One Year at Cervivor Taught Me…

For those who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Morgan Newman, I’m a social worker, and I’m a Cervivor! I was diagnosed with endocervical adenocarcinoma at the age of 24 and then I was “hit” again with a metastatic recurrence to my lungs. Throughout my whole treatment, I wanted to do something more – to share my story, to advocate so others didn’t have to go through this horrible experience. I made little teal ribbons which eventually were teal and white ribbons to be more accurate and handed them out everywhere I went. I wanted everyone to know that cervical cancer existed because inside I felt all alone.

Right after I finished up my recurrence treatment, I stumbled across Cervivor due to a hashtag. I thought it was so clever to use “cervical” and “survivor.” The post mentioned a patient advocacy retreat and listed off the learning objectives of: learning the latest about HPV and cervical cancer, how to share your story, and connect with others who get it. This aligned with my values and what I wanted to accomplish. I signed up and fundraised my way to Delray Beach, Florida and the rest has been history.

I graduated Cervivor School in June of 2017 and went back home to Iowa to start working in my local area as a Cervivor Ambassador. From that stemmed SO many opportunities that have helped me grow. While attending my second Cervivor School in Cape Cod, I was recognized by the Cervivor organization and was awarded the title of Cervivor Champion. I couldn’t believe it! Me?!

For the next two years, I continued to nurture those existing community partnerships and kept on building new ones. It was then I was recognized with two more awards from two other organizations. I still couldn’t believe it and to this day I am so proud of how far I have come. This leads me into graduating from the University of Iowa with a Masters in Social Work and bound to a Code of Ethics to serve others. I was offered a position with the organization and now I really can’t believe it. I work for the organization that gave me my voice after cancer.

They say time flies when you’re having fun but really, where has the last year gone? My first year has been eye-opening yet so very rewarding. It has been a year of transition from a regular 9-5 career and volunteering in advocacy to a whole different world in the nonprofit sector.

Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

The mission is greater than just my own personal story. My passion for advocacy shifted from an individual level to an organizational mindset which is not an easy task (even for a trained social worker). These things can be presented as theories until we can actually put them into action. Sometimes we only understand something from our personal point of view and that causes us to only see a fraction of the bigger mission at hand. Our stories are powerful but they are so much more as a collective voice.

The work is hard. Even when you love your job, it can be mentally draining, exhausting, and at times…frustrating. Nonprofits are not like your regular 9-5, they come with some crazy hours including long days, nights, and weekends. 

Teamwork makes the dream work. We have a creative, experienced mind and an organized, in-the-making mind. New and old ideas are able to be balanced, polished, and made into a reality.

We are a small staff but fulfilling a BIG reach. Only two of us are employed and are doing the work that other nonprofits are capable of doing with a team of 10-12 people. We are so proud of the partnerships we have been able to build on a global scale with our grassroots advocacy.  

Communications are our #1 tool. I’m a generalist social worker trained in people in their environment and how systems work. I’m not someone who graduated with a specific communications or marketing degree but I’m willing to learn. I tend to bring various strengths from previous employment and life experiences to the table and it helps balance the work dynamic.

We are a community built by our community. Our community is diverse, rich in experience, and so supportive of each other. I’m really proud of all of our community members who have shared their stories, stepped up to advocate, and have extended their hands out to support others. Not to mention the individuals we’ve been able to reach thanks to our Comfort Care & Compassion Program.

Meet people where they’re at. Generally, everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment. It’s really that simple. Empathy and listening can go a long way. We see that firsthand at every Creating Connections support group meeting. 

Advocates and Volunteers are everything. If no one shares their story, how can we truly make a difference? How can we put new policies and systems into place so we can continue to prevent others from going through cervical cancer, from HPV-related cancers, or worse, dying from a preventable cancer? We have the ability to be a part of that process and we have been able to accomplish so much together already. There’s so much more work left to do and we’re just getting started. Want to get involved? Sign up to become a Partner in Purpose.

Funding is crucial. Philanthropy isn’t just about giving away money. It’s about changing the world. Right now, we have over 604,000 individuals worldwide being diagnosed with cervical cancer every year with 342,000 dying from cervical cancer. Communities of color are dying at disproportionate rates and we are committed to closing the gap in cervical cancer disparities. I encourage you to consider a one-time donation to Cervivor or to become a monthly donor. There’s still so much work left to be done and we could not do what we do without your support financially.

Growth and development are everything. Always come in with an open mind and be willing to learn. Don’t assume you know everything, you’re minimizing your maximum potential. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.  

We are far from perfect. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s insane to expect perfection (including towards yourself). You are bound to make mistakes and it’s okay. Acknowledge them, accept them, learn from them, and know we are always striving to do better than before.

