Cervivor School Nashville Was Outstanding

The 13th patient advocacy training known as Cervivor School was held in Music City U.S.A. or better known as Nashville, Tennessee. This was an intimate group, made up of first-time and returning attendees and we hosted some of the most dynamic speakers to educate and empower our 2022 class.

Like any other Cervivor School, we kicked it off with a special Welcome Reception where attendees were able to mingle and get to know each other right off the bat. We heard inspiring words from Heather Banks, Lead Advocacy Educator, and Tamika Felder, Cervivor Founder and Chief Visionary.

Tamika and Heather kicked off the first day with a dedication to and moment of silence for those who have died from their cervical cancer and are no longer able to share their stories. It was a powerful reminder that our mission to end cervical cancer is not over and there is still much work to do. Tamika also shared how putting a human face to cervical cancer is a critical part of our cause and why we should share our stories.

Later we heard from Community Engagement Liaison, Morgan Newman, Lead Cervivor Ambassador, Carol Lacey, and Cervivor Ambassadors, Karla Chavez and Karen North. They shared what it means to be a patient advocate, how they fulfill the role to make an impact, and what advice they have for others in mastering survivorship and advocacy. Then we heard from Michelle Whitlock, author of  “How I Lost My Uterus and Found My Voice,” and how she decided to use her voice after cervical cancer followed by empowerment groups and a session on life during and after treatment with Heather.

Cervivor Ambassadors Carol Lacey and Morgan Newman led an interactive session, Healing Through Writing, in honor of Erica Frazier Stum who thought of and led the session in the years prior. After listening and sharing each others’ creative writing, we ended the day by creating an individualized advocacy action plan to be put in place after leaving Cervivor School.

Day two is our Medical Day where we get the latest and most advanced information on the human papillomavirus (HPV), the HPV vaccine, and cervical cancer screening. We started the day by understanding cervical cancer screening guidelines, the impact of the patient perspective, and how important it is in our advocacy work. It was a great reminder from Dr. Lia Bos that our stories are powerful and when we partner our voices with physicians and clinicians in the field, we leverage our impact even more. We also heard from Andrea Stubbs, MPA, representing our community partner, St. Jude, and their HPV Cancer Prevention Program. She shared her work and provided ideas and information about supporting HPV vaccination efforts so we can powerfully advocate for vaccination as prevention!

We were inspired by Catherine Tyler as she led us through a discussion on living with and through significant illness and treatment while staying true to our aspirations and our authentic selves. And Tamika and Heather helped our attendees practice potential advocacy scenarios, establish advocacy norms, and finalize our advocacy action plans to put in place after leaving Cervivor School.

Lastly, we rounded out the Cervivor School weekend with a graduation ceremony for our attendees and Tamika awarded not one but two Cervivor Champions for 2022!

Jenn Myers and Kimberly Williams have both embodied what a Cervivor Champion is.

Jenn is a metastatic and recurrent cervical cancer patient currently undergoing treatment and is still leading and advocating despite it all and Kimberly continuously shares the importance of vaccination and cancer screening when it comes to HPV, cervical cancer, and communities of color.

Our newest Cervivor School graduates are empowered, ready to share their stories, and eager to connect with leaders in their local communities. Team Cervivor cannot wait to see their advocacy in action and how they decide to make their survivorship count!

We would like to extend our gratitude to our Cervivor School Sponsors Hologic, Seagen, Genmab, and Genentech.

Surviving Through Music

Our world is feeling great pain and uncertainty right now. Cervivor created a music video to show hope, love and strength within our cancer community but it reaches far beyond cancer — the message is truly universal.

The song that inspired this video, The Will to BE, was written by my caregiver and husband Pete. I love being married to a musician because our house is always filled with great music. Pete says that creating music from his heart for the world to hear, makes him feel like in some small way, he’s creating happiness.

During my cervical cancer diagnosis, multiple treatments and surgeries and three reoccurrences, Pete’s music truly lifted me up and gave me the spark I needed. His music was always on my ‘Chemo Playlist’ and I’d listen to it when I just needed to calm my mind and body.

Cervivor created a music video to show hope, love and strength within our cancer community but it reaches far beyond cancer — the message is truly universal.

Pete also knows all the women of Cervivor through their stories. These stories are the fabric of this song, weaving through emotions we carry as cancer patients, survivors and thrivers.

In 2017, California was experiencing literal storms and relentless rainfall. Everything around us was falling apart with no end in sight. During one of those storms, Cervivor founder, Tamika Felder asked Pete to write some music for Cervivor. 

He immediately drew parallels with the storms and cancer which inspired the opening lyric, “Been a long rainy season. The tides and winds headstrong. It batters our lives and we don’t know for how long.”

When you have cancer you give up a lot normalcy in your life and it doesn’t change when or if your cancer ends. You look at life differently; you are navigating through uncharted waters. 

Sometimes you’re drowning in fear and it takes every ounce of strength to get through the day. We hold on to hope, this four-letter word that becomes our lifeline. 

This song speaks to anyone who has faced deep hardships. The women featured in this video are beautiful and real. We are your neighbors. We are sisters, daughters, mothers, aunties and cancer is forever part of our lives. But we refuse to let cancer define us. We are living our lives and not forgetting what brings us joy.

The Will to BE is a song of truth and unpredictability but importantly the will to be loved and strong and needing to belong.

We hope that this song and video will fill your heart and show you that despite what cancer takes away, it leaves space for us to fill with gratitude and hope.

Pete and Cervivor Ambassador Carol live in Northern California with their fur baby, Ace the Dog, who can be usually be found at Pete’s feet in his music studio. They also have two amazing grown kids, Michael and Sydney, who are Carol’s inspiration to thrive.