Thursday, January 8, 2015

Survivor Stories: How A Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer Changed My Life - Tamika

This month, Cervical Cancer Awareness month, we are pleased to share the stories of cervical cancer survivors. We begin with the story of  Tamika Felder, survivor and founder of Tamika and Friends and Cervivor. More information about cervical cancer and HPV can be found on the organization's websites. - Dee

How A Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer Changed My Life 

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I never planned on becoming a patient advocate. In fact, it was the furthest thing from my mind.

I was 25, single, childless and scared. This was 2001 and no one was really talking about HPV. I had never even heard of it and I pride myself with being “in the know”. Hell, I was even working on a national award winning health show and it wasn’t a topic that we discussed.

As I healed from my surgery and prepared for radiation and chemo I still never thought about sharing my story. It’s ironic, because as a television producer that’s what I am – a glorified story teller. But this wasn’t a story that I wanted to share.

I was ashamed and just wanted to put it all behind me.

So I did. Or at least I thought I did. Slowly, I began pouring myself back into my work and started the grind of networking. I went back to being that social butterfly that my friends and family had always loved.

But something was different. I was different. My life had forever been changed. As much as I tried to put the pieces of my cancer riddled life back together, it just didn’t happen. The pieces no longer matched up perfectly. I didn’t fit into my own world. My energy level wasn’t the same and I thought about my experience constantly. I wondered why no one was talking about cervical cancer.

It took me three years to accept that I had cancer and it had rocked my perfectly planned world. I was one of those people who had everything planned out and cancer was not in the plans – when is it ever? But it happened and thankfully I survived — so I had to live — really live.

And so I did. Part of living my best life after cancer was doing something for those that would come after me. Like helping them to avoid the isolation that I felt as a woman with cervical cancer.
The more involved I became in the cancer community, the more the pieces of my life began to fit back together – but some of them took a new form.

When I look at the cervical cancer community, I see only a handful of women sharing their stories. I always wonder why more women aren’t speaking up. Is it because of the stigma of HPV? A lack of time? Or do they think that their voice doesn’t matter?

Whatever the reason; we need your voices. 

Tell me: What’s holding you back from sharing your story? We need patient advocates to help combat this disease. We can’t leave it to the clinicians and researchers and Congress. We must have a seat at the table. We complete the puzzle to eradicating this disease. We are the messengers. Will you join me?

I won’t stop until we put an end to this cancer – because together, I know that we can.


This post originally appeared on the Cervivor blog. Re-posted with permission.

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