The Power of Community and an Exceptional Gift

⚠️ This content may be triggering for some. Includes infertility and pregnancy. ⚠️

Dearest Cervivor Community,

Happy Survivorship Month! No matter where you land, it’s a reason to celebrate. Even if you’re just celebrating today. We all get so caught up in milestones. It’s hard not to. Comparisons are everywhere and we all just want so much more time. But what I’ve learned over the years is that each new day is really the greatest gift. One day at a time.

Beyond National Cancer Survivor Month, I’ve got a bunch of reasons to celebrate. June is also my birthday month (yay for birthdays!), and today marks the anniversary of my radical hysterectomy at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.

Twenty-one years! I remember when the hospital called to confirm my surgery. I was 25 years old, shocked and terrified that I wouldn’t get to see my 26th birthday. I pleaded with the scheduling coordinator to schedule surgery after my birthday. I thought, if this was it, I was at least going to celebrate one last time. But I didn’t get my way. My radical hysterectomy to rid my body of the cervical cancer tumor that was taking over was scheduled for June 14, 2001, at 7 am. I walked myself into the operating room, got up on the table, and woke up hours later – forever changed, both physically and mentally.

I didn’t know then how my own diagnosis with cervical cancer would play a role in my own life, as well as the lives of others. I couldn’t even imagine my current role as a patient advocate, and leader in the cervical cancer patient advocacy space. It certainly wasn’t a goal of mine, but I just created what I wished I’d had. This “work” has been life-changing, fulfilling, difficult, triggering, and yet one of the greatest joys of my life. I’m proud of what we’ve built together as a community. My dedication to our cause is greater than ever before.

The last few years have been challenging to say the least. We’ve weathered so much together, and now we can include an ongoing pandemic to that list. During the pandemic we kept the community going with virtual events. In fact, it was during one of those virtual events that I met someone so very special from our community, Ginny Marable.

Ginny joined us for several events and was even a speaker at our September 2020 Cervical Cancer Summit. While I was learning more about Ginny, unbeknownst to me, she was also learning more about me. She saw my true desire to be a mom, and the heartbreak that it would probably never happen due to my hysterectomy.

Fast forward: Ginny and her husband Sean began their path to parenthood via a gestational carrier. She shared their beautiful journey with us as a community, as well as on social media. When her twin boys were born, I was so elated for them, but if I’m honest, I also felt that familiar ping that I would never experience that moment. But I was just so happy for her, that feeling of sadness was fleeting.

Another short fast forward: Ginny reached out to me for a phone conversation. Never in my wildest dreams could I have known how that call would have changed my life. I mean, I haven’t even met Ginny in person – only through our virtual space. So, I’d like to make June even more memorable by sharing with my Cervivor community at large that Ginny is giving me an exceptional gift that I never imagined could be bestowed on me – motherhood.

Ginny has simply taken the power and love of this community to an entirely different level. We shared our unique story with Insider and you can read about it here.

My hope is that you will feel all the love, and our “Cervivor Spark”. But simply, thank you, Ginny!

With Love and Gratitude,

Tamika Felder
Chief Visionary, Cervivor, Inc. 
21-year Cervivor
Mom-to-be

From One Young Mom to Another, I See You.

Just as different as all of our cancer journeys are, so are our parenting styles and choices. My children were ages four and seven when I wrote this letter. They did not know their mommy had battled cancer twice during their short time on Earth. One day I will tell them the whole story and I hope they draw strength from it. But for now, I am so very thankful I was able to attempt to preserve their innocence throughout my treatments. They knew I had to go to the doctor often for my “tummy.” They were six months and three years old at the time of my original diagnosis and ages three and six at the time of my recurrence.

They knew they had to be careful with my arm because of my PICC line. Upon reflection, I know I drew, and continue to draw, my strength from knowing they need me. They are the very reason I managed to smile through it all. Now that they are a few years older, they have some understanding and knowledge simply because of my cervical cancer advocacy efforts and fundraising events. They both enjoy sporting their teal and white and proudly bring me drawings or things they find that remind them of cervical cancer awareness ribbons.

Dear Young Mom Going Through Treatments, 

You are their safe place; their steady fortress of love, their ever-present cheerleader. Your kisses make all of their boo boos better and your hugs melt away all of their cares. A glance from you can make them feel as though they can conquer the world.

Though they haven’t a clue, they are your total source of strength during these days.

I see you, and you are doing an amazing job. 

I see your brow wrinkled with worry for them. Worrying if you are handling this season of life the right way, worrying about them overhearing adults at school talking about their mommy’s cancer, worrying about what their tiny lives could be without you.

I see you grabbing your wig or hat, lathering concealer over your chemo-ridden raccoon eyes, and mustering up a smile to appear normal in the eyes of your children. 

I see you planning your appointments strategically so as not to miss a baseball game or dance class. I see you insisting the doctor’s office squeeze your weekly chemo session in on their jam packed Wednesdays because there are no after school extras to be missed. I see you biting your tongue and fighting back tears while the unknowing tell you how great you ‘look’ to be going through treatments and how wonderful it is that you ‘feel’ like being out at that ballfield and dance studio.

I see you soaking up as much rest as you can during their school hours and timing your medicines just right so you can make a futile attempt to be present during homework, dinner, baths, and story time. 

You just want to make sure they get every ounce of the’ normal you’ there is.

Though you don’t believe it now, your tiny sources of strength could never see you as anything less than their beautiful source of unfailing love.

Though they don’t know it now, one day they will. One day they will look back, and realize just how beautifully and courageously strong you were for them. 

You can do this. 

Strength & Love from A Mom That’s Been There 

Tracie is a mother of two amazing boys, and along with her husband, they spend their time enjoying the beauty of Alabama. Tracie is a Cervivor School graduate, Cervivor Ambassador and a well-seasoned Lobby Day advocate.