The badass, fired-up Cervivor in our video, “Raising Hell To Make Cancer Pay,” is Mary Baker, who is “pissed off” at what cancer has done to her body, her family, and her friends.
“I’m pissed off that four of the women that I saw last year [at Cervivor School] are now dead” from cervical cancer.
Mary’s solution to being pissed off? “RAISE HELL.”
Watch her video here.
We had a chance to chat with Mary about her experiences, and what it means to “raise hell” as a Cervivor Ambassador in her hometown of Richmond, Va. and advocate for cervical cancer prevention.
Q: From the video, you really are fired up by a “Cervivor Spark” to share your story and drive change. Can you tell us what led to this fiery passion and fighting spirit we see in the video?
I had started experiencing odd symptoms that I knew weren’t normal. I kept listening to my body and going to doctors, but it took me going to four doctors over two years until one finally took me seriously and did more advanced evaluations. By that time, I had stage 3B cancer. One of my healthcare providers had told me again and again that it was “just hormones.” Another made some sort of offhanded comment that I should just focus on having babies – although I already had two children and I wasn’t there to ask about fertility! I kept getting misdiagnosed because, even though I knew there was something “off” with my body, I wasn’t being heard and my concerns were not being addressed.
Women need to listen to their bodies, but that is not enough if the medical community does not take us seriously and listen to our concerns. The worst part is, from my connection to other Cervivors, I now know that I am not the only one to have had months or years of misdiagnosis. This is an experience that has frustratingly been shared by many of us! I’m pissed off about that!
Q: Being “pissed off” is an emotion that many of us share. How do you deal with feeling “pissed off” about these issues?
In all honestly, it is only now – a few years after my June 2016 diagnosis – that I am delving into the anger and frustration and using it as a force for fighting back, as a force for advocacy and change.
When I was going through treatment and recovery and settling into my new post-cancer life, I had to protect my peace and choose gratitude over anger. At the time, that was better for me and for my recovery. That was better for me and my family.
For a long time after I went through my treatment, I was in a bit of a fog. I was trying to to re-figure out who I was at that point, post-cancer. I couldn’t think about my anger at that point. The anger didn’t serve me for where I was.
Now 3+ years after cancer, I’ve decided that I can choose both. I can feel gratitude for being on the other side of the disease and being here today, yet still feel angry. What happened to me wasn’t okay and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else. I’m mad that misdiagnosis and having symptoms ignored has happened to so many other women. Worse is that I keep losing friend after friend to cervical cancer. THIS PISSES ME OFF. Now it serves me best to do something about it!
Q: How do you plan to “raise hell”?
Thanks to Cervivor and the training I’ve benefitted from at Cervivor School, I have a lot of options on how to raise hell. First and foremost, I’ll raise hell by telling my story to anyone and everyone. I’ve shared my story with members of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. as part of Capital Hill lobbying days.
I sit on the Virginia Immunization Taskforce. I am a district lead in Virginia for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. I recently wrote an article about my experiences for HealthyWomen.org so that I could reach many more thousands, maybe even millions, of women.
I’m unstoppable now in telling my story, as I know my voice matters. That all of our voices matter. We cannot be silent. Our voice must be heard. That is how change is made!
Q: How do you want other individuals and Cervivor as a group to “raise hell”?
To all women I say, listen to your body. Speak up and speak out. If a doctor’s diagnosis doesn’t feel right, keep asking and keep pressing. I wish I had done that when I was told my symptoms were “just hormones.” If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, find one who will.
For fellow Cervivors, tell your story. Share it as many times as possible. Don’t keep it to yourself. You may think your voice doesn’t matter, but it does! Realize that you matter, that your story matters. Speak your truth.
If you want more training on advocacy, take advantage of Cervivor School. Plug into the learning and mentorship of other Cervivors. We are here to support each other in dealing with cervical cancer, and we are also here to support each other in our advocacy…and in our anger. If you want to join me in raising hell, reach out to me and plug into Cervivor!
Mary is a 3+ year cervical cancer survivor, Cervivor School graduate and Cervivor Ambassador. Read her Cervivor story and her HealthWomen.org article “I Was Told My Irregular Vaginal Bleeding Was Normal, But I Actually Had Cervical Cancer.”