A Letter To Myself

My Dear You,

Checking in see how you’re doing, Laurie but I will begin with me, lol. First, congratulations on eight years as a cervical cancer survivor! 

I have been peeking back at 2020 as some of the fog is beginning to clear. I learned so much about myself and how strong I am physical and mentally. A knee replacement started my Journey of WTF.

I had no previous knee issues until now and there was no question that I needed a new right knee. I did my research and found the best team but no one talked about the dark side, and how the pain would take me there. It sucked! It was a lot of body and mind work but I had no choice and I kept moving forward, learning how to walk again. I was so happy I could lift my knee that I started marching! My physical therapist and I laughed so hard, I can still hear her words “heel toe, heel toe”.  Physical therapy was equal parts laughing and crying.  

Then there was more crying when I was told I needed a left hip replacement. Really? WTF!

I was working so hard preparing for my knee surgery, clearing my mind and focusing on this new challenge of a hip replacement when BANG!

Literally bang. An 18-wheeler semi-truck hit me and my life forever changed. I repeated these words: I am alive. OMG I am alive and I lived through it! 

I had to start all over with my knee physical therapy, then had the hip replacement but I smiled and lived! Then the damn concussion from the accident made me so dizzy and the ringing in my ears was unbearable. I stared brain therapy. There was so much laughing and fun but the physical therapy didn’t help so I went for an MRI. 

I have a hard time with this part of 2020. The doctor tells me they found a brain tumor… WTF?? The doctor told me it’s not a big deal as it’s outside the brain and it will be a two-hour surgery. I had to do another MRI with contrast in a brain MRI machine. I was doing good and no one seemed worried. Eric went with me to the pre-op appointment and I had all my questions ready. I thought I was fully prepared but I will never forget the words I heard, “Laurie I’m so sorry to tell you the tumors are larger and growing remarkably close to your main artery. You will need two surgeries.”  I cried but you know I still asked my questions! It’s funny what I held onto from that moment; I just remember thinking how cool that a 3-D printer was going to make my new skull plate! I had six weeks to prepare my mind and body. 

Cervivor’s Cervical Cancer Summit was my life jacket in taking my power back! You never know who will touch you with a word and I received so many words that weekend!

Laurie and her brain surgery team

Medical power of attorney, medical directive, living will; I had that conversation with Eric and it was healing. I printed everything and it sat on the table. I read and re-read it again and then I laughed and I filled it out. It was so freeing. Then I went and did something crazy: I harnessed the power of Wonder Woman and got myself a Wonder Woman costume to wear into the hospital on my surgery day!

I knew no matter what happened I was going to be okay. I have never told anyone this but I kept saying “no matter what I will be okay” as I was being rolled into the operating room.  

The first surgery took a lot out of me. It took me a couple of days to regroup before the second surgery and I had to really dig deep, deeper than I have ever done before.

This drawing helped me so much it. This showed me that I could do this.

Can you believe I had four surgeries within an eight month period? I am so grateful, blessed and I am not done yet! Thank you for teaching me how to keep laughing and living!

This also helped me with my digging out and moving forward and it’s pretty cool: Fear is a noun and a verb. Noun: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. Verb: be afraid of someone or something as likely to be dangerous, painful or threatening.

Fear is a feeling or emotion, yeah a mind bender moment for me.

I take small steps one at a time and I keep moving forward. I have a huge team of people around me. Some I have never met but they care and worked so hard to help get me here. I say thank you daily by living my best life!

Laurie, I am so proud of you and I love you so much! I can’t wait to see what you do next!

Love & Hugs, Me

P.S. Looking forward to your next letter.

Laurie is a 2017 Cervivor School graduate, a member of the Cervivor community, and Executive Director of Cervical Cancer Colorado Connection. Her resilience is truly insurmountable! We are sending her tons of Cervivor love and support.

Surviving Cervical Cancer: Tips from Our Community

We develop tools to navigate through life’s rough waters but when you’re on the receiving end of a cervical cancer diagnosis, it’s like your toolbox is suddenly empty.

Something that almost everyone in our Cervivor community has said is that no one ever wants to be in a ‘cancer club’ but when you do find your community, things feel less scary. Now you can share coping and wellness tools, help others and find support from those who ‘get it’.

To provide that support, our community is sharing their tips for coping through a cancer diagnosis.

Keep a box of cards/letters/hospital bracelets/etc. This can be a vital way of processing through your emotions every now and again. You can reflect on the support you received and everything you survived. ~ Morgan N.

During treatment, sleep when you’re tired and eat when you’re hungry. Keeping your body well rested and nourished is a priority. ~Emily H.

I had to learn to say, “NO!” and to take time for myself to rest. Morning and evening meditation really helped me and art is my escape from it all. ~ Tasha B.

Yoga and meditation and eating clean! Meditation helped me focus on one thing. Eating clean gives me advantage on fighting back with nutrient vitamins to restore and help my body and digestive system. ~ Re’gina P.

I schedule time to rest. Be it meditation, reading, sitting in the sun, even aimlessly scrolling – just to be still for 30 mins or 1 hour during the day. I say I’m busy. Busy resting. ~ Samantha R.

Not only are our bodies going through so much with side effects, treatments and surgeries but cancer takes a toll on our spirit and mental health. Taking time to rest and reset, however that looks to you, is so important. Maybe this means reaching out and asking for help. Maybe it’s calling that friend who always knows how to make you laugh, or maybe it’s lying in bed and just crying. Creating space for ourselves is healing. Self-care comes in many forms and none of it is selfish.

Getting outside, even if it was just to walk to the mail box or sitting in my backyard. A little vitamin D always makes me feel better. ~ Carol L.

For me, it’s always been; yoga, meditation, walking/hiking, a religious sleep schedule, cooking/baking, time with friends, music, and quiet time reading. ~ Tracy C.

Listen to your body and resting whenever needed. This was very hard for me because I was so used to go, go, go but it’s so important to let your body rest and repair. ~ Gracie C.

There was overwhelming gratitude from survivors for their medical providers. From amazing Gynocological Oncology teams, Infusion and Radiation teams, to PA’s, RN’s and everyone who works hard to keep us alive to live. When you have a good oncology team, it’s a game changer.

Eating healthy food and sessions with my Oncology Physical Therapist to help with hip pain, regular varied movement, and journaling. ~ Christina B.

Finding my ‘safe spot’ to mentally escape for a bit. Learning to let others take care of me. Coloring and enjoying nature. I’m very tactical and the ears on my dog help soothe me.  ~ Karen N.

I learned to create boundaries from negative things/people. Using no, for my own wellbeing is essential. ~ Lorie W.

Another common thread we heard from you was the support you received from family and friends. Being surrounded and supported by people who put care into action means so much. Whether this comes in the form of prayer circles, meals being delivered or being that person holding our hand, all are great acts of loving kindness. And who doesn’t need more of that?

As cervical cancer patients, survivors and thrivers we have a special community. One that feels tight-knit because we know that through our voices we have the power to ignite a conversation and to help others. We know that our stories can have an impact on someone else’s life. That, through those stories, ending cervical cancer can be reached.

What are some tips you used to get through your diagnosis or life-changing event? How does wellness play a part in survival today?