Processing Cancer as a Family

It was 10 years ago that I heard those four words that changed my life… “You have cervical cancer.” Little did I know that my children’s lives would forever be affected. As a single mom, I’ve been the only caregiver my children have. So when I was told I had cancer, I wondered, “Now what?” This wasn’t just a cold, this was cancer. Who would care for them?

I choose to remain open with my children. But when I mention to them that I have a routine appointment coming up, they ask a lot of questions:

“Why you have to go to the doctor again?”

“Is it back?”

“I don’t understand, why do you have to go back?”

I often answer vaguely, not putting too much thought into it. But then my youngest, who is more vocal than my oldest, told me she couldn’t sleep thinking about me going to the doctor. This is when I realized just how much my cancer diagnosis affected them. Even to this day my children are terrified when I mention that I have a doctor’s appointment, or any health-related appointment for that matter.

People often ask survivors how cancer has affected our lives, but very rarely consider how cancer has affected our loved ones. Usually, when we finish treatments and move forward with life, a lot of people think that’s it, you’re all better. Many survivors never speak about it again; it becomes almost taboo among friends and family. But it’s important to realize that as much as it affects us as patients, our families have fears and anxieties as well. They need support and compassion too.

Read more about Edna’s Cervivor story here.

Experiencing Cervivor School as a Cervivor Follower

Two years ago, I was reading an article during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, about Tamika Felder and her organization Cervivor. I could not believe there was an entire group dedicated to cervical cancer awareness! I followed the link to and read story after story of women like me. Women who’s bodies and lives had been forever changed.

As I read through the site, I saw something called Cervivor School: “A live event for anyone looking to become more involved in the cervical cancer movement”. This sounded perfect for me – I was already talking none stop about my cervical cancer, why not find out how I could make a difference. I happily submitted my Cervivor story and I was determined to get myself to the next Cervivor School.

About two months later, I received an email that Tamika was going to be at an event in San Francisco and would I be interested in attending as a Cervivor. I jumped at the chance to meet other Cervivors’ in my area, as well as meet Tamika herself. Along with Tamika, I met fellow Cervivors Cindy and Curtissa. Our stories shared similar threads and we seemed to have the same desire to change the perception of cervical cancer.

That event lead to another amazing event, Stirrup Stories. I saw firsthand Cervivor’s impact in the community. The outreach Cervivor does to educate and bring awareness to a cancer that gets very little positive acknowledgment. Fourteen of us shared our very personal stories. We shared with the audience that HPV and cervical cancer has a diverse voice, and the tears and cheers filled the theater that night.

Having been a part of Stirrup Stories, I knew that Cervivor School would be just as powerful. But I would have to wait a year before I could get to a Cervivor School. When I finally packed my bags and headed to Delray Beach, Florida for Cervivor School 2017, I was jazzed to finally be a part of this experience. I was really feeling like a Cervivor.

I got to meet women who I’d connected with through social media. Women who’s stories I knew and that were so similar to mine, that I found myself at ease almost immediately. We sat together in a conference room for four days, creatively writing, getting artistic, listening to impactful speakers and learning how we can take our HPV and cancer stories to the next level. Oh and the laughter! As a cancer patient and survivor, it isn’t always easy to laugh, especially at our cancer but Cervivor School is a safe, non-judgemental environment where we could just be ourselves.

After Cervivor School, I have refined my story and my purpose. I now have resources to support my HPV and cervical cancer advocacy as I reach out to my community. Like my Cervivor sisters, we want to be the last generation to face HPV and cervical cancer. We want our stories to matter. We want our Cervivorship to be impactful.

Apply to attend our upcoming 2018 Cervivor School here. Read more about my story here.