneath my right eye, you are taught always to withhold your emotions and tears.  No matter how large the cut, or how much disappointment I felt for failing a test I was taught not to display any emotion. I know this might sound like a harsh way to raise a child, but crying and showing emotion was a sign of weakness in my family. My family wanted me to grow up to be a strong, independent woman while honoring my heritage and culture. 

My strength was first tested when I was diagnosed with HPV at 18. I was a confused hormonal teenager and couldn’t comprehend what was happening. My world was turned upside down and the worse part was I was alone. I couldn’t tell my parents for fear that I would disappoint them. I couldn’t call my friends because I didn’t know what to say. I sat in my truck alone, with the phone in my hand, listening to the dial tone and suddenly tears came gushing out. But somehow, the memory of when I fell off my bike and the sound of my aunt’s voice telling me, “You can choose to sit here and cry or you can clean yourself off and do something about it.” I chose to do something. I quickly started to research HPV at the university library. I needed to understand what was IN me, how did I get it and what could I do about it. I was shocked to learn what my doctor told me was a “minor instance” of HPV could be linked to cervical cancer. I immediately called my doctor and started the process of advocating for myself. I called and called until I got a second opinion from another OBGYN who confirmed that I had cervical dysplasia (CIN III). 

Life seemed to continue for me. I fell in love, graduated with a degree in English Literature, and got in engaged. A few weeks before walking down the aisle I received a call from my OBGYN that tested my strength yet again. My stubborn HPV decided to come back to life and I was diagnosed with 1A1 cervical cancer. In her calming voice, she said “You’re going to be ok. You did everything right, and we caught this very early.” I cried and through my tears explained that I was getting married in a few weeks. I remember the long pause in her voice as she took a deep breath and said “This is not going to take away your happiness, you go walk down that aisle and get married. Go on your honeymoon, and when you get back, we’re going to take care of you. Don’t let this stop you from living your life.” I got off the phone and cried as my fiancé held me until I fell asleep. I followed my doctor’s orders, hid the pain and fears, and got married on August 19th, 2006. And she was right, it was one of the happiest days of my life. 

I truly thought that I overcame the biggest obstacle in my life, surviving cancer, but I was wrong. My husband and I tried for years to have a child. We suffered miscarriages after miscarriages and failed infertility treatments. It was painful every time we got a pregnancy announcement from friends and family. I remember hiding my pain as I congratulated all my friends when I held their newborn children. I wanted a family of my own, but because of the various surgical procedures due to the HPV and cervical cancer, it was difficult. Finally, after years of trying we found out that we were pregnant. I was overjoyed! I knew from the start that even though I got pregnant carrying my baby to full-term was the ultimate battle.

At the start of the second trimester, my cervix (which was nearly gone) was “shrinking” and I was rushed into surgery to insert a cerclage to help keep my cervix closed. I was terrified. I could lose the baby I had wanted for so long. After the surgery, I was placed on modified bed rest, which consisted of coming downstairs once a day, only getting up to go to the bathroom and get food, but mainly off my feet. I told the doctor I would do whatever it took to keep my baby safe. I was hopeful that by restricting my movement for the second trimester I would be rewarded with the freedom in the third trimester.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. At the start of the third trimester, I was placed on full bed rest, only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom and shower once a day, and back to laying down on the bed. For two months I laid on my bed, holding back all the emotions I was feeling, in fear that I would lose the only strength I had left to keep my daughter safe. Finally, at the 30th week, the doctors felt that it was safe to remove the cerclage and release me from bed rest. I was FREE! I could finally see and feel my toes, I could feel the sunlight on my face and see the world again. But the best news, my daughter was safe. My daughter, Samantha Reagan Paguio was born on January 15th, 2013 in style, three days after her due date. 

I know my upbringing to some, might seem cold, restrictive, and harsh, but I am thankful for the matriarchs in my family: my mom, my Ama (grandmother), and my aunt. Their wisdom and traditional ways taught me how to harness my strength when I desperately needed it. Without them and their lessons, I would not be who I am today: a book editor, a mom, a friend, a wife, a daughter, and a Cervivor.

Joslyn Paguio graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a BA in Literature. She is currently a Senior Acquisitions Editor at Elsevier, overseeing the Neuroscience and Psychology book list. Since being diagnosed at 18 with HPV and then cervical cancer, with multiple recurrences, she has dedicated herself to educating others and advocating for the HPV vaccine. She is currently hosting a monthly podcast for Cervivor, interviewing cervical cancer patients and survivors, and addressing issues they face. During her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling with her family.

Infertility Awareness Week

One cervical cancer survivor sat down with Cervivor to share her story, how she navigated infertility, and what that looked like for her journey.

Can you tell us a little bit about your age and what your diagnosis was?

I was diagnosed with clear-cell cervical cancer when I was 24. This was ten years after being diagnosed with an unrelated childhood cancer, Hodgkins Lymphoma. You think you get hit once and it won’t happen again, but boy was I wrong. My oncologist said that the cervical cancer diagnosis was so rare, they were unsure of how I got it. 

What did treatment look like for you?

I was given a couple of options for treatment. I had just gotten engaged several weeks earlier, so that definitely influenced my decision for treatment. 

My first option was to get a hysterectomy, totally remove my uterus, but leave my ovaries to preserve my fertility and hormone function. This was the option most of my doctors recommended to treat this type of aggressive cancer. They said I would possibly need radiation after depending on what they found when they went in. 

The second option was to go through chemotherapy and possibly radiation to shrink the tumor, and then have a surgical intervention, a trachelectomy, to remove my cervix and the tumor. The doctors said that during this surgery if cancer margins were not met, I may have to get a hysterectomy. They also were unsure if the chemo would even work since this cancer was rare and aggressive. 

I ended up choosing the first option and I underwent a vertical (open, not laparoscopic) hysterectomy, and they moved my ovaries up, out of the field of radiation to preserve my fertility. Prior to this surgery, the doctors allowed me to delay a couple of months so that I could go through an egg retrieval and freeze my eggs. 

How did you learn that you were going to be faced with infertility?

Upon diagnosis, it was pretty clear that I would have some sort of infertility, either no uterus, or no cervix depending on the treatment option I went forward with.

