2019 Cervivor Champion Maria Franklin infuses her work with passion & fun

Cervical cancer survivor Maria Franklin, recipient of the 2019 Cervivor Champion Award, is BUSY – during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and all year long!

She embodies everything Cervivor and the “Cervivor Spark” stands for. Informed. Empowered. Alive.

She mentors other cervical cancer survivors. She hosts MeetUps. She fundraises – via social media, in her community, wherever and whenever she can. She runs the Cervivor Español Facebook group. She helped organize and co-facilitate a Spanish-language Cervivor School in Puerto Rico. She leads initiatives to help ensure that cervical cancer screening, vaccination and prevention messages reach the Latina community in the U.S., and in Central and South America.

Maria, and fellow Latina Cervivor Karla

She even used her birthday as an opportunity for education and fundraising by creating a campaign and rallying her friends to “Help celebrate my 48th birthday by joining me in walking, running or cycling a total of 48 miles during the month of October!#48MilesToEndCervicalCancer

She embodies support and advocacy. She brings her passion to everything she does. She is making her survivorship count, day in and day out. Mobilizing. Advocating. Educating.

Initially diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1999, Maria is a 20+ year survivor who started advocating for cervical cancer prevention and helping to forge a cervical cancer community of women “before there was social media” and before there was Cervivor. She has never slowed down.

Maria has a particularly busy January planned to support and harness Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in her home state of Wisconsin. She’s planned:

  • A “proclamation” from the Governor’s office to officially recognize the importance of January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in Wisconsin.
  • Interviews with Telemundo Wisconsin and radio stations in Puerto Rico to talk about cervical cancer awareness and prevention
  • “Teal & White Days” at work
  • A patient reception for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, in partnership with a local  gynecologic oncology clinic
  • A Cervivor MeetUp to connect in-person with women in her community who are battling cervical cancer or dealing with the after-effects

“Every single one of us has to do our part. We have to do our part so we can make this a reality for the next generation. Nobody else should have to go through what we went through,” says Maria.

What is your part? What are you doing over CCAM in your local community?

Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to feature you and your work on our blog, if you are interested!

Watch Maria’s powerful Cervivor Champion Award acceptance speech at the 2019 Cervivor School awards ceremony, or read her remarks below.

Maria’s Award Acceptance Speech:

I truly believe in Cervivor. I truly believe in what we do here. I know we can end cervical cancer. This is why we are here. Every single one of us has to do our part. We have to do our part so we can make this a reality for the next generation. Nobody else should have to go through what we went through.

The story is different for every single one of us. It wasn’t easy for any of us. No one else should have to go through what we went through. So we are here today to take this responsibility seriously. Because ending cervical cancer is our job. We have to do it because we have to honor what we went through, and also because of the people we have lost.

Today when you leave here [Cervivor School], you start your work and you start your mission. And if and when you’re feeling you may be a little burnt out, you reach out to one of us and we will help you. We will support you. Because we need to do this for the next generation!

Thanks, Maria, for all that you do for Cervivor, for women today and for the next generation who  – with your help – may live in a world free from cervical cancer.

Maria Franklin is a 20-year cervical cancer survivor who heads Cervivor’s Latina advocacy efforts.

Read her original Cervivor story and her blog post reflecting on 21 years post-cancer.

Watch her story and advice on Cervivor TV.

“Hey Girl” Video Highlights the Importance of Support

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) is very much about advocacy, education and outreach. It’s about making our voices heard and about not allowing cervical cancer – and the toll that it takes – to be invisible or stigmatized. This is very much is the mission of Cervivor. Yet, there is also a quieter yet equally as important mission: to be here for each other, to be a support, a shoulder to cry on, an experience-sharer, and a place to go for connection with someone who has been in the same place, fighting the same disease. 

Emily and Cervivor Founder, Tamika Felder

Cervivor’s video “Hey Girl” highlights the lifeline that the Cervivor community has been for so many. 

“To the girl who’s just been diagnosed with cervical cancer, I want to say, ‘Hey girl – I’ve been there too.’ I understand what you’re going through. Your mind is spinning, you’re confused. I just want you to know that you are not alone,” says pink-haired Iowa-based Cervivor Ambassador Emily Hoffman to the camera, kicking off the video.

Emily shares some of her experiences with Cervivor support and connection below:

Q: How did you plug into the support network of Cervivor? What does it mean to you?

It’s funny that I’m in a video that will be shared across social media, as I am not active on social media at all. I don’t use Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I also wasn’t active on it back when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013 at age 30. I’d gone through diagnosis and treatment alone, without a supportive community to connect with, share with or learn from. I didn’t know that I needed it. I didn’t realize how alone the disease had made me, and how alone I had made myself. 

I first found the Cervivor website in early 2014 a few months after my treatment ended, and I spent the next 24 hours on it! At the time, I was experiencing so many side effects from my radiation. On Cervivor.org, I finally found ‘my ladies, my community.'” I read every story, every page of the site. I clicked on the link to CervivorTV on YouTube and I watched every episode. I literally stayed up all night.  That was the first time I’d found other young adults with cervical cancer. The website became my lifeline! The website became my connection to other young women who had been where I’d been and had gone through – and were going through – the same thing I was. I no longer felt alone.

Through Cervivor events and events like CancerCon, I met others in the Cervivor community. The people whose stories I’d benefited from online became real to me. They put me in touch with other cervical cancer survivors. Suddenly, I had women just like me to talk to, to call, email, and text. 

Cervivor School 2019, Chicago

Today, six years later, I am a Cervivor School graduate and a Cervivor Ambassador. I’m still not on social media, but I’m connected in so many other ways. If I have a worry or frustration or scare – I have people – via email, text, phone and in person – to reach out to who ‘get it.’

Q: How did you come to be the face of the “Hey Girl” video?

One of the activities I participated in at the 2019 Cervivor School was to write a letter to a woman who was newly diagnosed with cervical cancer. I guess my letter moved people, because the next thing I knew, I was asked to record and film it! 

Because we were writing to an anonymous woman, I struggled with how to start the letter…so I sort of naturally landed on “Hey girl” as a greeting, because it felt informal, friendly and inviting. Little did I know that “Hey girl” is actually a popular internet meme – which people told me later – that features Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling saying all sorts of romantic stuff. Maybe that’s why my letter got such a good response, without me even trying.

While people have shown me the Ryan Gosling memes (they really are quite funny!), my own “Hey girl” message is no joke. It’s true, personal and heartfelt. Women need to know that they are not alone. Women undergoing diagnosis and treatment – and the after effects of treatment – need to know that there is a whole community of women – a whole organization of Cervivors – here to support them.

Q: Six years after your cancer diagnosis, how do you plug into the Cervivor network of support today?

I take great comfort in knowing my Cervivor community is here for me. I have the phone numbers of many of the women I’ve connected with, that I carry with me wherever I go, for whenever I may need them. For example, when I come out of an oncology follow-up appointment, I know who to text. In fact, recently my doctor said something not bad, but not particularly comforting – something I wasn’t exactly sure how to interpret despite my questions. It sent me spiraling. So I sent a text out and I got responses back in two minutes. That’s all I needed. They heard me, they got it. They put me at ease in a way no one else could at that moment. In this community, we can always be unfiltered and  never need to worry about judgement.

Now, being active in the Cervivor community gives me a sense of purpose as a cancer survivor. It enables me to use my experience to make a difference to other survivors. This video will make a difference!

About Emily

Emily is a 6+ year cervical cancer survivor and Cervivor Ambassador who is also involved with the Iowa Cancer Consortium and Iowa Department of Public Health on cervical cancer prevention initiatives. Read her Cervivor story.