PRESS RELEASE: Cervical Cancer Survivors Train for Advocacy at “Cervivor School”

 

Cervical Cancer Survivors Train for Advocacy at “Cervivor School” During Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Susan G. Komen founder Nancy Brinker to speak to cervical cancer survivors about strategies that drive awareness and impact policy

Sept. 17, 2018 – Timed to Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, cervical cancer patients and survivors from across America and Europe will come together Sept. 20-22 in Cape Cod, Mass., to learn how to leverage their own personal stories to become advocates for cervical cancer education, prevention and policy change. Convened by Cervivor, the “Cervivor School” will feature Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen and the regarded global leader of the breast cancer / women’s cancer awareness and prevention movement.

“I look forward to sharing my story and more importantly, communicating to these brave women the power of their own stories, and how they can make a positive impact in their communities, this country and around the world,” said Ms. Brinker. “I am honored and excited to speak to the Cervivor School, which is doing great work in helping to organize and support women with cervical cancer.” Her talk is the featured keynote address on Sat., Sept. 22 at 8:30am.

Ms. Brinker will discuss the power of women’s stories as a key tool in cancer advocacy, share how she helped build one of the world’s largest cancer advocacy organizations, and share where she believes America as a whole – and cancer advocates individually and communally – should focus next in combatting cancer deaths.

Cervivor School is a networking, educational and motivational event that brings together and mobilizes cervical cancer patients and survivors to become more involved in the cervical cancer awareness and prevention movement. It supports women with training and tools to powerfully tell their stories to a range of audiences – including legislators and policy makers.

Falmouth, Mass.-based Team Maureen is co-hosting the event with Cervivor.org. More than 40 women are expected to attend the Cervivor School – Cervivor’s 10thsuch training. More than 600 women have attended Cervivor School and similar trainings offered by Cervivor’s predecessor organization, Tamika & Friends.

“The more we are willing to share our stories, the lives we can save. We can support women diagnosed with cervical cancer. We can educate about effective prevention with Pap testing, HPV testing and HPV vaccination. And, importantly, we can elevate our voices together to reach policy makers to ensure that cervical cancer screening and prevention programs are funded and implemented,” said Cervivor’s founder Tamika Felder.

“It is often personal stories that can most inspire people to take steps toward change,” highlighted Team Maureen’s founder Eileen Lind.

Cervivor School will be held at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth, Mass., with sponsorship from Cape Cod Health Care, Hologic, BD, Genentech and Roche.

About Cervivor

Cervivor builds a community for cervical cancer survivors, family members, educators and caregivers to advocate for HPV awareness, cervical cancer prevention, to create meaningful networks across survivors and experts in the field; and to ultimately change the future of women’s health.

About Team Maureen

Falmouth, Mass.-based Team Maureen was founded in memory of Maureen E. Russo, a loving sister, daughter, wife and mother who passed away from relapsed cervical cancer at the age of 37. Team Maureen’s mission is to end cervical cancer by educating about the HPV cancer connection and the importance of prevention and early detection.

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Interested in attending or receiving photos of the event? Contact:page2image1633392

Shelley Ducker

sduckercommunications@gmail.com

202.255.0561

Cervivor Dad

It’s strange to think back on my experience as a husband and father when Mary was in treatment because for most of that time I put myself to the side. Everything was put on pause to focus on making sure she was getting to her appointments, as comfortable as her body would allow, and – on the good days – eating.

I’m not complaining. It’s just what you do. When a little kid gets hurt, you run to check on them. When something catches fire, you put it out. And when your wife is diagnosed with cervical cancer that’s spread to her lymph nodes, everything else seems pretty small by comparison.

When you’re in an emergency situation, you suddenly become very clearheaded and logical. “Let’s see. The dog is on fire, so that’s probably the first priority. Let’s get a blanket on her. Okay, that’s out. Mental note: call the vet after this. Now the teenager is under a burning rafter and the baby is in the playpen. So yell at the teenager to carry the dog out and grab the baby with one hand and the diaper bag with the other, just in case.” Later, after the emergency is over, your brain exits Survival Mode and lets you collapse into a pile of trauma-flavored Jell-O.

For those months between diagnosis and the “all clear” sign, it was an emergency situation. My brain shut down most of my emotions so I could A) better attend to Mary’s needs and B) survive the stress and fear without sinking into despair or having seven simultaneous heart attacks.

I’m lucky. My coworkers are very understanding and sympathetic when it comes to family matters and the nature of my job allows me to work from home. Thanks to that, once Mary’s treatment went from surgery to external radiation every weekday, chemo once a week, and several internal radiation torture sessions, I was able to stay home with her and bring my laptop to chemo.

What was hard was watching her waste away. That was a sadness I couldn’t turn off. She had no appetite and became weak and skeletal. Walking 20 feet to the bathroom was exhausting for her. It hurt to see her suffer, and I think I used my work as an excuse to sit in the living room to witness her suffering a little less, which I’m not proud of. I never allowed myself to imagine what would happen if she didn’t make it. It’s like asking what you would do after the world blew up.

Helping the kids was easier. Our teenager was zealously optimistic. He knew with the certainty of youth that his mom would be fine. I was jealous. Our daughter, on the other hands, buries her emotions (like her dad), so comforting her took some effort. Once she was ready to talk, she appreciated the reassurance, but until then I just told her it would be okay and trust that the words made it into her ears.

Their grades suffered, but I couldn’t get upset with them. I was letting the place become a pigsty and slipping some at work myself. You may have heard, cancer is a little distracting. I figured we’d all straighten out when it was over, and we eventually did.

A year and a half later, Mary still has trouble. Some lymph nodes were removed, so her legs and feet swell up. She also has some serious anxiety. It’s gotten better, but she has good days and bad days. Seeing her struggle made me open up about my own lifelong depression and anxiety, mostly so I could help her. I talk her through bad times if she needs it and we give each other space if one of us needs that. The kids know that sometimes people need alone time and that’s okay.

Like many who face death, we came out the other end more focused, like we were forged in the fire. Mary speaks and writes about battling cancer and her volunteering fills me with awe and pride. The kids are more appreciative of basically everything. And I learned that openness is not lethal. We’re all doing things we want to do, skipping things we don’t, and being fuller versions of ourselves.

We know that if it resurfaces and she has to go back into treatment, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect and what to ask. We also know the statistics and the odds. But until her next regular oncology appointment, we’re just living life.

Dan lives in Richmond, Va. with his wife Mary and their two kids. Dan and Mary met when she started coming to see bands play at his house. She fell madly in love with him after hearing his college radio show which featured terrible music and a fictional wrestling program. Now Dan proofreads credit card websites, which is as exciting as it sounds.