I will say, that after processing and going through all this, I (or we as a couple) knew going into family planning that we would have challenges and would either have to adopt or use a surrogate. 1 in 4 couples go through infertility and they have working ‘parts’. I always said that at least we kind of knew going in vs. trying for a year or more and then having to seek out help from fertility doctors. We knew and were able to prepare ourselves for this process. 

What did you do to help yourself through those emotions?

My fiancé and my family were really my emotional soundboards at the time. I did a lot of crying. I tried to get out of the house and just ‘forget’ for a little bit. At the time I was working in healthcare with women going through high-risk pregnancies, and that was really hard to be around. I had some time off of work, which definitely helped clear my head. The hikes, walks, friends, and family really kept me going. 

Is there anything you would want anyone else facing these emotions to know?

You are not alone. It sounds cliche, but you are not. I actually recently spoke to a young single woman who has to have a hysterectomy for medical reasons too and we shared our stories and our journeys and it was just nice to connect with someone who understands exactly what you are dealing with. 

Reach out to local organizations, or even your doctor as they may know other patients who are open and willing to share and connect!

I will also say, to ask your doctor about the pros and consequences of any treatment or decisions you make. I froze my eggs soon before surgery, to be able to use them later on. Nobody encouraged us to freeze embryos instead, which have a much higher rate of survival after thaw. The focus then was on the cancer and it was very rushed. That is a whole other story too, but had all that been transparent, our course of action, and chances of starting our family earlier/differently, would have been altered. When I spoke to my doctor about this after the fact, she made a point that she as an oncologist was acting to save my life and treat the cancer, they didn’t think about the after and the long-term issues or effects on my fertility.

Can you share where you’re at in your journey now?

Thank God I have been cancer free for over four years. I have since gotten married, and we are so blessed to have welcomed our first child into the world via an amazing surrogate. This was not an easy process, but we are so grateful to her and her family for putting their lives on hold so we could start our family. There were so many bumps and decisions along the way; picking an agency to work with or to go ‘independent’ and find our own surrogate, matching with her, all the legalities that we had to go through, emotions, failed treatments, rude comments, time waiting, and the stress and emotional toll of not carrying my own child. I could talk for hours about that all, but with the grace of God, we did it! When they say it takes a village to raise a child, I would say it also does to bring one into this world.

Read more Cervivor stories like this one on our website here. Are you a cervical cancer patient or survivor? Share your story with us today!

This Too Shall Pass

This week is observed as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week and we’ll be highlighting Cervivor community members that identify within this population. Cervical cancer survivor and patient advocate, Tiera Wade shares the inspiration behind her journey with her small business.

“Traditionally, waist beads have been worn in West African culture for various reasons. Some of those reasons are adornment, accountability, spirituality, and honoring the power our wombs hold.

My reasons started to be intentional with expanding my family in hopes of having another child. As a small business owner, I started to incorporate this intentional art of making waist beads into my business. In that process, I connected with other women looking for healing, grounding, mindfulness, and acceptance.

When I found out I had cervical cancer all of the love, time, and intent, I soon felt betrayed. This womb that I was honoring and loving was now trying to kill me. I cut off every single one of those 28 strands and prepared for treatment.

Shortly after starting treatment, I received a package in the mail, and this package contained a strand from another maker across the country. My waist bead sister sent a note with her handmade strand, “This too shall pass.”

A few days later, I would receive another one and another. This continued throughout my treatments. When I was declared NED (no evidence of disease). I took those waist beads that were created in and with love and tied them on my waist. Each strand as gentle reminders that I’m loved and thanking my womb for a job well done, and she could rest.

Today, as a survivor, I use waist beads now to educate others. I share my why and Cervivors message. Telling them to prioritize themselves, love their bodies in the journey, and their health.”

Tiera Wade is a cervical cancer survivor and thriver turned patient advocate. She resides in the great state of Ohio and she is a small business owner and artisan designer of Set Trendz where she encourages others to be bold and be different.

22 Years and Counting

Today, we’re raising a toast to our Founder and Chief Visionary, Tamika Felder. It’s been 22 years since Tamika Felder heard those devastating words, “You have cervical cancer.”

It was a moment that changed her life forever. Tamika was 25 years old and budding in her fast-paced career as a Washington D.C. news producer. She wasn’t expecting a slowdown, more importantly, a cancer diagnosis.

Tamika endured a hysterectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation that ultimately stripped her of her fertility. After experiencing frustration, pain, and grief, she spent countless hours researching the human papillomavirus (HPV). What she found was how common the virus was and that there was a necessity for others to talk about it. She sought others who have walked the same journey but what she found was the shame, stigma, and isolation that cervical cancer brought with it. Tamika wanted to change the narrative and empower others to tell their stories so created what she didn’t have.

In 2005, Tamika and Friends, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to cervical cancer survivors and their friends and family was born. Support became an all-encompassing demand and she found the more she told her story, the more it reached other women. Several house parties were hosted to have real-time conversations about cervical health, cervical cancer, and how to protect yourself. Eventually, that idea became an official program of the organization we now know as Cervivor, Inc.

Tamika understood there was a calling of living her life beyond a cervical cancer diagnosis and over the years, she has continued to transform the lives of each person impacted by a cervical cancer diagnosis. She not only empowers them to use their voice, but she teaches them that their pain can have a purpose and that they have the power to create real change.

Tamika has been a visionary and a trailblazer not only in the cervical cancer space but to open up the dialogue to talk about women’s health, sexual health, health disparities, and what it means to strive for better access to and care for all – and now, the path to parenthood for those facing infertility.

We are in awe of everything she has endured, built, and nurtured, and can’t wait to see what else blossoms in her lifetime. We couldn’t be more grateful for her resilience and leadership to create the community we now know as Cervivor. Thank you, Tamika!

Join us in celebrating Tamika today by scheduling your routine cancer screenings and vaccination appointments, sharing this blog and her story with your networks, and by donating $22 to Cervivor!

Chapter 2: Growing, Learning, and Thriving Through Cervivor

It seems so surreal to be celebrating another work anniversary with Cervivor. Another year of incredible awareness initiatives, advocacy, education, and outreach plus community support for cervical cancer and HPV-related cancer patients, survivors, and thrivers. If you’re new here, please take a moment and read my introductory blog “Hi, I’m Morgan!” and my “One Year At Cervivor Taught Me” reflection post to bring you up to speed.

