Blank Verses, Short Stories, and Other Musings

Each night, I climb into bed, prop up on my red, corduroy reading pillow that has followed me from college all those decades ago and slowly open a small, bound book. Pen in hand, I take a deep breath and begin a scribbled conversation that has kept me sane since my April diagnosis of synchronous cervical and uterine cancers. That book, this pen, those words are my free therapy. And I am better for them.

The magic of words was made plain to me in childhood. I taught myself to type on Mom’s gunmetal gray, Royal Underwood typewriter, pecking away on two fingers to churn out a neighborhood newsletter. Adolescence brought dreams of growing up to study Creative Writing, joining a writers’ colony in the Vermont woods and becoming the next Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks…you see where this is going? Well, as too often happens, adulthood altered those dreams, and this English Literature major became a government trial lawyer in Massachusetts—still using words to shrewdly sway jurors and to sharply skewer opponents—but I always maintained a growing collection of blank verse, short stories, and other musings that one day could be shared with somebody. Anybody.

Doris’s cancer journal

Perhaps all that explains why one of the first errands I made immediately after my diagnosis was a search for the right journal to house my feelings—all the scary, happy, and unnamed things that would come my way along this journey. This vessel could not be flimsy or cheesy. No, buddy. This word-keeper had to be worthy of the emotions that would leak out onto its pages. Here is where I would explain how this “cancer thang” discombobulated us all. 

I had always proclaimed that I planned to blow out candles at my centennial birthday party. How could the threat of mortality come knocking at my door now, when my married daughter in Mississippi (Lord help us) needed me after giving birth to our first grandchild in March? And my son was 2,000 miles away in the Boston area, having just survived a divorce and a torn Achilles tendon. He had a hard time handling my illness. My husband was trying mightily to cope with his own anxieties about my health and all the myths and stigmas associated with cancer. This was way too much for a cheap, lightweight notebook. Only a special book could cradle those complicated realities.

My chosen, pink pen pal has never failed me. Its sturdy pages have given me space to vent about the things it has been hard to articulate to folks: the chest port that feels reminiscent of alien abduction anecdotes; the tutorial on dilator use that made the nursing assistant blush; the way I could discern the texture of food (even water), yet not its taste; the exhilarating freedom of a shaved head displayed to all the world. And it has let me weep onto its cream-tinted pages, wrinkled testament to the overwhelming sadness that comes with this journey at the oddest times. 

This journal is so much more than frequently illegible cursive words. No, these pages are quite often a battle cry, this warrior’s call to arms against the most unexpected enemy: her own cells. These pages are like an old-timey, gutbucket, blues chart from backwoods juke joint—a full-throated, belly-wail of agony and joy, growled by one who knows the score (literally and figuratively) and ain’t afraid to tell you all about it. And, always, always, that hard-cover book is my hymnal, sketching lines of praise to Him in Whose armor I outfit myself every day. This little unassuming book contains uniquely metered lyrics of love and faith and strength. 

I will write my way out of this Egypt. The inked lines will chart the path to my Red Sea….

A sixth generation Texan from San Antonio, Doris Helene White earned a B.A. from Central State University in Ohio (an historically black institution) and a juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law. Her career in the government sector as a Massachusetts trial attorney reaffirmed her commitment to an equitable legal system. Retired in 2014, Doris returned home, where she indulged a passion for writing, became an amateur advocate for the history of African Americans in these United States and continued active affiliation with San Antonio Black Lawyers Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Jack and Jill of America, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and other community organizations. Her husband Steven Soares, daughter Dr. Leigh Soares and son Steven Cooper Soares lead the best “cancer posse” in the galaxy! 

Let’s Talk About Below-the-Belt Cancers

When the calendar turns to September, it’s a good reason for anyone touched by gynecological cancer to share their story because September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM).

For those of us in the Cervivor community, September is a significant opportunity to pull out our advocacy boots (and dust them off if they haven’t been used in a while), put below-the-belt cancers in the spotlight, and pick up our momentum to carry us through the remainder of the year. 

Why is GCAM so important?

  • Late-stage cervical cancer is being diagnosed at higher rates in the United States. Historically, cervical cancer has disproportionately impacted Black and Hispanic women. In this study, the overall prevalence of the disease was higher in Black women and there is a large increase in diagnoses for Non-Hispanic White women (CNN).
  • Uterine cancers are on the rise, especially in Black women. It is quickly making its way to becoming the third most common type of cancer among women (NY Times).
  • Fertility and quality of life are still impacting those diagnosed with gynecologic cancers (Oncology Nurse Advisor).
  • Intersectionalities in sexual orientation as well as race and ethnicity show significantly lower odds of undergoing routine cervical cancer screenings (Health Day).
  • Reducing social detriments can improve quality of life, increase survival rates, and close the gap in racial disparities (ASCO Post).

We know there are so many more to list which is why Cervivor continues to be actively engaged in gynecologic cancer awareness. We’re committed to sharing our stories, spreading awareness, and showing the people impacted by gynecologic cancers. We’re facing these disparities head-on!

How can you get involved this GCAM?

  • Share Cervivor content during GCAM. We will have plenty of graphics, articles, and other resources to share with your social media network, across all platforms. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest.
  • Wear Teal and White on #TealandWhiteTuesday. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and post your photos in the comment of our Facebook posts!

  • Share your Cervivor Story. Have you shared your story with us on Cervivor.org? Sharing your story on our site is a powerful tool for getting your story out there. Our template guides you with questions, to help you share your cervical cancer story in a way that is personal to you. You can share as little or as much as you like. Once you have submitted your story and it is published, you will be able to share the link with others. Need help getting started? Send us an email at info@cervivor.org!

  • Contact local media to share your Cervivor story. Many times, local news stations, newspapers, and neighborhood publications are looking for content. Reach out to them and share your story. If your story is on Cervivor.org, share the link with them when you reach out.

  • Host a Cervivor Meet-Up. Meet-Ups are local gatherings of Cervivors, networking and sharing in a social environment. You can hold a Cervivor Meet-Up in a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, or anywhere you feel is a welcoming and relaxed place for Cervivors to talk and share. If you’re interested in hosting a Cervivor Meet-Up in your area, contact us at info@cervivor.org. *Cervivor recommends following the latest CDC recommendations for any gatherings.*

  • Become a Partner in Purpose. From care team to community member, your role in cervical cancer awareness, treatment, support, and prevention is of the utmost importance to us. Interested? Sign up here.

  • Donate to Cervivor or host a fundraiser on behalf of Cervivor.

We look forward to a successful GCAM and can’t wait to see how our Cervivor Community comes together to bring awareness to gynecologic cancers!