As we begin Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, I want Black women to know their risk for this disease.
In 2001, at age 25, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I lost my fertility and almost my life. I made a vow to God, that if I lived I would use my voice to help others, even though I was ashamed of cervical cancer’s link to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
But, I’ve learned over the last decade that the stigma of HPV hurts the prevention of cervical cancer. So, I share my story with any and everyone.
So, how did I end up of with cervical cancer? I had my first Pap test at age 18 and followed up yearly until I graduated from college and moved away. I didn’t have insurance and didn’t feel like it was a big deal because I didn’t have any health issues. Boy, was I wrong. I finally started a job that offered health insurance and still didn’t go get a Pap test because I was too busy. I was working a new job and didn’t have time to take off. That all changed when I had a medical emergency and had to go to the emergency room. The doctor asked a simple question – when was my last physical? I couldn’t remember, but I knew it had been a few years. The next day I made and appointment and I am thankful for that doctor. Without him, I probably wouldn’t be here.
Black women are often diagnosed late and die from cervical cancer at increased rates. We must get screened!
My call to action – schedule your well woman exam now. Pick up the phone now. We have the tools to prevent and detect this disease. Let’s use them!
Tamika Felder is a 13-year Cervivor. She hangs out on Twitter @tamikafelder and her website is www.cervivor.org. Tamika is doing her part to eradicate cervical cancer.
This blog first appeared in January 2015.