I started my cancer journey at 24 years old at a time when I was just getting my footing in my adult life, in my career as a dental assistant, and setting myself up for a bright future ahead. But life has a funny way of placing a wrench right in the middle of those plans we all carefully curate. I wouldn’t face just one cervical cancer diagnosis, but I would be thrown into the arena once again to face a metastatic recurrence in my lungs. I spent the greater part of two years just trying to survive. It was a grave reminder of how truly precious our time is here.   

I’m now standing 8 years out from that initial diagnosis with 7 of them being declared with no evidence of disease. I’ve been reflecting on everything I’ve been through and what I’ve been able to accomplish since then: the end of treatment, starting a Bachelor’s program just two weeks after completing chemotherapy; volunteering as a Cervivor Ambassador and patient advocate for so many organizations in my home state and beyond; all the way to getting my own apartment again, graduating with a Master’s degree, and landing a position with the organization that strengthened my voice.   

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve been learning and defining my role as the Community Engagement Liaison, as a nonprofit professional, and as a patient advocate. It has been a whirlwind of emotions supporting our community, from celebration to the unexpected and inevitable hits – you know, the bad follow-up scans, unexpected treatment side effects, recurrences, and unbearable losses. Cervical cancer is not an easy cancer. There are all of these additional layers of trauma thrown into the mix and it can be hard to articulate everything to those who haven’t set foot in our shoes. But we try. It’s not until we’ve met someone who has been through it and can say, “I have been there,” and “You’ve got this!” that you truly feel heard, accepted, and safe. I know because it happened that way for me too. 

Through it all, we continue to support each other as a community and our mission continues to drive the work we do every single day. Part of that is making sure that no other patient or survivor feels alone like so many of us have. I am reminded of the day I was diagnosed with cervical cancer every time a new request comes into our Comfort Care & Compassion program. I replay what I felt and I put that energy into the love, support, and personalization of that package. 

I am also reminded of my own diagnosis when another woman posts in our private group to share that her cancer is back. It can be heavy to see that over and over again but it only drives my purpose as a community support even further. It empowers me to be brave for others and do important work by reaching out to those who provide care for our community members. In doing so, I’ve been able to build and nurture partnerships like the one with the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and Dr. Christina Wilson. Together we came up with a sexual health and support bag for those going through internal radiation – a little privacy bag for dilators and a business card linking to our support resources here at Cervivor. To hear the feedback from real patients has been truly empowering that we’re doing something meaningful and impactful through this partnership.     

Every time a woman has her ‘ah-ha’ moment through one of our various programming events, it catapults me back to the moment I set foot into a Cervivor School for the very first time. Standing up and speaking at a Cervical Cancer Summit, Cervivor School, or HPV Survivors School, I am in shock and awe that I was in the attendees’ seats only a handful of years ago. It keeps me feeling humble but it’s a great reminder because we are often told just how important our stories are. There is so much truth in that statement because the sharing of our personal stories continues to grow in our outreach across the globe.

2023 is an opportunity to keep learning, growing, and experiencing new things as an individual, community, and organization. One of my favorite parts of this job is getting to know others and their stories – no matter where they’re at in life. To see the uplifting support firsthand from our community members and just how one little “You’ve got this” message isn’t so little at all. Those are the things that drive this community to be who we are today. We are Cervivor. 

I cannot wait to see the expansion of Cervivor, Inc.’s mission even more. It is simple yet impactful and effective: We share our stories to create the change we want to see in this world and in this lifetime. We want to see those who are impacted by cervical cancer to feel empowered and supported because no one should have to ever walk this journey alone.

I know I want cervical cancer to be a thing of the past for our upcoming generations and I believe we can do this. I love to get to know others and the work they are doing in the cervical cancer and HPV-related cancer space! Connect with me on LinkedIn or send Team Cervivor an email at [email protected].

Morgan Newman, MSWOutside of her Community Engagement Liaison position at Cervivor, you can find Morgan nurturing her relationships with local community partner organizations like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN), the Iowa Cancer Consortium, and serving as a board member for Above and Beyond Cancer. Learn more about Morgan at Cervivor.org.

Taking One Step Towards Your Purpose

A little background on me. I’m Lindsay and I’m a Jersey Gal, originally born and raised. My three girls and I moved to Richmond, VA, where I met my husband in a Criminal Justice class (and he’s seven years my junior) and together we had a girl and our first and only boy. I am currently working as a One-on-One in Gaston County for the Department of Exceptional Children by way of Support, Inc. and I absolutely LOVE what I do!

Now let me jump into how I got here… a cervical cancer survivor and advocate.

It all started with bleeding. A lot of bleeding.

I have always been a regular period gal, like clockwork every 28 days, something I could count on (except when I was pregnant of course) and something I never worried about. So naturally, I was alarmed when I suddenly started bleeding irregularly. But my normal period soon came.

One day after being intimate with my husband, I started to bleed.. a lot. I didn’t think much of it and I just figured that maybe that month my period decided to stay a little longer. But a few days later, I started to bleed again. Now, I am really alarmed so I went to the ER where they told me they didn’t see anything wrong and it was normal. 

The next month the same thing happened. Only this time there were clots and it was random and more frequent, to the point I ended up wearing pads all day every day because I never knew when I was gonna bleed. There were days I would be sitting on the toilet for 45 minutes bleeding.

I went to my general doctor and I also scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist. As I was explaining everything to my doctor, I jokingly asked if I was getting close to menopause. I really thought this was happening because I was turning 45 and thought maybe my period was ending. She told me I wasn’t in menopause range and she tested me for hyperthyroidism which came back positive for Graves Disease.

I was sent to an Endocrinologist and was put on meds for Graves Disease but I was still bleeding. When I finally got to the gynecologist, who was beyond rude, he completely cut me off and was writing me a prescription for birth control pills! I told him I didn’t need to regulate my period and that there obviously something else.

