Life was just starting out for me. At the age of eighteen I just enrolled in my first college class and began packing to move into a dorm at a local university. I was so excited to venture out on my own that it never dawned on me that my life would change with a simple phone call from my doctor’s office. Two weeks before I moved into the dorm I went to get my first Pap smear. A week later the doctor called that my test results came back abnormal and I need to be seen for a follow-up. My doctor began explaining that I had HPV and that due to my young age the recommendation was to wait for the HPV to clear up on its own. I was asked to come back every six months for follow-up appointments. However, after a year of abnormal test results I learned that I had a strain of HPV that caused cervical cancer. I underwent multiple procedures to remove the cells over the course of two years. I went on with life, graduating from college, and working and in the middle of it all meeting the love of my life. About a month before my wedding, I learned that the HPV had developed into cervical cancer. With my husband and family’s love and support, I underwent additional treatments to remove the cancer cells. I thought it was all behind me, until after celebrating our one-year anniversary we began thinking about starting a family. After trying for two years, we went to seek professional assistance. My OBGYN told me that conceiving would be difficult due to the scar tissue that surrounded my cervix, and if I were able to conceive my cervix would be compromised due to the multiple surgeries I have had which have shortened my cervix. The news was devastating. I cried for days wondering if we would every have a child. I thought that HPV and cervical cancer were behind me, but instead it reappeared itself, haunting me from its grave. I poured myself into researching every alternative, seeking medication, herbal remedies, and lifestyle changes to help improve my chances of conceiving. After another two years and one miscarriage, we decided to seek assistance from an infertility clinic. We met with our doctor and developed a plan for the next month. I waited patiently, but before I could start the treatment, my husband and I discovered we were pregnant with a precious baby girl. We were overjoyed with the news. Twenty-eight weeks into my pregnancy my perinatologist informed me that my cervix was shrinking at an alarming rate and I needed to get a cerclage and be placed on bed rest until delivery. I was scared that after all these years of trying, hoping, and praying we could loose our miracle. The last four months have been a rollercoaster ride, going to weekly ultrasounds and praying that our baby would be safe, but I am thrilled to say we are now at thirty-eight weeks and counting the days until her arrival.
Ann Celebrates 5 Years of being Cancer Free
Check out Michele speaking at the 2012 DC Walk to Beath the Clock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hqhTDBvAlTg
Follow Michele on Twitter/@MicheleAPrigo
Thanks, Michele for all you do. We are honored to call you our friend.
Let's Immunize Boys Against HPV and Educate Them About Sexual Responsibility at the Same Time
Black Women Have Trouble Clearing Cervical Cancer
Tamika & Friends is national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and its link to HPV, the human papillomavirus. Created in 2005 by founder and cervical cancer survivor, Tamika Felder, the organization now has 8 chapters in states ranging from Washington, to New York and Georgia, as well as in Washington, D.C., the charter chapter. Last January, Tamika & Friends hosted the 2nd annual Cervical Cancer Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C., proudly connecting cervical cancer advocates with policy makers to spread the message—that this disease is preventable if women have the tools to protect themselves—during a time of considerable public debate on healthcare.
As part of our organization-building strategy for 2013, T&F is opening up 10 seats on its Board over the next few months to individuals who offer influential, intellectual, and investment capital. Specifically, we are looking for thoughtful leaders who can help us expand our influence and achieve goals, such as boosting funding and distribution of our Gift of Giving awards (monetary donations for women undergoing cervical cancer treatment); increasing turn out and money raised from our annual Walk to Beat the Clock against cervical cancer, now in multiple cities; as well as spreading the word about our great resources, including our information-rich Web site (tamikaandfriends.org) and hosting kits for fun, informative, pro-woman House Parties of fiVe (HPV).
Please consider applying if you are in any of the following sectors: corporate growth, venture capital, social media, health technology, music/entertainment, publishing, public relations, advertising/marketing and/or fundraising, or law. Candidates should have experience in business development, corporate partnerships, salesmanship, strategic planning, and related skill sets. The position will be unpaid as all of T&F’s members work on a volunteer basis.
If interested, please submit your resume with cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put “For Board Selection” in subject line.
The New York chapter of Tamika and Friends attended Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen Vol. 5 at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, NY., March 3, 2012.
MHHK is a multifaceted hip hop event that serves as a social justice community. It organizes platforms that educate and empower women of color on issues that impact their lives, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. It also showcases female artists of color.
More than 200 people attended the event to watch artists from all over the country with the unifying message of empowerment. Various organizations representing breast and cervical cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, AIDS and domestic violence, gave helpful information and raised awareness on the different issues that affect women’s lives.
We want to congratulate the founders and creators of the event, Kathleen Adams and Lah Tere, for the success of the event and for the work they do in empowering women. Tamika and Friends was honored to be part of this event by raising awareness on cervical cancer and its link to the human papilloma virus.
Women Empowering Women!
It is up to us to use preventative measures to lessen the mortality rate. We choose to BE THE CURE.
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen
For more information on Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen visit: www.mhhk.org
Tamika & Friends USPSTF Statement -
In releasing these updated cervical cancer screening guidelines, the USPSTF is taking a huge step forward in the fight to make sure that no other women die from cervical cancer or lose their fertility as a result of this disease.
