A Cervivor Gives Back

When the threat of Coronavirus became very real to the United States and it was clear that PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for healthcare workers would become nearly impossible to acquire, mine and many others’ first thought was: what can I do to help? It’s no secret to cancer survivors the length our healthcare experts go to to make sure we live. The N95 masks that are meant to be single use are now being used over and over again by workers that are coming in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. This is a very scary time made worse by this fact. One way I learned I could help was by making face masks that could cover the N95 masks, helping to extend their use. It’s by no means ideal, but is the current reality. 

Crafting N95 covers for local medical staff.

I played around with a couple patterns until I found one I liked, and ended up using this one. I still had some elastic left over from scrunchie making with my daughter from the previous summer, and plenty of fabric as well.

I joined a local Facebook community (RVA Masks 4 Health) whose primary mission is to make, donate, and distribute homemade masks to local hospitals and other essential workers in our area. I was gifted 10 more yards of elastic from this community and got to work making about 40 in total, until both my supplies AND sewing machine gave out. Working with my lymphedema therapist turned friend, Laurie Pearman, I was able to get enough donations that we could distribute 100 of them for her hospital system here in Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, the Facebook group continues to help each other in the sourcing and donation of materials to local crafters, and for those who can’t sew but wish to help, in delivering the masks to drop off locations. Hundreds of masks are being made daily by these home crafters. There are even members using 3D printers to make masks, face shields and doodads that will hold the elastic off of nurses ears so that it doesn’t break their skin after wearing them for long shifts. 

Completed masks ready for delivery!

It has been comforting to see so many people stand up to help during this crisis. At Cervivor, one of our mantras is #StrongerTogether, and this has been another instance of the truth in that statement. Of course, the best way to help is simply to stay at home if and when possible. I hope all of our Cervivor sisters are staying safe and healthy. You can always reach out to us through our I Am Cervivor Facebook group for our support. 

Mary Baker is a three year survivor of stage 3B cervical cancer. She is an advocate for women’s health, a mom of two, and a proud Cervivor Ambassador and Cervivor School graduate. 

I Miss Her Everyday

Erica’s death was a day that I knew would come but it hit me harder than anything I could have ever imagined. Erica and I also prepared Wylee for that day and days after Mommy dies.

Erica believed in Living Life despite her diagnosis. That spilled over to her family life and she made sure that Wylee had his own incredible experiences and adventures — even at such a young age. We started him with counseling five years ago, but not just sitting on a couch talking about feelings. We were going out and living life, taking on new adventures and challenges. One of Wylee’s first solo adventures would be at Camp Kesem three years ago.

Camp Kesem is a youth camp for campers who have parents suffering with cancer. Wylee had just turned eight and had only slept over at family members houses. This camp was a five-day over-night camp where members of Ball State University are camp counselors. Erica and I have nicknames from our First Descents trip, an adult cancer camp, so Wylee was accustomed to the nicknaming process and after persuasion he finally went with Coyote!  

The Coyote that showed up at camp three years ago was so nervous but the Coyote I dropped off this week is so strong. He lives by the motto from his book, Living Life with Mommy’s Cancer, that “Everything Will Be Okay.” 

Before this camp, I had now had the parental responsibility that would normally default to Mommy. I went through the packing list with him. I went to the store and bought all the things — flashlight, bug spray, swim gear, clothes and of course crazy socks! Erica would be so proud! I invested a lot more into this week than I normally do. It meant so much to me that Coyote was going to be surrounded by love, surrounded by other children that understand and that he could feel comfortable to have conversations that his school friends just don’t understand. 

When I dropped Wylee off, I became teary eyed for the first time. If you knew Erica, she didn’t really cry. She never really seemed vulnerable and more often than not was controlling the situation or supporting someone else. I miss her. 

I think about Erica all the time. I notice it most when I want to tell her about my day or to see what dinner plans we have. I notice even more when I don’t have something planned for an upcoming weekend. I miss her checking in with her friends Tamika, Tripps and Hugo. Getting the skinny on their lives and what they are up to. That person that I loved and slept next to every night is gone but my memories of her have not faded. I love and will always love Erica Lee. The presence she left are visible within our son, Wylee. He has her blue eyes, her smile and wit. Her legacy will continue on with the gifts she has bestowed upon me.

Erica may be gone, but I see her everyday in Wylee and it’s how I know that everything will be okay.

JR Stum is a Cervivor supporter who lives in Indiana. He is often proudly sporting his Cervivor shades around town. JR honors his late wife, Erica, by sharing her story as often as possible and making sure that he and Wylee are out there Living Life.