He did an exam and told me that my cervix felt enlarged and abnormal and he was sending me for further scans and the Pap results would take seven days. During this waiting period, I received notifications that my chart had new test results and I saw alarming things like “mass” “HPV” but I hadn’t been contacted by the doctor yet. After a very long two weeks, I finally got back in to see him and he told me the bad news was that it was cervical cancer but the good news was that the Levine Cancer Institute was close and I would be in good hands. He told me to go to the window to make an appointment and he walked out. He didn’t explain my results, nothing. He showed absolutely no compassion and he didn’t even ask if I had any questions.

I got my appointment at the Levine Cancer Institute the very next day, which also happened to be my husband’s birthday. I met my oncologist, Dr. Casablanca and she explained my results to me and told me she wanted to do a biopsy right then and there but when she did, it aggravated the “mass” and that started what would turn into the worst and longest 10 days of my life in the hospital.

It was confirmed that I had Stage II cervical cancer and I was devastated.

The time in the hospital was filled with constant blood transfusions and prodding and pricking for IVs. My arms were bruised from shoulder to wrist. They had to perform so many “packing” procedures (where they put meds on the end of gauze and shove it into your vagina) that I lost count. And eventually had to start my radiation because I wouldn’t stop bleeding.

I was scared and confused and I never had time to fully grasp what was happening to me. Everything happened so fast my head was spinning. However, one thing was very clear, I had a lot to live for and whatever I had to do I was gonna do it.

I pushed everything else to the side and focused on my treatment plan which was five days of radiation a week for five weeks and five weeks of chemo, with five brachytherapy procedures. My mission in life has always been to make a difference. I have done that as a Coach, Mentor, Community Leader, Sorority Leader, and now as a One-on-One. My new mission is to bring awareness to this new world I was thrust into unexpectedly.

I wasn’t educated enough on the HPV vaccine and was against it for my children but with my newfound knowledge, I’m advocating for it, especially for my girls. I also could not crumble or lose my faith because I wanna be here for my children, for my grandchildren and I want to make sure they are here too. I am NOT MY DIAGNOSIS and I plan to be the voice for those that can no longer speak.

This year I held my first Health Fair/Pop Up Shop called “Get in Good With Your Health” to raise cervical health awareness in my community during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It was also to highlight other diseases and allow people to be able to take the steps to have a Healthier Mind, Body, and Spirit.  The event was held on January 15, 2023, at Holly Oak Park in Shelby, NC. There were local vendors such as Hoppers Soul Food Truck, Carolyn’s Paparazzi, as well as Charlotte Vendors like Sanaa Glam & Wellness and Teal Diva. Several other vendors traveled from Georgia and NJ to be a part of this event. There was information on nutritional health, cancer awareness and prevention, and Lupus awareness. We had a spiritual reader, a Zumba Instructor, and a Yoga Instructor too. It was a wellness party!

My husband and I are both passionate about our community and both have up-and-coming businesses and the event was sponsored by Group T.H.E.R.A.P.Y, which is my mentoring group, and Concrete Mentoring Corp which is my husband’s group. It was attended by friends and family who had traveled from various states to show their support for me and my vision, as well as locals in our community. I was pleased with the turnout, especially with it being my first time doing something on this scale.

I had been pretty much in a fog during my treatments and I really hadn’t felt like myself but that weekend, with so much love and support from my family and friends, I felt more like myself and it helped me to be able to push through. Really come out of the fog and focus on not only on healing but on my purpose. 

My goal is to raise awareness not only in my community but everywhere. I started here in NC and next year I plan to hold this event in three cities: Richmond, New Jersey and each year add another city until eventually there is one held in all 50 states.

This is now my new mission, to be able to tell my story and educate others where I wasn’t. It is important to be able to show people not to be afraid of the myths or stigmas surrounding this disease and how it is important to be proactive about our health and our bodies. I am NOT MY DIAGNOSIS and when I’m gone my legacy will have told my story and maybe have saved lives. 

Linsday Gullatte-Lee is a self-published author, Cervivor community member and passionate advocate for cervical cancer prevention and awareness. She is on a mission to bring her Get Good with Your Health festival to every state. We’re cheering you on, Lindsay!

Just Like Holly: We Save Lives

We need to talk. We need to have conversations about cervical cancer and prevention.

This could have been Holly Lawson’s mantra. Once she found Cervivor, she was all in. She gained her advocacy wings and she never stopped soaring to greater heights.

Holly was a life-long teacher, knowing that people thrive when their voices have purpose and when they are armed with knowledge. During her time as Cervivor’s Community Engagement Liaison and co-administrator of Survivor Slimdown, she elevated and supported countless patients and survivors, many who had never met Holly in person but who felt a deep connection to her nonetheless. Holly was magical and her caring heart was open to all. She had a knack for captivating you with her Southern charm but her fierceness and determination was ever-present.

Holly used her Cervivor voice on Capitol Hill to make sure her state legislature heard her story of cervical cancer prevention, she shared the stage with doctors and researchers doing work in the HPV space and she was dedicated to helping others find their #CervivorSpark. Holly never stopped advocating; never stopped sharing all aspects of her cervical cancer life for others to learn from. She showed us what resilience, vulnerability, and bravery was. Holly believed in a collective voice and she believed in the power of the Cervivor community.

Today marks three years without our @CancerWrangler but we are incredibly grateful that she made the Cervivor community her home. Holly led with wit, tenacity, and a whole lot of spunk. Her laugh and sweet southern drawl still remains deeply connected to our memories of her. Holly was a shining example of how powerful moving from a patient-to-survivor-to-Cervivor can be. She was able to utilize her voice to create change and we are better because of her dedication.

We celebrate Holly’s lasting impact by never forgetting the work she, and so many others, have done to help carry Cervivor’s message far and wide. If Holly were here today, she’d be over the moon at how we’ve grown yet always knowing how far we still need to go. Our work continues because her voice, her story, is weaved into everything we do as an organization.

Just like Holly, we do this work to save lives. We do this work because our friends and our sisters, who are no longer able to speak, can STILL BE HEARD. We must never stop advocating for cervical cancer prevention because we do have the power, we are change-agents and we hold far too many stories within us that the world must KNOW.

With Cervivor, Holly lives on.

In Memoriam
Holly Latrelle Lawson
November 8, 1978 – March 13, 2020

Hello, My Name Is Kimberly!

Hey there Cervivor community!

