“On Wednesdays we wear Pink”… wait, what?

That is something my son Matthew always said to me, and I always laughed.  I had no idea that line came from the movie Mean Girls, nor how much I would remember this comment and how it evolved and shaped my Teal & White Tuesdays.  

I knew pink was the color for breast cancer as I had already been down that path.  I had no idea what the ribbon color was for cervical cancer. When I received my diagnosis in 2015, I had to research the ribbon to find out what my color of ribbon would be. Deep down somewhere in my subconscious, I knew I would be wearing that color for the rest of my life.  

After my lengthy treatment battles, I found Cervivor. This became my “go to” group for information, help and support.  I loved it when they said to wear teal & white on Tuesdays.  An idea began to form.  

I attended Cervivor School in 2019 with much help and support from my friends and family.  I honestly don’t remember Tamika’s exact question that day at Cervivor School, but I immediately remember my response, “On Tuesdays, we wear Teal and White.” Thanks Matthew, for the quote from so many years ago!! The idea continues…

I have bought my son several ties and dress shirts in the teal and white theme that he proudly wears to work. I make an effort to post something on my social media accounts about #TealAndWhiteTuesday every week to remind people about cervical cancer, to get your cancer screenings, to get your vaccinations, and to promote awareness. The idea is growing.

In January of 2020 during CCAM, I was invited to Matthew’s place of employment, Hy-Vee. They did a promotion during that year to promote cervical cancer awareness. I had so many more plans for public awareness campaigns, but 2020 had other plans for meeting people.

I was forced to refocus my efforts, and the idea began to fully bloom.  Pandemic boredom = creative, crafting mind flow.  I started off with buying printable iron on sheets and made one shirt.  I wanted more.  I created a better graphic design and had made several more shirts.  I handed out twelve shirts to people, and five of them went to high school age girls. We discussed cervical cancer and the need to take care of yourself, even at a young age.

I made and sold teal and white kitchen pot scrubbers, with proceeds going to Cervivor. I attend the Cervivor virtual holiday party and am now on the CCAM Planning Committee. I tell everyone I meet that health is a PRIORITY in life and do not ignore it! 

I post about cervical cancer and Cervivor so often now on social media to spread the word. I talk about it with my friends and family. I am not ashamed or too shy to share my story with others, no matter who they are.  I want people to know how this affected me, and how I am a stronger person now for the ordeal I survived.

The impact that Cervivor School had on me to advocate and talk about this has amazed even myself.  I was not even sure about going, and here I am a year later involved as I can be and loving every minute of it.    

I love #TealAndWhiteTuesday and dress in it every week, even if I am not leaving the house to go anywhere. I am forever grateful to my family and friends in supporting me to get the word out, and I love how involved they have become to spread the word as well.

Have you ever noticed how many people actually read the t-shirts people wear? Have you stopped yourself to read someone’s shirt as they walk by you? It offers an ice breaker without having to say a word.  

“On Tuesdays we wear Teal and White.” Spread the word.

Karen North lives in Liberty, Missouri. She is a retired registered nurse. Her world is her family, fur-babies, and friends. She is a six-year breast cancer survivor and a four-year cervical cancer survivor. 

Read Karen’s Cervivor story.

Read Karen’s blog post on being both a breast cancer survivor and cervical cancer Cervivor

Deploying Cancer Coping Strategies During the COVID-19 Crisis

Everyone is experiencing the COVID-19 global health crisis in a different way. 

Healthcare professionals are experiencing the tragedy from the front lines. Working parents are experiencing the hardships of balancing a conference call with a screaming toddler. Women are experiencing childbirth without a partner present to support them. Engaged couples are experiencing the heartache of cancelling “the big day.” Children of elderly parents in nursing homes are experiencing the anxiety of getting the dreaded call their parent has become infected. People are experiencing death, and their loved ones are experiencing the inability to properly mourn them. The experiences go on and on, and they will be forever ingrained in our memories.  

What is not unique to anyone’s experience right now is that we are all feeling elevated levels of anxiety, sadness, and anger due to our inability to know what will happen to ourselves or our loved ones. We lack control. We lack autonomy over our own health as it’s in the hands of others. We lack real social connection and the ability to spend time with who we want, doing things we like to do. 

My husband Matt and I on a walk in the woods to distance ourselves from others and enjoy nature.

And this, is what it’s like to battle cancer.  

For some cancer survivors like myself, this unprecedented crisis has conjured up the same emotions we experienced during our treatment. Emotions that took a really long time to heal from. After finally feeling back in control of my own health, it’s gone. I am confronted once again with the notion that at any minute my health could take a drastic turn and I’m back to the all too familiar feeling of intense vulnerability. Of isolation. Of anxiety. Of sadness. And of anger. The foundation is being rocked again. The foundation I worked so damn hard to build back. 

These emotions extend to my experience as a caretaker. Throughout the ordeal of my husband’s kidney transplant in 2018, I dealt with the terrifying notion that he could be taken from me. And because the transplant medications suppress his immune system, Matt is in the “high risk” category for this virus. His chances of survival are less than most if he contracts it. This has caused us to be overly cautious about bringing the virus into our home. We closed up shop pretty immediately, and jumped into our all too familiar bubble at home; sidelined once again from the world due to health concerns. Soon after, (most of) the rest of the country joined. 

Wednesday night virtual hangouts with my best friends.

And yet, as it was when we were both sick and felt the world crashing down upon us, we are humbled by the fact that others are struggling far more than we are. We are safe. We are (currently) healthy. We have food and shelter. We have each other, and by phone call, text, or virtual hangout, we have an amazing support network. We know we can get through anything. And maybe even enjoy ourselves while doing it. 

You see, caretakers and patients are made of steel. We have already weathered these intense storms, and we continue standing. We know how important self-care is. We know how important it is keep our bodies strong ready to face whatever there is to come. This means eating well, meditating, exercising, whatever it takes. We also have the superpower of being truly vulnerable which allows us to deeply connect with others around us and call them to say “I’m not ok, I just need to cry.” And cry I have. 

My hope is that anyone reading this can also deploy these coping strategies. There is strength in self-care and vulnerability. Believe me.  

My virtual yoga class with my favorite yogi.

To my fellow cancer patients and survivors – I know how scary this is. How unfair is it that our already fragile physical and mental health is being put to the test again? Very. But, remember that we are insanely resilient. We can lead by example here. Don’t forget to breathe, and take care of yourselves. We’ve got this

And to all healthcare professionals out there – you continue to be my heroes. Thank you. 

Kate Weissman is an (almost) four year-year Stage 2B cervical cancer survivor and a Cervivor Ambassador serving as an advocate for the cervical cancer community. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, lobbying for the implementation of cancer-related policies that will help patients and their families, and the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her husband Matt and fur baby Giada, and is a proud aunt to five nephews and one niece. She is the Vice President of Integrated Project Management at a Public Relations agency, and an avid food enthusiast.