Getting Real with Feelings

Since having cancer I have joined many support groups, both online and in person.  I have read and subscribed to many blogs.  One of the things that is great about reading people’s blogs on cancer and survivorship is how positive and inspirational people are.  However, this can be a blessing and curse. Sometimes the positivity lifts me up, gives me hope and strength.  And sometimes, it just makes me feel badly.  I feel angry at myself for not being as positive as these other cancer patients or survivors.  I feel like I should be more grateful, more positive, more fill-in-the-blank-with your own-happy-word.  And then, I get into this crazy cycle of feeling badly, and then feeling badly that I feel badly.  It’s tons of fun for everyone involved.

Going through cancer treatment and then being a survivor or living with cancer is a roller coaster.  For me, going through my initial treatment was rough.  I had laparoscopic surgery, then 6 rounds of chemo, 30 rounds of external radiation and 3 rounds of internal radiation.  I did my best to stay positive through it, but it was not easy.  And to be honest, most of the time I wasn’t very positive about what I was going through.  I felt sorry for myself.  I felt like it wasn’t fair, why me, what did I do to deserve this?  Then I would go to support groups or read blogs where people would talk about how having cancer had given them a greater appreciation for their life, their families, their friends.  Don’t get me wrong, I felt all of these things, but more often than not I just felt pissed off and exhausted.  I wanted to feel changed and inspired to advocate and see the blessings in the little things, and sometimes I did.  But quite often I didn’t.

It is hard to feel grateful when you are nauseous, exhausted, depleted, and in pain.  That is ok.  When I would go in to my cycle of feeling depressed and angry and then get mad at myself for not being more thankful that I would make it out of this alive, when I would start telling myself that I should be more grateful or more positive, my boyfriend would constantly tell me, “You are should-ing on yourself again.”  Going through cancer is hard enough, and the side effects both during and after treatment are draining (to put it mildly).  We should at least be able to give ourselves a break. 

I also felt like many people had it worse than I did.  I was lucky to have a supportive family that was close by and could help me at a moments notice.  I have friends and a boyfriend who have supported my unconditionally.  My cancer was treatable and I am expected to live a long and happy life.  Others that I know are not as fortunate.  So I should be more grateful (see, there I go again, “should-ing all over myself”).  But grief, sadness and anger isn’t reserved for only some.  If we took everyone who had a tragedy or illness in their life, and lined them up based on some ranking system of “who has it worst,” would only the last person in line be allowed to feel sorry for themselves and their plight in life?  That’s ridiculous.  Just because someone else has it worse than you do, doesn’t mean that your struggles are any less valid.  You can feel empathy and sympathy for those in other situations while still recognizing that your situation may be pretty crappy as well. (As a I write this, I am giving myself this advice, because I don’t always recognize this!).

Another fellow cervical cancer survivor told me recently that one of her mantras is “It’s ok to not be ok.”  This was amazing for me to hear and resonates so much with me, especially recently.  Whatever you are feeling, good or bad, it’s ok.  Allow yourself to cry, to yell, to be pissed or depressed.  Let those feelings come and allow yourself to truly feel them.  That is the only way to let them go and move on.  (Again, as I write this, I am thinking….wow, you should do this more often!).

People write inspirational and positive blogs to give others strength and hope, and to advocate for change, and all of that is useful and wonderful.  But sometimes it is nice to hear that people are struggling with the same crappy emotions that you are.  I have learned to look at blogs differently now.  I read them like Facebook posts.  Many of them are glimpses into the best of people’s lives and the best of their moments throughout the day.  Most people don’t post pictures of themselves in pain or crying in the fetal position on the floor.  They wait until those moments have passed and write about getting up and moving on and counting their blessings, and that is important.  But it is also important for us to know that we all have those moments of sheer frustration and anger and complete debilitating sadness over the hand we have been dealt, and that is ok too.  I want you to know that in those moments you are not alone.  There are, unfortunately, many others who are feeling the same way.  And maybe in some way that can bring you comfort.  You don’t always have to be positive.  It’s ok to not be ok.

Check out more about Ana’s story here:  https://cervivor.org/stories/ana/

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.