National Immunization Awareness Month

There is something about the start of a school year each August, that brings excitement. We go shopping for new clothes, fresh school supplies, and the perfect lunch box. It can feel like New Year’s as we look at a new academic year, with new instructors, and a clean start. August is also National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). As you and your family are preparing for an amazing school year, Cervivor wants to remind you to make sure the kiddos are “back to school ready” by ensuring they are current on their immunizations, including the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine.

At Cervivor our community is committed to staying engaged in the immunization conversation year-round. We regularly share our Cervivor stories in hopes to change the narrative and stigma around HPV related cancers and the importance of the lifesaving HPV vaccination. We routinely share out on social media, as it is a quick yet powerful way to show our cervical cancer journey and to remind people in our lives that it is almost always preventable.  In honor of NIAM, we wanted to share what we’ve been up to in our fight to end HPV related cancer.

Elizabeth Holliman is a longtime Cervivor Ambassador whose oldest son was finally eligible for the HPV Vaccine this month. Elizabeth is making sure R.J. is protected: I vowed to protect my sons from the HPV strains that can cause cancer, it can be prevented by the vaccine. Here’s my R.J. getting his first round of the vaccine today. I never want my kids to go through what I did, or many others have when it’s preventable. It’s just that simple. There was no hesitation.  When you know better, you do better. 

Scott Courville is an oropharyngeal cancer survivor and an active member of our online HPV cancer support group. Scott recently had his son vaccinated and urges others to do the same: If you could prevent your child from getting certain cancers early on with a simple vaccination, why wouldn’t you?

The effort to spread truth and facts about the HPV vaccination is not just for those HPV cancer survivors with children or children eligible for vaccination. Many in our community regularly share and have been able to impact those in their network. For example, Lucy Philips is an active member of our community and will be attending Cervivor School next month in Cape Cod. She faithfully shares her journey and recently wrote to us. Lucy shares:

Kelly’s son, Noah

Having battled Cervical Cancer myself, there is absolutely no hesitation in my decision to vaccinate my children with the HPV Vaccine…. not only my daughters, but my son too! For now, my children are too young to receive the HPV Vaccine, but that doesn’t stop me from encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated. It is amazing how many people are completely unaware of HPV and the fact that there is a vaccine which prevents the most harmful strains of HPV. I feel like it’s my responsibility to inform other parents and share with others my own personal battle with an HPV related cancer. A friend from work recently scheduled her son to have the HPV Vaccine and this is what she sent me:

“I never considered vaccinating my boys until listening to everything you went through. I wasn’t even aware that boys were at risk of HPV or HPV related cancers. If I had known, I would have vaccinated my boys sooner! My 17-year-old son just received the vaccine and my 15-year-old son will be receiving it soon. I will do anything within my power to make sure my boys do not suffer from something that is completely preventable”. – Kelly Green

Cervivor Ambassador Holly Lawson doesn’t have children. However, she frequently shares her cervical cancer journey with those in her social media network. Just last month, she shared a message from a college friend who had been impacted by following her posts: Thank you for sharing your story and updates. I thought you might like to know you have encouraged our family. My 11-year-old got the HPV vaccine because you shared how important it was. It was you who made that so clear to me about how important that was. His doctor felt it was important as well, but your story made it real to me and helped me see past the fear of that vaccine.

What testimonies to the power of sharing our stories and making a difference! The HPV Vaccination is safe, effective, and is cancer prevention. This month as you’re preparing the kiddos with new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, why not make sure they are prepared for a future that is FREE of an HPV related cancer? You can’t protect them from everything, but you can protect them from high risk strains of HPV. Act now, to protect them later.

Schedule an appointment to speak with your doctor or pediatrician today.

For further information regarding safety and recommendations, visit the Center for Disease Control HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen.

 

“We’re In!”

