For the past five years Tamika & Friends has hosted the Walk to Beat the Clock 5K event in Washington, DC. This event promotes awareness of HPV and its cause of cervical cancer, and creates a community for women and their loved ones looking for emotional and financial support.
When Tamika asked me to speak at the event this year I was honored. I am not a cancer survivor. In fact, I am not even a cancer thriver. But I am someone who carries a strong message about the value of co-testing (Pap + HPV DNA test).
My goal in participating in the 5K was to make sure that no woman should be in the position, both literally and figuratively, of total surprise during a cervical cancer screening when they prop themselves up on their elbows, forgetting the speculum is still inside them, ouch!, and exclaim with disbelief, “Nearly my entire cervix is taken over by an STD that can give me cancer?! How could this be? I feel fine. I’ve followed Pap screening guidelines religiously. I’ve never even had a bad Pap.”
It is said that good fortune is the combination of luck and preparation, and when it comes to cervical cancer prevention, this couldn’t be more true. Speaking at the Walk to Beat the Clock 5K gave me the chance to educate women about co-testing and to prepare them with the right tools to prevent cervical cancer, because women’s health is too important to rely on luck alone.
For me, it was just random luck that I tried a new doctor, who happened to teach me the value of the right screening tools; co-testing. My Pap came back normal, but the HPV DNA test showed I was positive for high risk strains, which led to more frequent screenings. If my doctor hadn’t done co-testing, and had just based my care off the normal Pap results, then the disease that my unchecked HPV was cooking up could’ve boiled over into advanced cancer before my next screening! Luckily, the results of the HPV DNA test led to more frequent follow-ups and a few months later, when the HPV started to stir up, and my Pap came back Low Grade ASCUS, I had colposcopy and a biopsy which revealed CIN III. I believe the HPV DNA test saved my life and prevented me from having advanced cervical cancer. Prevention starts with being prepared with the right tools; co-testing.
Yet sadly, for so many, my good fortune is not the norm and this is what made my participation in the Walk to the Beat the Clock 5K such an enormous moment for me. Because as Tamika said, “Cancer is scary. But prevention can be so easy.”
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.