Register for our DC Cervical Cancer Prevention Walk! -
Guest blogger Katharine shares her inspirational journey with Tamika & Friends, Inc.
Achieving your dreams mean sacrifice, failure, and hard work mixed in with some wins.
My dream was to travel the world.
My hard work came in October 2006 when I was diagnosed with Stage IIA cervical cancer at the age of 23.
My failure came in December 2010 when my nonprofitorganization suffered tremendously, all of our volunteers resigned, and my co-Founder walked away from the organization entirely.
My sacrifice came in March 2011 when I decided to leave my family, friends, and comfortable lifestyle behind in pursuit of authentic happiness.
My ‘wins’ include traveling to three continents in four months, teaching English as a second language in the Czech Republic, finally returning to my Motherland (South Korea) for the first time since being adopted, and falling in love with Australia.
Somehow, over the last year, I found a way to connect the dots of my broken and damaged life.
I’m 28 years old and in remission and I have discovered that life after cervical cancer can be truly wonderful, but you have to find the strength, passion, and determination to make it wonderful. You have to find a way to live your best life post-cancer and you have to want it bad enough.
No one prepared me for a cancer diagnosis. No one prepared me for losing both of my parents by age 20. No one told me how emotionally devastating and crippling it is to wake up every day, knowing you have cancer, and wonder if you will ever be healthy again. You can’t teach these things, you can only learn from them.
When you beat something as monumental as cancer, it changes your perspective and your attitude. Hell, cancer changes your life. You begin to appreciate every single morsel - the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
My biggest fear after beating cancer was that I didn’t want it to define me. Yes, cancer was - is, and always will be - a very big part of my life, but it does not define who I am. It has shaped my life and it has changed my perspective, but I do not want to be looked at, considered, or judged for being “a girl who had cancer.”
So, in March 2011 I walked away from everything I knew and loved and moved to Prague, Czech Republic to get certified to teach English as a second language and figure out what the hell comes next in my life.
What came next was an epic journey around the world.
I finally returned to my Motherland, South Korea, for the first time since being adopted and I was able to close the door on the lingering question of wanting to find my birth parents (I don’t). I went to the Philippines and witnessed poverty in a third world country and laid on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches for an entire week. I went skydiving in Australia and fell in love with Sydney (and the weather and the accents) so much that I made the bold and gutsy decision to live here for one year.
So here I am post-cancer, living in Sydney, Australia on a workandholidayvisa, spending time traveling around Australia, New Zealand and Asia, working as a freelance writer, teaching English to International students, and falling in love with my life Down Under.
I never thought I would get here - to a point in my life where I am deliriously happy with where I am living, the friends who have supported me from Day One, and with where my life is going. Of course, getting here wasn’t easy. I had to make a lot of sacrifices. I had to let go of a lot of friendships that I knew wouldn’t survive the distance, and I had to be open and honest with myself about my reasons for leaving the U.S.
I ran away from my life back in the States because I wanted - no, I needed - something better. I needed to believe in something bigger than myself, even if it meant starting all over again.
I know it sounds scary - to start all over again or to create a life worth living - but trust me when I say that starting all over again isn’t nearly as challenging or emotionally taxing as fighting for your life. So many times throughout this past year I have wanted to throw in the towel, pack my bags, and return to the U.S., but doing that would mean up one the one thing that I have been longing for and the one thing I have worked so damn hard at finding - happiness.
Wherever you are and whatever you are going through - whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, a loss of a loved one, depression, or just a really, really bad day - I hope you can find some inspiration and passion to create a life that is worth living. I hope you can believe that life after cancer does get better and that you are not defined by the scars on your body or the battle you went through (or are currently fighting).
We only get this one shot at this. Life is too precious, so live it up. Surround yourself with people who matter, fall in love with someone who compliments you, travel the world, and be deliriously happy.
Katharine Hoffmann is a Freelance Writer, certified ESL teacher, and cervical cancer survivor currently living in Sydney, Australia. After the onset of a Quarterlife Crisis in December 2010, she packed her bags and moved to the Czech Republic to figure out what comes next in her life, only to discover a passion for wanderlust and living life on her own terms. When she’s not boarding a plane to another country, she’s drinking copious amounts of coffee in cafes, falling in love with life in Australia, and perfecting her Aussie accent.
It’s never too late to make fitness apart of your daily routine. While some people may have already ditched their New Year’s resolutions, here is a new way to stay fit and active.
“It’s a beautiful day for boot camp.”
That’s the motto of Anita “Sarge” Kellman, founder of Beat Cancer Boot Camp. The fitness based support program was designed to help cancer survivors be their best-physically and mentally.
Studies suggest that physical activity reduces the risk of breast, lung, colon, endometrial and prostate cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute. Exercise has been proven to boost energy, improve mood, control weight and prevent health conditions and diseases.
The Tucson, Ariz., based company began in 2004 after Kellman took boot camp classes and learned techniques from Navy Seals. She decided to take her newfound knowledge to create a support system for survivors and their family and friends.
Before starting an exercise routine, Kellman suggests survivors take a few things into consideration:
Kellman said it’s always a good time to exercise.
“Stop making excuses why you can’t do something and make the decision to get fit and stay healthy,” she said.
For more information about the boot camp go to: www.beatcancerbootcamp.com.