My name is Kimberly Williams, I’m a recurrent cervical cancer survivor and Cervivor Patient Advocate that resides in the great state of Texas! I’m elated to join Team Cervivor as the Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I.) Officer. 

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in February 2018, it made me realize that being a mom to my two children, a double Master’s recipient in Management and Healthcare Management, and devoting 20-plus years to social services did not lessen my chance to get this diagnosis. The moment that I found out I had cervical cancer my focus shifted to desiring information concerning this disease that invaded my body.

I was introduced to Cervivor by a Cervivor Ambassador in March 2018 after my radical hysterectomy. During this time I listened, watched, and learned from other Cervivors. I faced a recurrence of cervical cancer in 2019 which led me to advocate even more! I began to share my story with those within my reach (my community, my family, and my friends). That’s when I realized that my story as a Black cervical cancer survivor mattered. There was a diverse population who were not insured or underinsured, and not receiving cervical cancer screenings, but who were listening to my story and taking action. It became a mission for me to help these communities by providing support and knowledge, and also sharing my story.

In 2021, while participating in a Cervivor event, I found my voice and drive even more. I learned how to frame my message for different audiences. This brightened my light to make a difference in the underserved communities by sharing Cervivor’s mission through my story. In January 2022, I was in shock to be given the Cervivor Rising Star award. As I accepted the award I understood there were still grassroots efforts that needed to occur to reach those aforementioned communities.

In January 2022, I participated in the Cervical Cancer Summit powered by Cervivor. During this summit participants were encouraged to join the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) to work to impact our local communities and share our cancer stories. Based on this encouragement, I joined the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network of Texas as a volunteer, which opened doors for me to share my story during HPV awareness events at underserved elementary schools to parents inquiring about the HPV vaccine. I also was afforded the opportunity to share my story during an HPV Roundtable event hosted by the American Cancer Society. Throughout 2022, I continued to share my story at events because I truly understood that my story mattered.

In the summer of 2022, I was chosen as a patient advocate for NRG Oncology’s Cervix and Vulva committee that reviews concepts for clinical trials, which includes ensuring a diverse population participate in the clinical trials. In September 2022, Cervivor hosted their Cervivor School in Nashville, Tennessee and I was awarded the Cervivor Champion award. What a humbling moment in my cancer journey to be viewed as a “champion”.

As I pondered the word champion I found this definition, “a person who fights or argues for a cause” and I silently agreed. Yes, that’s me. That’s what this community stands for and Cervivor helped me locate that champion inside of me! 

This revelation reminded me that this cause is larger than me! No one should die of cervical cancer, however, they still do. Black women are statistically more probable to die from cervical cancer and Hispanic women have the highest rate to develop cervical cancer. I’ve made it my mission to touch all diverse groups, regardless of race, creed, color, or gender to ensure they understand the importance of their gynecological health and cervical cancer screenings.

This community was built and founded by a Black woman that understands the struggles that Cervivor’s diverse community members face. There is a common theme that you may hear from any Cervivor which is “no one fights alone.” As a Black woman that has watched a community of Black women not able to address their gynecological health due to lack of insurance, child care, money, or understanding; I understand that my voice matters and holds weight within diverse populations. I intend to amplify my voice through this position to aid in decreasing the cervical cancer inequality gap that statistics show us. How you may ask? By ensuring that the Cervivor community members and any cervical cancer patient, survivor and/or thriver is supported and armed with knowledge to assist in this effort.

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

If social media is not your thing, no worries I’ve got you covered! Email me at [email protected]. I would love to connect with you as we work together to end cervical cancer. Don’t be shy, tell me how we can help close this inequality gap. You are a part of the Cervivor footprint, your thoughts, involvement, and voice matter!

My Sidekick Sheba

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I never imagined the journey would include a new sidekick! I finished stage 3B cervical cancer treatment around August or September of 2018. About three months after treatment, I began to experience trouble going number two. It was the worst feeling ever. The times when I could go, it was excruciating, and with plenty of blood. I started to go number two again, but the weirdest thing happened. It was coming from my vagina. I had developed a fistula due to my radiation treatment. 

I went into the hospital immediately and was admitted from December 31, 2018 until January 16th, 2019. During that time, they inserted a nutrition PICC line, checked my stool, inserted a catheter, and prepared me for surgery to remove some of my bowel and colon. My doctor explained that there would be a possibility that I would get a colostomy and he may remove my uterus, but it depended on the damage they saw inside. When I woke up, I was informed that the surgeon had removed my right ovary and fallopian tube, and I had a colostomy bag.

The nurse gave me care instructions and I learned to care for my new sidekick. I went through stages of confusion, anger, fear, and insecurity. After getting used to it, I named it, Sheba, and called her my sidekick. I’m a bit more comfortable with it now, but sometimes I still struggle with public participation because of how active it is. 

I’ve been diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder since receiving it because of my constant worry about how I look with a shirt bulge or certain things that I now become obsessed with. Although I’ve gone through these struggles, I’ve learned to appreciate having my colostomy bag, as it has saved my life. I feel better knowing I can use the bathroom without getting infected or hurting myself even further. 

I get better each day as I learn and grow. I am living and taking it one day at a time, as I make new goals and step out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a CERVIVOR!

Kyana Johnson resides in Orangeburg, South Carolina. She is a stage IIIB cervical cancer Cervivor, colostomate, and Marriage and Family Therapy student. Cervivor has always been Kyana’s safe space, information hub, and a great place to come together for a cause greater than us. Cervivor is her inspiration for her advocacy efforts. 

Cervivor Takes Manhattan!

As we wrapped up the last weekend of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM), we headed to New York for a monumental event that started off this year’s Cervical Cancer Summit powered by Cervivor.

Founder Tamika Felder, along with members from the Cervivor community, were invited to ring the closing bell on Nasdaq. Tamika’s call to action to the world, “Join us in this mission because no one should die from cervical cancer.” And the world is listening!

We kicked off the 2023 Cervical Cancer Summit in partnership with Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, it was truly an inspired and innovated conversation with Eve McDavid, a cervical cancer survivor and Fem Tech entrepreneur, along with the brilliant Dr. Onyinye Balogun and Fernando Gomez-Baquero. By using the patient voice, they are developing a revolutionary new device that will transform Brachytherapy, which still uses the same barbaric process that was developed in the 1970’s, with no regard for the actual female anatomy. We are excited to see more innovations like this happening in treatment altogether!

