Deploying Cancer Coping Strategies During the COVID-19 Crisis

Everyone is experiencing the COVID-19 global health crisis in a different way. 

Healthcare professionals are experiencing the tragedy from the front lines. Working parents are experiencing the hardships of balancing a conference call with a screaming toddler. Women are experiencing childbirth without a partner present to support them. Engaged couples are experiencing the heartache of cancelling “the big day.” Children of elderly parents in nursing homes are experiencing the anxiety of getting the dreaded call their parent has become infected. People are experiencing death, and their loved ones are experiencing the inability to properly mourn them. The experiences go on and on, and they will be forever ingrained in our memories.  

What is not unique to anyone’s experience right now is that we are all feeling elevated levels of anxiety, sadness, and anger due to our inability to know what will happen to ourselves or our loved ones. We lack control. We lack autonomy over our own health as it’s in the hands of others. We lack real social connection and the ability to spend time with who we want, doing things we like to do. 

My husband Matt and I on a walk in the woods to distance ourselves from others and enjoy nature.

And this, is what it’s like to battle cancer.  

For some cancer survivors like myself, this unprecedented crisis has conjured up the same emotions we experienced during our treatment. Emotions that took a really long time to heal from. After finally feeling back in control of my own health, it’s gone. I am confronted once again with the notion that at any minute my health could take a drastic turn and I’m back to the all too familiar feeling of intense vulnerability. Of isolation. Of anxiety. Of sadness. And of anger. The foundation is being rocked again. The foundation I worked so damn hard to build back. 

These emotions extend to my experience as a caretaker. Throughout the ordeal of my husband’s kidney transplant in 2018, I dealt with the terrifying notion that he could be taken from me. And because the transplant medications suppress his immune system, Matt is in the “high risk” category for this virus. His chances of survival are less than most if he contracts it. This has caused us to be overly cautious about bringing the virus into our home. We closed up shop pretty immediately, and jumped into our all too familiar bubble at home; sidelined once again from the world due to health concerns. Soon after, (most of) the rest of the country joined. 

Wednesday night virtual hangouts with my best friends.

And yet, as it was when we were both sick and felt the world crashing down upon us, we are humbled by the fact that others are struggling far more than we are. We are safe. We are (currently) healthy. We have food and shelter. We have each other, and by phone call, text, or virtual hangout, we have an amazing support network. We know we can get through anything. And maybe even enjoy ourselves while doing it. 

You see, caretakers and patients are made of steel. We have already weathered these intense storms, and we continue standing. We know how important self-care is. We know how important it is keep our bodies strong ready to face whatever there is to come. This means eating well, meditating, exercising, whatever it takes. We also have the superpower of being truly vulnerable which allows us to deeply connect with others around us and call them to say “I’m not ok, I just need to cry.” And cry I have. 

My hope is that anyone reading this can also deploy these coping strategies. There is strength in self-care and vulnerability. Believe me.  

My virtual yoga class with my favorite yogi.

To my fellow cancer patients and survivors – I know how scary this is. How unfair is it that our already fragile physical and mental health is being put to the test again? Very. But, remember that we are insanely resilient. We can lead by example here. Don’t forget to breathe, and take care of yourselves. We’ve got this

And to all healthcare professionals out there – you continue to be my heroes. Thank you. 

Kate Weissman is an (almost) four year-year Stage 2B cervical cancer survivor and a Cervivor Ambassador serving as an advocate for the cervical cancer community. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, lobbying for the implementation of cancer-related policies that will help patients and their families, and the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her husband Matt and fur baby Giada, and is a proud aunt to five nephews and one niece. She is the Vice President of Integrated Project Management at a Public Relations agency, and an avid food enthusiast.   

Cervivor School 2019 Was Incredible

Cervivor’s 12th patient advocacy training event in Chicago was one for the books! We had some of the most inspiring and informative speakers during our 2-day event, along with memory-making fun.

Tamika & Lisa

We kicked it off with our Welcome Reception that featured comedian and cervical cancer survivor Lisa Gopman. This wonder women powerhouse made her below-the-belt cancer funny and oh-so relatable, especially to a crowd of Cervivors! Lisa was so inspired by our program and the women she met that she stayed with us for the entire weekend.

