After 10 years, I’m still surprised at how much I talk about my cervix….to friends and strangers, to politicians and advocates, to teachers, students and parents. ANYONE who will listen. I guess I still do it because I believe it makes a difference.
At 31, when I was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer after 13 normal Pap tests, I had no idea what was in store for me. The surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and internal radiation were anticipated and agreed upon, so I kind of knew what I was stepping into on the physical side. But the emotional upheaval and depression that accompanied the physical assault on my body was another animal. I learned a LOT about myself through the whole experience and I learned a LOT about cervical cancer. So when I finally got to the other side – I decided to use my voice, my music and my story to share what I learned. I wanted to tell EVERYONE that cervical cancer is preventable – because it is.
I learned that cervical cancer is caused by a very common virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV). I learned that the Pap test looks for cell changes caused by HPV, but sometimes, it does not pick up those changes (that is what happened in my case). I learned about the DNA HPV test, recommended for women 30+ and those that get an abnormal Pap, that actually tests for the presence of the virus even before changes can be seen on the surface! And now of course, we know that there is the HPV vaccine that can stop 70% of the HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. These are the tools. We must use them. It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
No matter what your age, there is SOMETHING you can do to stop cervical cancer:
9-26 – HPV Vaccine
21+ – Pap test (liquid is better!)
30+ – HPV test with Pap test
I’ve made it my mission to talk to anyone who will listen because I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did – or worse – lose their life to this preventable cancer.I started www.theYellowUmbrella.org and have taken my tour/story/music and message around the country over 100 times. I’ve partnered with others like my survivor sister Tamika and celebrity makeup artist Debra Macki to continually find new, creative, fun ways to empower women (and the men who love them) with this information.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones because I am still here to share my story. But there are over 12,000 that will hear those words “you have cervical cancer” this year, and over 4,000 will NOT be here to blog about their stories. That is why I do what I do, and ask you to do the same. Share this information with a woman you love. Be part of preventing a cancer. Help me SAVE THE HOOCH! And rock on and on.
Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Christine Baze is a musician, cervical cancer prevention advocate and founder of YellowUmbrella.org.