I am a mother and a poet, and in 1999, I was diagnosed with stage II cervical cancer. The news was devastating.
My treatment included 28 days of intense radiation and a procedure where doctors placed a cancer fighting implant inside my cervix. This procedure was done twice, and each time, I had to lie on my back for three days without moving.
These treatments left me severely anemic, and my digestive tract still has not recovered. Yet, I am still alive, and like Tamika, I’m working to help other women who have cervical cancer and those who are at-risk for this disease.
When diagnosed, I was working at Tennessee’s state health department, and that’s where I met Dr. Wendell Inman, the director of The Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. She turned out to be a true inspiration. I originally approached her about helping me release my poetry, but after hearing about my struggle, she asked me to personally share my story and invited me to appear at a cancer seminar.
Dr. Inman continued to encourage me after this first appearance. She eventually suggested I start a cervical cancer organization, and I thought she was kidding! I had no business experience and little desire to run an organization. After seriously thinking about it and praying about it, I founded the Cancer Coalition of Tennessee in September 2001.
While still keeping my job at the health department, I began to appear at as many events as possible. Being part Cherokee, African American and Portuguese helps me relate to a variety of women. Most often, I did these events by myself, but my daughter and friends helped me as well. In the beginning, I spent a lot of my own money to start this organization, and the “office” was my apartment. I am especially proud of our growth. In 2002, we created posters and bus advertisements that ran on 100 buses in Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga, and we now have an office space. The director of Meharry’s OB-GYN department donated two offices for us – free of charge, and we’re right next to Meharry’s women’s clinic. I plan to continue to help other women overcome this disease, and I thank Tamika for this opportunity to share my survival story.