Age at diagnosis: 34

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: IV

Cervivor School Graduation: 2017

In Memoriam
Teolita Rickenbacker
September 19, 1980 – August 24, 2019
(38 years old)
With Cervivor, she lives on.
End Cervical Cancer

How my story begins: My life before my diagnosis was full. I was working full-time and attending Savannah State University. Three years prior to my diagnosis, I had relocated to Savannah, Georgia from Louisville, Kentucky.

In late 2014, I was experiencing pain and unusual bleeding during my menstrual cycles. I was admitted to the hospital twice for the same symptoms, but each time i was given STI exams and a vaginal ultrasound. Each time, I was told it was an abscess located on my Fallopian tube. Then, in early 2015, I decided to see a gynecologist about my issues. After some questioning, I was given a Pap test. This test showed abnormal cells. I was scheduled for a colposcopy and on February 24, 2015 ( my grandmother's birthday), my journey with cervical cancer began.

How I felt after diagnosis: After I was given my diagnosis, I felt an instant depression. What was I gonna do? No kids, no husband, loneliness, and anger. I was mad at myself for not doing right by my body, or my life.

Telling my family and friends: This was one of the hardest things I had to do. As a family, we were dealing with my grandmother having dementia. Luckily, my mother was there when I was given the news, so she became my spokesperson when it came to family members and family friends. However, telling my friends was not so bad at first, but it turned out to be devastating. I lost those friendships I held dear to my heart, but I also gained some new amazing ones.

My treatment: My treatment plan consisted of chemotherapy and radiation. Currently, I am taking an immunotherapy named Keytruda through a clinical trial.

How I felt after treatment: Although I am going through treatment now, I feel I am at MY BEST!! I strive to keep a positive mindset. I sometimes feel lonely because I don't have a family of my own, but I am grateful and blessed to still be alive.

What was most difficult for me: The most difficult part for me was wondering about the what ifs, whys, why nots, etc. It was a dangerous roller coaster ride. I wasn't ready to leave my family or this world. I had too much to accomplish.

What I did to help myself: I found CERVIVOR!!! I became an active person in my treatments, and faced it with positive thoughts. Once I got over the initial shock of losing friends, it became easier to remove toxic people out my life. Attitude is Everything!!!

My life after cancer: Amazing! It wasn't easy getting here. It's even harder because I still take treatment. But because of the success we are seeing from the immunotherapy, I am confident I will continue to find my happy place.

Where I am today: I am currently working to get the awareness out about HPV and Cervical Cancer because I have found my passion - an area where I want to leave my footsteps.

What I want other women to know: It is very important to remember that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Make sure to listen to your body and seek medical attention if something doesn't feel right. Always follow the guidelines regarding cervical cancer screening (Pap testing and HPV testing), and always follow-up if you've been advised to do so. You are not alone.

If you are a parent, please have your child vaccinated because it can save them from experiencing a life with cancer. It isn't an easy road, but it can be prevented. The vaccination wasn't available when I was a kid, but knowing my mother, she wouldn't have second guessed anything when it came to my health.

How I will try to help others: By talking, educating, advocating, and living for HPV and Cervical Cancer Awareness. I would like to become a mentor to women who are dealing with these issues.