Self-care is absolutely necessary to prevent burnout. Maintaining the motivation and stamina for this work with such a small team and the glaring reality of loss in our community can be difficult but the mission remains the most important thing to us and it keeps us going on a day-to-day basis. Having a passion for the cause can make it extremely difficult not to answer a message or email on your time off but it is absolutely necessary to prevent yourself from feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional, and burnout. We are certainly following our 2022 campaign of Taking Care of You in 2022!

I’ve learned a lot in just a year’s time and I’m grateful for my job, to understand the work that is being done behind the scenes, to be able to sit on various advisory boards, research teams, to maintain and develop our programming, and to meet our partners and to hear their passion in the work that they do – it is all truly rewarding. Every time I am connected with someone in our community, every time I am connected to a family or friend honoring their loved one who has passed from cervical cancer, every time I see those statistics of diagnoses and cervical cancer disparities, I am reminded of just how important this work is. It keeps me humbled yet motivated for the next thing. I cannot wait to see what else the future holds for our Cervivor community and organization.

Morgan Newman, MSW, Outside of her Community Engagement Liaison position at Cervivor, you can find Morgan nurturing her relationships with local community partner organizations like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN), the Iowa Cancer Consortium, and serving as a board member for Above and Beyond Cancer. Learn more about Morgan at Cervivor.org.

Thriving Amid a Crisis

I’m sitting here reflecting and it’s pretty clear to me: I never thought I would be in a world pandemic crisis in my lifetime. That was something we only learned about in history books, right? We’ve become so cutting edge due to advancements in health care technology like testing, vaccinations and medications. I am proving my naivety as we are not bulletproof from everything and we have several issues at stake.

My life is fairly busy and there’s not a lot of dull moments yet I’m sitting here in isolation to protect my immunocompromised body. This COVID-19 virus has proven to be something that has uprooted my life: some positive, some negative. I work as a dental assistant and office manager for two offices. The dental profession has taken a hit due to an aerosol-borne virus.  It has left my coworkers and myself unemployed for the time being.


It’s a strange feeling when you’re used to managing every aspect of every day and you go to completely nothing. I’m here a week into quarantine I catch myself thinking of all the negatives; the uprooting of lives and the health of friends, family, and people I haven’t even met yet and the financial implications this will hold for all of us. The stress on interpersonal relationships, the increase of depression and anxiety, and the general fear of the unknown for our future. I won’t disregard these negatives. It’s the social worker in me. Oh, did I mention I was a part-time master’s student for social work?

My positive thoughts are that I am thankful for a slow down. I now have more time for homework, I get to exercise, spend time with my dog, etc. But even these thoughts have expanded and deepened so much more. Where I have been able to spend more time on homework, I’ve also signed up for auditing a class through Yale (thanks to a friend), I’ve picked up my camera and snapped some photos of the birds visiting the feeder, I dove into my old iPod and listened to music I haven’t heard for a few years, picked up the exercising, cleaned and organized, written creatively and I’ve caught up with old and new friends through chat/Skype/FaceTime.

Most importantly, I have asked myself multiple times, “How can I help?”  Every morning I’ve read constant panic-filled stories on my local Facebook pages and wish I had the means to help everyone. One in particular stood out. The postal service workers needed hand sanitizer.  I knew I had some small travel bottles so I gathered them up, wrote a small note of encouragement and sealed it up in a Ziploc baggy. My dachshund, Sassy, and I walked up and put it in our lock box. The next day we received a nice thank you note attached to our mail. Later on I found a few more travel bottles and did the same thing. Again, we received a nice thank you note.

I’m constantly praying for cardinals to show up and let me know everything is going to be alright. Last weekend I received a beautiful pair of cardinal earrings in the mail from a First Descents bestie, Bethany, and yesterday I received a packet with beautiful cardinal photos and a handwritten note from my friend, Mark. These are the little things I appreciate so much during this time. It makes me miss hugging my friends and family. I’m clinging onto the feeling of the last hug and kiss I received to make the time alone not feel so lonely. 

I also knew I wanted to volunteer some of my time, while I had it, to my favorite organization, Cervivor. We’ve been hit recently with a tremendous loss to our leadership team. I think it’s safe to say that we all need help during this time. Little tasks end up becoming these wonderful projects and I know what I’m doing means a lot to those who need the help. I would highly consider volunteering virtually with your favorite organization as well! I know this too will pass but it is my hope that our society will become reacquainted with humanity and compassion through this all. 

Morgan is a metastatic cervical cancer survivor, Cervivor Ambassador, and the 2018 Cervivor Champion recipient.  She lives in the rural state of Iowa where she continues to advocate tirelessly.  You can find her networking in various communities for cancer prevention in hopes her story can help others.  She was recognized for her advocacy completed in 2019 with the Iowa American Cancer Society Action Network.  Morgan continues to advocate along side Above and Beyond Cancer, Bras for the Cause – Madison County, the Iowa Cancer Consortium, Iowa Department of Public Health, and Des Moines University.