No Christmas Tree for Christmas

IMG_4146Ever since I can remember, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s has been a special time in my family. It’s filled with traditions, love, being grateful, and always feeling blessed and thankful for everything. We celebrate by being together, giving each other gifts, serving delicious food, and of course always having a beautiful Christmas tree.

In the year 2008, these holidays were very different – I was shocked beyond belief when my doctor gave me a cancer diagnosis. That particular moment is vivid in my mind, but the moments after the words “You have stage IIB cervical cancer” are a blur.  It was mid-November, right before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Needless to say, I wasn’t in the spirit for any of the holidays after receiving such a diagnosis. Everything had gone dark. I thought, “Thanksgiving??? What do I have to give thanks for? For having cancer?” Focused only on the words of my doctors, I was forgetting about the rest of the many blessings around me. I was giving up before I even started to fight back. For me, it was the beginning of the end.

I went into a cocoon, asking myself over and over, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” I didn’t want to see anyone, not even family or friends. That year, there was no giving thanks on Thanksgiving, no beautiful tree or gifts for Christmas, no party or champagne cheers for the New Year. What was the sense of doing all that if I felt uncertain about my life? I was facing my own mortality.

It took a while for me to feel ready to fight back. I was fighting for my life, and I was really scared. I even questioned my own faith, but God gave me the support and strength to endure. It was a difficult journey, but I won the battle – I got a second shot at life.

Now, I don’t question anything. I give thanks every day as if it were Thanksgiving Day. I celebrate each day and see it as a gift given to me like a Christmas present. I live and celebrate every day as if it was New Year’s day. There is so much I want to do, and I don’t take anything for granted. I see life differently now; problems that seemed huge are not so big anymore, and I really don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is good!!

After going through this experience, I want to share my story with other women and let them know that my journey does not have to be theirs. I want to pay it forward.

In 2014, I was fortunate to have been chosen as one of the survivors to attend Cervivor School. This is a life-changing event that trains women in impactful storytelling, teaching the most essential facts about HPV, cervical cancer, and prevention. Cervivor School supports women in becoming cervical cancer advocates and changing the future of female health.

I had an awesome experience at Cervivor School 2014, becoming empowered with knowledge in so many different areas. The support of my survivor sisters is beyond anything I could imagine, and I’m now a SURVIVOR turned ADVOCATE, committed to helping eradicate cervical cancer for good!

I want you to know that you can get through this, and we are here for you. Together, we’ll make a difference.

~ You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really
stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you
think you cannot do.  ~
Eleanor Roosevelt 

Wishing Everyone a Very Healthy New Year 2015!!

Cervivor Patti Murillo-Casa

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