Pride in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Cancer Care

Inclusivity is the buzzword of our times right now, and Cervivor is here for it! It’s our hope that the practice of being inclusive doesn’t fizzle out like a trend, and that cancer survivors are included in the inclusivity population.

This hope also rings true when it comes to LGBTQIA issues, rights, and the cancer community. We are bringing this up during Pride Month (Happy Pride!) because many LGBTQIA+ community members who have and have had cancer do not feel welcome or understood in mainstream support groups, and transgender survivors have been specially excluded, according to the Cancer Network.

During a Cancer Network podcast interview, Dr. Don Dizon, who works on ensuring higher levels of gay and transgender participation in clinical cancer trials said, the medical community needs to “[support] people who have felt misaligned in medicine—people who have been the subjects of discrimination. Honestly, you hear the anecdotes of people who are treated unkindly, not to put it mildly.” 

Many of us know the host of feelings that drench our minds the moment we hear a cancer diagnosis. The days, weeks, months, even years after, we are still overcome with scores of emotion including isolation, and feelings of not wanting to belong, are natural and to be expected. However, the actual act of being excluded – even if just a feeling of not being considered – is unacceptable and can be detrimental to our psyche, which, in turn, impacts physical health.

The 2018 LGBTQ Health in Iowa report tells us that scientific evidence has shown that sexual and gender minority individuals are more likely to smoke, be overweight, and have a greater risk of certain cancers. Further, this group is less likely to receive appropriate health care than heterosexual and cisgender peers. We’re not having it!

That’s why we are happy to boast a few organizations and individuals whose missions include providing equitable resources, highlighting the voices of LGBTQIA+ survivors, offering a sense of community, and training caregivers to medical staff on inclusivity and its importance including Cancer Network, Escape, and One Iowa.

Photo Courtesy of Globeathon

“We need to do better for those individuals, so that they’re not delaying access to care [and] that they are participating in our screening programs,” continued Dr. Dizon, who is also director of women’s cancers at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, and professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence. 

“At the end of the day, we as oncologists all want to do the right thing. This is part of doing the right thing.”

The Power of Community and an Exceptional Gift

⚠️ This content may be triggering for some. Includes infertility and pregnancy. ⚠️

Dearest Cervivor Community,

Happy Survivorship Month! No matter where you land, it’s a reason to celebrate. Even if you’re just celebrating today. We all get so caught up in milestones. It’s hard not to. Comparisons are everywhere and we all just want so much more time. But what I’ve learned over the years is that each new day is really the greatest gift. One day at a time.

Beyond National Cancer Survivor Month, I’ve got a bunch of reasons to celebrate. June is also my birthday month (yay for birthdays!), and today marks the anniversary of my radical hysterectomy at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.

Twenty-one years! I remember when the hospital called to confirm my surgery. I was 25 years old, shocked and terrified that I wouldn’t get to see my 26th birthday. I pleaded with the scheduling coordinator to schedule surgery after my birthday. I thought, if this was it, I was at least going to celebrate one last time. But I didn’t get my way. My radical hysterectomy to rid my body of the cervical cancer tumor that was taking over was scheduled for June 14, 2001, at 7 am. I walked myself into the operating room, got up on the table, and woke up hours later – forever changed, both physically and mentally.

I didn’t know then how my own diagnosis with cervical cancer would play a role in my own life, as well as the lives of others. I couldn’t even imagine my current role as a patient advocate, and leader in the cervical cancer patient advocacy space. It certainly wasn’t a goal of mine, but I just created what I wished I’d had. This “work” has been life-changing, fulfilling, difficult, triggering, and yet one of the greatest joys of my life. I’m proud of what we’ve built together as a community. My dedication to our cause is greater than ever before.

The last few years have been challenging to say the least. We’ve weathered so much together, and now we can include an ongoing pandemic to that list. During the pandemic we kept the community going with virtual events. In fact, it was during one of those virtual events that I met someone so very special from our community, Ginny Marable.

Ginny joined us for several events and was even a speaker at our September 2020 Cervical Cancer Summit. While I was learning more about Ginny, unbeknownst to me, she was also learning more about me. She saw my true desire to be a mom, and the heartbreak that it would probably never happen due to my hysterectomy.

Fast forward: Ginny and her husband Sean began their path to parenthood via a gestational carrier. She shared their beautiful journey with us as a community, as well as on social media. When her twin boys were born, I was so elated for them, but if I’m honest, I also felt that familiar ping that I would never experience that moment. But I was just so happy for her, that feeling of sadness was fleeting.

Another short fast forward: Ginny reached out to me for a phone conversation. Never in my wildest dreams could I have known how that call would have changed my life. I mean, I haven’t even met Ginny in person – only through our virtual space. So, I’d like to make June even more memorable by sharing with my Cervivor community at large that Ginny is giving me an exceptional gift that I never imagined could be bestowed on me – motherhood.

Ginny has simply taken the power and love of this community to an entirely different level. We shared our unique story with Insider and you can read about it here.

My hope is that you will feel all the love, and our “Cervivor Spark”. But simply, thank you, Ginny!

With Love and Gratitude,

Tamika Felder
Chief Visionary, Cervivor, Inc. 
21-year Cervivor
Mom-to-be