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.
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.
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.