We continued with the patient voice perspective with members of the Cervivor community speaking on the Power in Patient Voices with Arlene Simpson, Yvette Torres, Kadiana Vegee and Kate Weissman. They shared how the collective Cervivor voice can bring more visibility and influence change, working towards our common goal of ending cervical cancer.

Dr. Rebecca Perkins joined us for Expert Hour on all things cervical cancer and HPV. You can tell that Dr. Perkins is very passionate about educating others to understand the importance of HPV vaccination and cancer prevention. “HPV vaccination is cancer prevention!”

The day continued with a session on Emotional Resilience: Survivorship & Support. Community members Anna Ogo, Tina Vetreno and Tiera Wade joined presenter Danielle Modlo, who is a Certified Nurse Practitioner at Cleveland Clinic, really brought to the surface what cervical cancer patients and survivors face from a mental health and wellness perspective during and after treatment.

Joslyn Paguio, Cervivor Podcast host, lead a conversation on Sexual Health with Dr. Rosemary Basson on how we navigate our ‘new groove’ through our physical and emotional changes that cancer brings to our sexual desires.

Our last panel discussion was on Navigating a Cervical Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Options – What’s Best for Ourselves with Ayanna Bass, Karla Chavez, Carol Lacey, Jenn Myers, Karen North, Selena Ruston and Kimberly Williams. We discussed how we make sense of everything we go through from diagnosis and beyond, and choosing the best treatment plan for you which may include clinical trials, more surgeries, or second opinions.

Just as the day began, we ended with an exhilarating bang as Dr. Cindy Trice shared her personal cervical cancer journey and how years later that journey helped create and fuel KickIt Pajamas. She truly turned her pain into purpose and we just love her company’s mantra, “Friends don’t let friends have hospital butt.” Her inspirational talk left us laughing and crying.

Last but not least, we celebrated five new Cervivor Champion Award recipients for going above and beyond with the mission of Cervivor being their driving force. Join us in congratulating these outstanding individuals as our 2023 Cervivor Champions!

Advocating For Myself: The Importance of Follow Up Care

When I was asked to write a blog for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month I happily accepted, but soon after the irony hit me. Awareness is something I did not have when it came to cervical cancer. Awareness is the single thing that got me into this situation in the hopes that no other woman is punished for their ignorance as I have been.

Jessica with her family

About 15 years ago when I was 21 years old, working two jobs and going to college full time, I had a pap test. I didn’t have it because I was being responsible for my health or anything like that, I had it because the only way to get birth control was to do an annual pap and I wasn’t ready to be a parent. I could barely care for myself. It came back irregular, and I was told they’d need to do a minor procedure called a colposcopy to make sure everything was okay.  The “minor” procedure was where an OBGYN goes in to clip a piece of your cervix off to biopsy. It definitely didn’t feel minor, and the memory burned into my brain forever as a “never want to experience that again” item along with wrecking my car and eating mayonnaise. 

Fast forward to three years ago and I had just moved to Spokane. I had decided to get a new birth control, so I went and found a new OBGYN (would there even be women’s health if we weren’t always concerned about being pregnant?). Five minutes into the appointment and I didn’t love the guy, which is saying a lot because it doesn’t take very much for me to love you. He was cold, direct, and impersonal. I get it, as a doctor you have to have a little bit of that in the field, but this individual was just not my cup of coffee (NOTE: I substituted coffee for tea here because I think all tea is dirt water). He told me I needed to have that horrible procedure again as a “precaution” because I had a strange-looking spot or two. Really, I wasn’t informed of how serious that could be, or what the spot meant, or anything. Now, I’m not saying it was his fault that I didn’t return after that day to get another colposcopy, but I do believe if things were explained a little more clearly, I would’ve returned to get my procedure. 

Doing another time jump, I had now avoided having another pap for two years, but hey, surprise, my fertility brought me back into the stirrups (the hospital kind, not the horse kind). My lab results had come back positive for HPV 16. There’s a lot of stigma with HPV and being someone who’s never had any sort of STI, I was horrified. But the truth is about 90% of people have HPV and have no symptoms for their entire lives. The problem with my HPV is the number behind it. That number is known to cause cancer. Finally, my amazing new doctor sat me down and let me know what that meant, and how important getting a colposcopy was. Unfortunately, because I was pregnant with my little miracle, they couldn’t take the actual sample of my cervix, but still wanted to schedule a couple “look and sees”. 

When my OBGYN took over the process, she did my first biopsy-less colpo. She even showed me what she saw and pointed to a couple white spots in my cervix that she thought looked suspicious but “definitely weren’t cancer”. Over the next nine months I did those two more times, both of which I had to remind my OBGYN about. Finally, when I was six weeks postpartum of delivering the world’s most majestic little angel baby, I again reminded my OBGYN about getting my colposcopy. It was horrible and I threw up when I got it done. 

Jessica & Kenny

When I got home that night, lying in bed with my husband and talking about our day, I suddenly got quiet. He asked me what was wrong, and I replied that I knew I had cancer. I was sure of it. Of course, he didn’t believe me. I don’t even think that possibility was in his mind, even when I said it out loud. But something innate confirmed it, as if despite having zero symptoms my body knew there was something inside of me that wasn’t right. Sure enough, one cone and PET scan later it was confirmed, Stage 3 cervical cancer. 

In retrospect, I know it’s cliche but “everything really does happen for a reason.” It’s weird to say, but I am glad they didn’t catch my cancer earlier. I am glad because usually, the treatment for stage 1 cervical cancer would be a radical hysterectomy. If my cancer had been caught earlier, I would’ve never had my son. I would endure 1000 cancers for him to be born. That being said, if I would’ve had my procedure done three years before, I would likely have caught all of this before there was cancer. So, really this just boils down to taking responsibility of your own health. No one will do it for you. And just because you “feel” healthy, doesn’t mean there isn’t something lurking inside. If you take away anything from this, take the initiative to get an annual pap, and further, if something is irregular, take the follow-up. Be aware of this extremely horrible but preventable disease.