Day one was our Wellness Day where Tamika and Lead Advocacy Educator Heather Banks share the importance of growing Cervivor’s footprint and the power of our stories. Honing in on those important messages, we heard from Cervivor Ambassador’s Emily Hoffman and Morgan Newmann on how they found their collective Cervivor voice. In between our sessions, we practiced mindful awareness, restful restoration and reclaimed our Yin energy with Lauren Mansell.

Cervivor Ambassador’s Paulette Apostolou and Carol Lacey presented an interactive session, Healing Through Writing, started by our very own Erica Frasier Stum. We had a another impactful session with Dr. Amy Siston on living through the emotional trauma that is cancer. And for the second year, we heard from the dynamic Roshanda Pratt who talked about knowing our why and how that can propel us in the work we do as Cervivors.

“I’m forever impacted by Cervivor School. I knew it would be inspiring and educational, but I did not expect it to be life changing in terms of how my story goes. I feel braver, stronger and more confident with my story then I ever have been before. I’m no longer leaving it buried like it has been for the last 6 years. Speaking about it in a way that can help educate others makes me feel powerful over cancer. It doesn’t scare me anymore!”
– Cervivor Amy Dent, Australia, Diagnosis: stage 1b1 cervical cancer

We ended the evening with dinner together and our Pajama Jam, where Dr. Siston lead us through a discussion on our bodies after cancer and how that can effect our sexual health. Girl talk after cancer looks and feels different and there is something safe and sacred about being in a room with women who truly ‘get it’.

Day two is our Medical Day where we get the latest and greatest on HPV, the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screening. Dr. Sherrie Wellington started the day talking about cervical cancer disparities and thinking beyond our own communities. Cervical cancer is global issue, and even in our own communities there are so many who do not have access to proper screening or are uninformed about the HPV vaccine. Dr. Wellington used the term, “knowledge gap” and how we as patient advocates can fill that much needed knowledge gap.

Dr. Nita Lee, who was instrumental in helping with this year’s speaker lineup, talked about HPV and it’s connection to cervical cancer. Dr. Lee and Paulette also talked about how Cervivors’ and their oncology team can make the best partnership when it comes to reaching more women in one’s own community. We also heard from Dr. Andrea Loberg and Dr. Marielle Fricchione on cervical cancer screening guidelines and vaccination as presentation.


“I just can’t stop telling people how life changing and powerful it was for me.”
– Cervivor Becky Wallace, California, Diagnosis: Adenosquamous carcinoma stage 1BII

Jennifer Sienko with the American Cancer Society & the HPV Roundtable joined us again this year to talk about being armed and compassionate advocates when it comes to talking about HPV facts. We also heard from Cervivor Ambassador’s Maria Franklin and Tina Vetreno who talked about contributing to Cervivor’s footprint and the importance that the tile ‘Cervivor Ambassador’ holds.

Karla & Maria

We closed out the weekend with Tamika presenting the 2019 Cervivor Champion Award to one of our Leadership team members, Maria Franklin. A much deserved accolade to a woman who tirelessly works in and outside our Latinx community, educating and guiding, as well as managing our Cervivor Espanol site. Congratulations Maria!

Our newest Cervivor School graduates hold the promise of making their survivorship count by using their newfound Cervivor knowledge to educate their communities and beyond. As Maria so passionately said, “Every single one of us has to do our part. Ending cervical cancer is our job.”

Pajama Jam fun!


“Cervivor school showed me what I really have to offer as an ambassador and how to come out of my shell. I left knowing that I was not alone. I learned way more about myself and what I can offer. I felt like I now I am part of something that is going to be a part of changing lives. Cancer will not stop me and that I will be a voice to educate others. I am a fighter and Cervivor School showed me no one is alone. It was the best time and the best learning experience I have had. It definitely changed my life.”
 – Cervivor Tracy Jimenez, Colorado, Diagnosis: Stage 2b

Team Cervivor wishes all our new and returning Ambassador’s much success and wellness as you move through your journey with Cervivor.