“Make Cancer Pay” Video Shows the Fiery Passion to Fight Back

The badass, fired-up Cervivor in our video, “Raising Hell To Make Cancer Pay,” is Mary Baker, who is “pissed off” at what cancer has done to her body, her family, and her friends.

Cervivor Ambassador Mary Baker

“I’m pissed off that four of the women that I saw last year [at Cervivor School] are now dead” from cervical cancer.

Mary’s solution to being pissed off? “RAISE HELL.”

Watch her video here.  

We had a chance to chat with Mary about her experiences, and what it means to “raise hell” as a Cervivor Ambassador in her hometown of Richmond, Va. and advocate for cervical cancer prevention.

Q: From the video, you really are fired up by a “Cervivor Spark” to share your story and drive change. Can you tell us what led to this fiery passion and fighting spirit we see in the video?

I had started experiencing odd symptoms that I knew weren’t normal. I kept listening to my body and going to doctors, but it took me going to four doctors over two years until one finally took me seriously and did more advanced evaluations. By that time, I had stage 3B cancer. One of my healthcare providers had told me again and again that it was “just hormones.” Another made some sort of offhanded comment that I should just focus on having babies – although I already had two children and I wasn’t there to ask about fertility! I kept getting misdiagnosed because, even though I knew there was something “off” with my body, I wasn’t being heard and my concerns were not being addressed. 

Women need to listen to their bodies, but that is not enough if the medical community does not take us seriously and listen to our concerns. The worst part is, from my connection to other Cervivors, I now know that I am not the only one to have had months or years of misdiagnosis. This is an experience that has frustratingly been shared by many of us! I’m pissed off about that!

Q: Being “pissed off” is an emotion that many of us share. How do you deal with feeling “pissed off” about these issues?

In all honestly, it is only now –  a few years after my June 2016 diagnosis – that I am delving into the anger and frustration and using it as a force for fighting back, as a force for advocacy and change.

When I was going through treatment and recovery and settling into my new post-cancer life, I had to protect my peace and choose gratitude over anger. At the time, that was better for me and for my recovery. That was better for me and my family.

For a long time after I went through my treatment, I was in a bit of a fog. I was trying to to re-figure out who I was at that point, post-cancer. I couldn’t think about my anger at that point. The anger didn’t serve me for where I was.

Making Cancer Pay tees available at Cervivor.org/shop

Now 3+ years after cancer, I’ve decided that I can choose both. I can feel gratitude for being on the other side of the disease and being here today, yet still feel angry. What happened to me wasn’t okay and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else. I’m mad that misdiagnosis and having symptoms ignored has happened to so many other women. Worse is that I keep losing friend after friend to cervical cancer. THIS PISSES ME OFF.  Now it serves me best to do something about it!

Q: How do you plan to “raise hell”?

Mary and Dr. Sarah Temkin lobbing on Capital Hill

Thanks to Cervivor and the training I’ve benefitted from at Cervivor School, I have a lot of options on how to raise hell. First and foremost, I’ll raise hell by telling my story to anyone and everyone.  I’ve shared my story with members of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. as part of Capital Hill lobbying days.

I sit on the Virginia Immunization Taskforce. I am a district lead in Virginia for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. I recently wrote an article about my experiences for HealthyWomen.org so that I could reach many more thousands, maybe even millions, of women.

I’m unstoppable now in telling my story, as I know my voice matters. That all of our voices matter. We cannot be silent. Our voice must be heard. That is how change is made!

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (Richmond, VA)

Q: How do you want other individuals and Cervivor as a group to “raise hell”?

To all women I say, listen to your body. Speak up and speak out. If a doctor’s diagnosis doesn’t feel right, keep asking and keep pressing. I wish I had done that when I was told my symptoms were “just hormones.”  If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, find one who will.

For fellow Cervivors, tell your story. Share it as many times as possible. Don’t keep it to yourself. You may think your voice doesn’t matter, but it does! Realize that you matter, that your story matters. Speak your truth.

Cervivor School 2018
Cape Cod, MA

If you want more training on advocacy, take advantage of Cervivor School. Plug into the learning and mentorship of other Cervivors. We are here to support each other in dealing with cervical cancer, and we are also here to support each other in our advocacy…and in our anger. If you want to join me in raising hell, reach out to me and plug into Cervivor!

About Mary

Mary is a 3+ year cervical cancer survivor, Cervivor School graduate and Cervivor Ambassador. Read her Cervivor story and her HealthWomen.org article “I Was Told My Irregular Vaginal Bleeding Was Normal, But I Actually Had Cervical Cancer.”

“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.