Jessica lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, 5-month-old son Kenny and 6-year-old step daughter Kyla as well as their two dogs, Cane Corso Bruce and Boston Terrier Elvis. She works as a large enterprise senior account executive for Gartner. In her spare time, she enjoys snowboarding, wakeboarding, golfing, showing her dogs in conformation, riding her horse and spending time with her wonderful family.

Bringing Bigger Dreams to 18

“Your birthday is the beginning of your own personal new year. Your first birthday was a beginning, and each new birthday is a chance to begin again, to start over, to take a new grip on life.” — Wilfred Peterson

Cervivor, Inc. is celebrating eighteen years as the leading voice in cervical cancer patient advocacy. We have been at the forefront of change, of dismantling stigma, and of pushing toward a future free of cervical cancer. Cervivor has also been a place of connection and support for so many affected by cervical cancer. It hasn’t always been so apparent as this community has grown and evolved over time.

When Cervivor founder and chief visionary, Tamika Felder started this organization, it was because she knew there was power in a collective and knowledgeable voice. She knew that others like herself needed a community and a purpose that gave back what cancer tried to strip away. A community that refreshed our strength and resilience skills to overcome the trauma we have experienced. She strategically used the tools she possessed as a lifelong storyteller and compassionate change-maker. Tamika created, as she always says, something she didn’t have as a young adult and cervical cancer survivor.

What started as Tamika & Friends, Inc., supporting cervical cancer survivors and their families, evolved and grew because Tamika knew the future held endless possibilities for empowered and educated patient advocates who wanted to show the world that cervical cancer has a multitude of faces and backgrounds. She knew that by simply sharing our cervical cancer experiences, people would listen and that meant change was possible. We are going to officially put an end to the shame and stigma behind a cervical cancer diagnosis and hopefully one day to the disease itself.

Eighteen years later, Cervivor has a global reach and our partnerships across various health disciplines brings our work of cervical cancer awareness, prevention, and support to even more audiences — policymakers, researchers and medical teams, educators, and even The White House.

Cervivor continues to support newly diagnosed cervical cancer patients, as well as create spaces for those seeking to connect and those wanting to add to our advocacy footprint. We have come so far since the early days of our HPV/House Party of Five but still have more work to do. We have more lives to help save and honor the lives of those who are no longer with us through our work.

We will continue on but we need your support. Please continue to be visible as our supporters, advocacy partners, friends, and family. We cannot do this work alone. Start by donating $18 today in honor of Cervivor’s 18th birthday.

Lastly, let’s sing a happy birthday tune to our beloved organization, because #WeAreCervivor!

We Are Cervivor: Spirit Week 2023 Recap

Cervivor Spirit Week gives our community a chance to bring some fun to an otherwise serious topic of cervical cancer awareness and prevention. As our Cervical Cancer Awareness Month Committee Co-Chair, Jenn Myers says, “It can be a heavy topic but we are the voices that need to do this work.”

We definitely had a ton of fun with everyone this week as we splashed social media with so much teal & white awareness! We love how many people took notice, shared their stories, and joined in on our cause.

Cervivor Español unofficially kicked off the spirit week with a MeetUp on Saturday then we transitioned into the theme days starting on Sunday! Sports Day Sunday brought out all the sporty-Cervivors representing their favorite teams. Lisa Gopman reminded us to get our cervical cancer screening and vaccinate our kids against HPV all while showing off her Bengal pride.

There were so many great Movie Monday quotes from some classic Hollywood films. Kel Bel spent the weekend watching Harry Potter movies with her daughter while recovering from her hysterectomy and shared this Albus Dumbeldore line that hits her every time, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Mic drop.

Our Cervivor Noir and Cervivor API groups kicked off their inaugural MeetUps to further our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion for anyone impacted by cervical cancer. There were stories shared so powerful and we cannot wait to see the work they all do in furthering our mission to end cervical cancer. (If you identify as Black, join Cervivor Noir and if you identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, join Cervivor API).

On Talk to Me Teal & White Tuesday we asked you what Cervivor means to you and here’s what you shared with us.

Cervivor means no one fights alone.” ~ Christy

Cervivor means sharing our stories and using our voices to spread awareness and to end cervical cancer and to let other women know they are not alone.” ~ Brooke

You gave us all the cozy vibes on Warm Up Wednesday and Cervivors were sharing pics snuggled under blankets and some with their pets. Joy shared the unconditional love from her cat and Arlene was living the Wonder Woman Snuggie life.

The favorite food of choice on Tasty Thursday seemed to be none other than… tacos! They really are the perfect food! Sharing our tasty treats helped us get ready for Saturday’s amazing session, Cooking with Tracy Citeroni, who demonstrated a versatile, healthy and delicious quinoa ‘risotto’. You can grab the recipe here to cook on your own!

We even kicked off our first-ever Cervivor Book Club meeting by discussing Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly! As we headed into our weekend, we asked you to share your happy places on TGIFriyay. Sand, surf, mountains, lakes, fireside, wilderness trails, and museum strolls hit the top of your lists for joy-inducing places we like to be.

And we ended this year’s spirit week with a favorite, Sock It To Cervical Cancer to bring out your favorite statement socks with a Cervivor flare!

Through this time, we continued to honor the joy and Cervivor spark of our late Cervivor sister, Jodi Madsen. Cervivor Spirit Week was one of her favorite things from last year and she was a master in fun content creation and social media advocacy.

We hope this week has inspired you to continue these ways of advocating throughout the rest of 2023. It is truly incredible to see the power of our community and it’s a great reminder that we are Cervivor and we are unstoppable!

The Elephant in the Room

It’s probably time to address the elephant in the room – Stage IV cancer. Words that typically come along with this stage diagnosis are incurable, terminal, and life-threatening. In my case, my cervical cancer has metastasized and spread to my collarbone and armpit area. Compared with many, my Stage IV is ‘minor’ because it is not present in my blood, bones, or brain. BUT it is incurable. The goal is to treat until we reach a point of NED (No Evidence of Disease), a pseudo remission. And for the remainder of my time, I will need to regularly test for recurrence. 

So, I’m not going to live forever; who is? And maybe I won’t live as long as I hoped, but there are new advances in treatment daily! I don’t discuss this part of my cancer journey very often because I refuse to give it any credence.

