It’s Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and friend of Thrivorship Tamika Felder shares her inspiring experience.
I still can’t believe that’s it’s been nearly 15 years since I was diagnosed with cancer. There are so many thoughts and emotions that overcome me when I think about my life with cancer.
I was 25 when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was before the HPV Vaccine, so no one was really talking about it. It was “that cancer” if you know about its link to HPV, the human papillomavirus — a sexually transmitted infection that you either know about or don’t. There are so many misconceptions out there about it and that stigma is one of the main reasons that I didn’t want to talk about my cancer experience. It’s also the reason why so many women with cervical cancer don’t.
It’s hard for me not to talk about my life experience. My parents say I came out of the womb talking. I work in media, so I’m always talking. I’m southern so I have the gift of gab! But, when it came to cervical cancer it was the last thing I wanted to talk about it. For me, it made me feel as if I had done something wrong and should be ashamed. That wasn’t good for me.
In a matter of two years, I had enough and educated myself about cervical cancer and decided to do something about it. So, I built a community that wasn’t already available for cervical cancer survivor, Cervivor (formally Tamika & Friends, Inc.)
I didn’t just want a place for support, but a learning tool that focused on advocacy and breaking down that awful stigma of HPV. I mean it is a virus that most people have but don’t know it. So, for over a decade I have been empowering cervical cancer survivors to live beyond their cancer and to become advocates for this cause. What I found is that these women want more and knowledge is power.
I never thought that I would become a cancer advocate. It was actually the opposite. I wanted to pick up where I left of before cancer, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t the same. And, that’s okay. I’ve grown as a cancer advocate and now travel the world trying to make my impact.
The biggest way I do that is through my Cervivor Schools which are 1-day or weekend retreat boot camps for cervical cancer survivors. My schools arm them with the knowledge they need to be the best advocates they can. They in turn use their own personal stories for change — real change.
Because we know the cause of our cancer, have the tools to detect them and a vaccine to prevent it — we can end cervical cancer. We have to! Because despite this knowledge, women are still dying because of lack of screening and prevention. I didn’t “cervive” to live in the shadows. I want to make a different. I want to thrive in life in a powerful and epic way.
I used to be so focused and upset over the loss of my fertility. But now I’m a stepmom and my daughter, Zakiya has brought so much joy to my life. I also know that my legacy will not be the lives that I bring into this world, but the lives that I save. To me that is thriving in life.
What matters most in life; especially after a diagnosis of cancer is how you live. It doesn’t mean you have to go and do something epic, it just means living life on your terms, your way. To learn more about cervical cancer and Cervivor visit www.cervivor.org.
Tamika Felder is a Cervivor, Cancer Advocate, Speaker, Purposeful Living Expert, Writer, Producer, Host, World Traveler, Foodie, Pinterest Addict and HuffPost Contributor. She is working on her first book about her rules for life.www.tamikafelder.com