I started treatment for cervical cancer in spring of 2016. One of the first things I did was start searching for those with my cancer. When I found Cervivor, I immediately knew it was special.  It was a sisterhood of survivors, but they were also advocates! Cervivor was dedicated to eradicating our cancer. It wasn’t just a group of women looking for support, but it was a group of women who had been through it and were DOING something! I like to say that joining Cervivor and being trained at Cervivor School has given me advocacy wings.  I have had many opportunities both in my community and on the national level to participate in events as a Cervivor Ambassador. Most recently I was asked to represent our organization at the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, in Atlanta. I had interacted on the Roundtable’s Facebook page, and felt like I had working knowledge of the collaboration. They are about stopping HPV…sign me up!

The Roundtable meeting began with a lunch. I arrived alongside Tamika Felder, Cervivor’s founder. The first thing I noticed was that we could hardly get to a spot at a table because everyone was wanting to speak with Tamika. They would greet her, as lifelong friends. Many of them had questions about Cervivor and other projects Tamika has in the works. Attendees were quickly inquiring about me and my role. They were interested in me as a Cervivor Ambassador and very excited to meet an HPV cancer survivor. I began to realize what it meant to be at this meeting. These were the countries top doctors, healthcare professionals, and researchers who had worked in this space for years! These were representatives from other organizations, our (Cervivor’s) partners in eradicating HPV and HPV related cancers! Tamika and Cervivor had been part of this collaborative group since it’s inception! I was so proud to be a part of a cancer nonprofit that is so well respected in this space. It further affirmed my initial feeling that when I found Cervivor, I found something special.

“Empowering Parents and Allies” task group

The meeting was an exciting two days packed with a lot of information and a lot of work! Each organization that is part of the Roundtable sends at least one representative. Those representatives are broken into task groups of their choosing. The task groups are just that, groups with an assigned task to help advance vaccination rates in the U.S. and spread awareness, education, and facts about HPV and the vaccine. The public educator in me was drawn to the “Empowering Parents and Allies” task group, as reaching families with knowledge is at the heart of many things I do. Most of the first day was spent in our task groups, reviewing previous work and annual goals, as well as setting new goals and collaborating with other task teams that may be partner groups in reaching these milestones. Our first evening was full of dinner presentations with updates from each task group and a celebration of the hard work and victories achieved by the Roundtable throughout the year.

The second day of the meeting was just as full. Each moment was packed with presentations from medical teams who are on the front line of vaccinating in the family practice setting, to panel discussions from research scientists on how the social media statistics can work in favor of our messaging. We had a working “Jeffersonian Lunch,” ensuring that time was purposeful and well spent. Every second was full of collaboration, information, and getting to the center of how we can change the HPV vaccination narrative in our country and strive to significantly reduce HPV cancer rates.To be honest there was so much information, that I joked with one of the other attendees at our table about how absolutely full my brain was by the end of lunch on day two. It felt as though it could not hold one more piece of information, fact, or even tidbit. I had officially hit my limit and the “meeting glaze” took over. You know, the glaze you get when the presenter’s voice starts sounding like the Charlie Brown teacher?

It was an honor to work with such an amazing group of professionals. My eyes were opened and faces were given to the people who are diligently working to spread the truth about HPV and a vaccine that is cancer prevention. How exciting to see the position that Cervivor holds among the nations top scientists, doctors, and cancer organizations. We are part of that! We are on the front lines of eradicating HPV! Cervivor is right there, side by side, elbow to elbow! We are rolling up our sleeves and deep into the space of changing the narrative on this virus and educating the public on how acting now can impact generations to come! I was so proud to be a part of this National Roundtable, but I was even prouder to be representing Cervivor. We’re in!

 

Holly Lawson is a two year cervical cancer survivor. Cancer has left her with many challenges, including Chronic Kidney Disease, but she is fighting for her survivorship and currently training with the Ulman Cancer Fund in the Cancer to 5K Program. She is an active Cervivor Ambassdor, who is finding healing in advocacy and sharing her story.