What I find curious is that I didn’t invite that particular elephant into my room. It was placed there by others. I know cancer is an uncomfortable subject for many, but to quote Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet”, so please don’t treat me like I am! 

The elephant in my room is a very different beast. Meet Ganesha! Ganesha is a Hindu deity that is known as the remover of obstacles. He is a symbol of prosperity and wealth, and he is believed to bring good luck. This is definitely the elephant I need in my corner; a hopeful, powerful and positive force! 

I believe that “the diversity of faith should be appreciated and celebrated.” (Stephen Mattson quote) That’s why I’m so appreciative of any prayers, positive vibes, or good juju sent my way. I’ll take it all and return it tenfold, should you need it! My ultimate goal is an honest relationship with my creator and maybe in my world, gods and elephants occupy the same space!

There are a few more elephants that I choose to have in my space and one of them is my support group. “In the wild, female elephants are known as fierce protectors. And when one of their sisters is suffering, they circle up around her. They close in tight, watch guard, and even kick dust around her to mask her vulnerable scent from predators. And yet, we are the same. This is who we are, and who we are meant to be for each other. Sometimes we’re the ones in the middle. Sometimes we’re the ones kicking up dust with fierce, fierce love. But the circle remains.” – From the Festive Farm Co.

The last elephant in my room is my mom. She was the first lover of elephants I knew (a byproduct of living in Thailand). I fondly remember her collection of elephant figurines, turned towards the window to keep the bad luck at bay. Sadly, she passed from liver cancer ten years ago, but she would have been the first to lead the charge to circle up in support. And her wisdom and strength are ever present in my room (and life), because like elephants, love remembers.

And so, my journey continues. With a lot of faith, hope, love, support, and my elephants, I plan on living every day to the fullest!

Christy K. Chambers is a world-traveling, military brat who moved to the east coast for college and never left. She currently resides in Monroe, North Carolina with her husband, son, and doggo, Ethel Mertz. A Jill-of-all-trades, she has had multiple careers in theatre, stage lighting, commercial printing, retail and paper arts. Christy was diagnosed with Stage IVb cervical cancer in May 2022 after she went for a routine Pap test. She completed round one of treatment in August 2022 and is currently being treated with immunotherapy.

When Cervical Cancer Side Effects Bring Life-Altering Changes

After completing my oncology protocol and hysterectomy for my cervical cancer, I developed a rectovaginal fistula. This meant that due to the radiation I received, my colon and vaginal wall merged. I like to think of it as when you burn two plastic sheets together, they become one. At some point, a tear began to form, and it developed into a fistula. 

How did I find out about the fistula? I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but if I look back, I do remember a very sharp pain after I sneezed about four weeks after my hysterectomy. Later that week I noticed a different color in my urine and some pain each time I went to the bathroom. I called my doctor and he said he would like to check it out. By the time I went I was passing small clots, I was unaware if it was due to the surgery or an infection. When the doctor ran his tests, and the pelvic exam being the most painful one, he confirmed that a fistula had been formed. It was about one centimeter in diameter. 

Photo from GynecologicSurgery.com

A week after my initial exams, I started passing stool through my vagina. That part of it has been the most horrible part of my life after cervical cancer treatment. I was told to wear diapers during this period, but I didn’t want to, so I started using maxi pads. I would be needing to change them at least 4 times a day. Going to the bathroom was painful and uncomfortable. I was battling pain and infections during the next couple of months until all testing was completed to see the course of action my doctors wanted to take. I started carrying an extra pair of jeans and 2-3 pairs of underwear because of the accidents. Doctors told me not to go to work during this time, but I really didn’t want to stay home. I needed to be doing something to take my mind off it. I made a strategy plan; I parked my car next to the nearest bathroom at my construction site. That way it was easier to get to my emergency bag and I had my brother working close by so I would call him up if I had any accidents that might require extra assistance. I also told two of my male coworkers what was going on with me just in case anything went wrong. 

The most traumatic moment for me was when they had to perform the colon enema test on me. I remember I was that table being pumped full with barium and then just noticed my legs getting wet. I began crying and told the doctor that I was peeing myself. He said, it’s okay and they can clean it up. But I couldn’t stop crying and then I started to panic. He put his hand on my head and told me to breathe, he said he knows how painful this is but he needs to find out what is going on. When it was over, there were nurses in the room cleaning me up, that’s when I noticed that the bed and the floor were covered in my feces and barium, that came out of my vagina. To this day, it has been the worst experience I have ever had. 

I remember changing in the examination room stall crying, feeling embarrassed, and with the desire to hug my brother who was waiting for me. There have been many beautiful things in my life, but that hug, that hug made me feel so safe. The doctor explained the extent of the damaged I had and that my surgeon would recommend getting a colostomy. 

I am grateful for my colostomy, it has made my life less complicated. 

Karla with her brother

Living with a tiny fistula, has changed my life, but has not stopped it. I did try Crossfit for two weeks but had to be checked since I started bleeding a bit, which showed that the fistula had become larger. So, now I stick to low impact activities, like walking and stretching. I have little to no infections and luckily I am off Tramadol and Dexketoprofen, which was the protocol I had for pain management.

My fistula is still here. In my last exam the doctor said it was barely detectable. I am still not sure if it will heal, statistics do not support this idea, so we know that my ostomy is becoming permanent. Which I don’t mind.

Karla Chavez is a Cervivor Ambassador, Cervivor Español Co-Lead and a 2022 Cervivor Champion Award recipient. Karla is a civil engineer in her home country of Honduras and she’s an amigurumi enthusiast.

How Cervivor Empowered Me

My doctor called me on November 11, 2020, and told me over the phone that I had cervical cancer, and after I slid down the kitchen counter and physically got up off the floor, I started Googling ‘cervical cancer’. I knew where my cervix was and I knew I had cervical dysplasia in my 20s that had gone without treatment as it disappeared and the next pap was normal. But all of a sudden, I was a cancer patient. I was going to have a radical hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. I was going to be genetically counseled and tested to find out I had a BRCA gene mutation. My body had turned against me. When I learned cervical cancer and HPV were linked, I was convinced I was contaminated and dirty and bad. It was the height of the pandemic and I was alone and scared.