48 Birthdays, 21 Post Cancer

Every year, as my birthday approaches, I go into reflection mode and start thinking about life. Life as it was. Life as it is. Life that almost wasn’t.

My life was forever altered by a diagnosis of cervical cancer at the age of 27. The days following the diagnosis were rough. Within a month of my diagnosis I landed in the hospital with shortness of breath and blood counts so low I needed my first blood transfusion. I spent exactly 30 days in the hospital, not sure if I was coming out alive. If you were around me at that time, you know how terrifying this period was, you know that my coming out of that hospital alive was nothing but a miracle (those were my pneumologist’s actual words). So here I am, celebrating #48 (or the 21st birthday I get to celebrate post diagnosis). 

Survival… Life after cancer… This is something that doesn’t happen to many of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer. Within the last year my Cervivor community lost 4 beautiful women in the prime of their lives as a consequence of cervical cancer. In the USA, where approximately 13,000 women are diagnosed with cancer in the last year, 4,200 women will die due to this cancer. Some people may look at these numbers and think they are small (I’ve been told that before); well let me tell you this: These numbers matter. These numbers matter to the women diagnosed with cancer, hoping they are on the right side of this statistics. These numbers matter to the families of the women who die each year, to the young children that will grow up without their mom… These numbers matter to those of us who survive this disease, because we know how close we cut it, how nerve wracking every follow up is, because the cancer may be gone, but the damage it did to our bodies is permanent (think of infertility, ostomies, lymphedema, neuropathy, bladder problems, just to mention a few). Most importantly, these numbers matter because we can change them. We can change the statistics because we have the means to prevent cervical cancer: The HPV vaccination is the #1 way to prevent cervical cancer. Plain and simple. A vaccine can prevent cervical cancer. I don’t think it can be any easier than that. 

We can literally protect our next generations from cancer-causing HPV strains by simply vaccinating our children (as early as 9yrs. old). It is an important vaccine because it would protect them from the high risk strains that are linked to cervical cancer (and cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, oropharyngeal (back of the throat). Cervical cancer will be like polio; gone, a thing of the past. I would love to see cervical cancer disappear and I believe that is possible with this vaccine. 

So each year, around this time, that sense of duty to those who did not make it demands that I tell you to vaccinate your children. That 27 yr. old Maria, terrified at hearing the news that would change her life forever demands that I tell you to vaccinate your children. It is imperative that you do because this is the one cancer we can basically eradicate. Every now and then I see these prayer chains pop up in social media asking you to share a prayer to find a cure for cancer; well, we now have a vaccination that can prevent a cancer and that is an answered prayer.

Celebrate my 48th birthday with me by scheduling your well-woman exam and vaccinating your children against HPV. Maria Franklin is a 20-year cervical cancer survivor who is also a part of Cervivor Leadership, and heads our Latina advocacy efforts. She was awarded our 2019 Cervivor Champion Award. Watch her story here.

CervivorTV Wins Three Telly Awards

Cervivor, Largest Network of Cervical Cancer Survivors Globally, Wins Three Global Telly Awards

Cervivor Chief Visionary Tamika Felder and Ambassador Carol Lacey Win Among 2,500 Entries

May 31, 2019 – Cervivor, the largest network of Cervical Cancer survivors in the world, announced the receipt of three Telly Awards. The Telly Awards honor excellence in video and television across all screens, and receive up to 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents. All videos were made in partnership with Tim Hashko, President of Steaming Kettle.

Carol’s Cervivor Story is the Gold Telly Winner in Social Video: Health & Wellness: “I’ve lost everything below my belt,” said Carol at the beginning of her video. But despite the removal of everything from her ovaries to her anus (being “sewn up like a Barbie doll” as she explains it), Carol’s video is more about the hope that she maintains after being given such a dark diagnosis. You can watch Carol’s Cervivor Story here

Additional Telly Awards given to Cervivor include:

  • Cervivor School won the Silver Telly Winner in Social Video – Not for Profit: A behind-the-scenes video of Cervivor’s trademark advocacy training event, Cervivor School, showed how a group of women came together in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, last year to learn how their own stories can help save lives. You can watch the Cervivor School video here.   
  • Cervivor Tamika Felder won the Bronze Telly Winner in Branded Content – Campaign – Promotional: “I cannot be the only person that has this type of cancer,” Tamika remembers questioning after her cervical cancer diagnosis. She discusses wanting to be the next Oprah Winfrey, living with a cancer linked to sexually transmitted infections, and how she built Cervivor to empower women to share their experiences with cervical cancer. You can see this and more in the award-winning video here

“Winning three Telly Awards for our work on Cervivor is a testament to the brave women in our network that advocate for themselves and others affected by the disease, who are forcing conversation about the ugly nature of this often misunderstood and stigmatized form of women’s cancer,” said Tamika Felder, Founder and Chief Visionary of Cervivor. “We feel heard – our stories are being validated and celebrated out of the 12,000 entries the Telly Awards receive, which shows that people want to learn about cervical cancer, they just need someone to teach them.”

Cervivor School is a networking, educational and motivational event that brings together and mobilizes cervical cancer patients and survivors to become more involved in the cervical cancer awareness and prevention movement. It supports women with training and tools to powerfully tell their stories to a range of audiences – including legislators and policy makers. Cervivor School 2019 will be in Chicago from September 26-28. You can find full details about this year’s event here

The Cervivor storytelling doesn’t stop after awards season: Tamika Felder is scheduled to speak at The Atlantic’s Cancer Stories on May 31, 2019, from 6:00-8:15pm CT in Chicago. The panelists at Cancer Stories will dive into the dark psychological effects of cancer, complexities of the disease past a fatal diagnosis, and the role media plays in sharing one’s cancer stories. You can find full details about the event here.  

About Tamika Felder

Tamika Felder is well-versed in media on both sides of the camera: she’s provided commentary to national radio shows, worked as a journalist and producer in multiple capacities, and is now in the process of making her own documentary. See this short video on her lifestyle website to see how she’s living her second chance, and read more about her experience with cervical cancer on the Cervivor website

About Cervivor

Cervivor builds a community for cervical cancer survivors, family members, educators and caregivers to advocate for HPV awareness, cervical cancer prevention, to create meaningful networks across survivors and experts in the field; and to ultimately change the future of women’s health. To learn more, visit www.cervivor.org

About The Telly Awards

The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 to honor excellence in local, regional and cable television commercials with non-broadcast video and television programming added soon after. With the recent evolution and rise of digital video (web series, VR, 360 and beyond), the Telly Awards today also reflects and celebrates this exciting new era of the moving image on and offline. The Telly Awards annually showcases the best work created within television and across video, for all screens. Receiving over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents, Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies and publishers from around the world. To learn more, visit www.tellyawards.com.