We started out with our first night where we had a meet and greet with all our fellow Cerviors. We were serenaded by the wonderful music from two individuals who are cancer survivors who express their story through song and had time to get to know each other. It was a great laid back time to meet the other ladies.
Friday kicked off with a full schedule. We did some getting to know you activities, one of which I got to co-lead with a Cervivor Ambassador Maria. It was a great time! We had each lady write down three facts about herself and each person had to guess who it was. It was a great way to get to know a large group of fabulous women. Next there was a focus on our personal stories, how to tell our stories, and how to get our stories out there in a way that can make a difference. We talked about having different versions of our story: an "elevator speech", 2 minute story, and our full story. We talked about how we might look to our audience to determine which version of our story we would be telling. We also learned about how to fully utilize social media to our advantage. It was so informative! My goal is to use more hashtags and link information together more efficiently! We also had a presentation by Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica, CA and a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Durvasula. She is featured on the video Someone You Love and she was 100% real, honest, and open. She was ready to talk to us about anything and everything. I came out of this day ready to go out and advocate for cervical cancer awareness, HPV testing, and general education.
Saturday was another full schedule and I loved it! This day focused a lot around being sure we were educated with all the facts. The first person to present was a fellow cervical cancer survivor, author, and wellness expert Mary Marcdante. Our next presentation was given by Jesse Nodora, DrPH, and Ana Lilia Maldonavo, both of Project Vela and it focused on HPV, cervical cancer, health disparities and public health. It was great to have experts there, in the flesh, ready to answer our questions! Up next, Rebecca Perkins, MD, MSc Boston University School of Medicine joined us via Skype. She provided information about HPV screenings and vaccinations. She was also very informative about common misconceptions and how we can combat those misconceptions. As I assumed, there is so much misinformation out there regarding the Gardisil vaccine. Previously I would disregard people talking negatively about the vaccine so I was greatly appreciative to have so many facts provided to help me be able to combat that misinformation!
Next we ended up a little bit off schedule and watched the video Someone You Love. I have previously viewed this video. I found it very difficult to watch this time. I am in a different place in my treatment right now. Knowing that my cancer has returned for the third time made it very difficult to view. There is a wonderful woman on the video who deals with a cancer reoccurrence and doesn't make it. I knew that going into the video. I left the room frequently when she was on the video. After the video we passed around the microphone and discussed our feelings after viewing the video. As you can see in the recap video the camera caught me in a rare "crying moment". As my family can attest I typically have a "no crying rule" with cancer. It was a difficult moment and I am glad I had my Cervivor family around me during this time. After the video we wrapped up our sessions for the day with "Keeping Things Sizzling" and talked about physical intamcy issues that go along with cancer. We had a fabulous dinner then we got to view a spectacular burlesque show. What a better way to finish up a long day in Cervivor School?
Sunday was graduation day and it was great. My body had finally decided it wasn't going to break the fever I had been fighting since Wednesday but I didn't let that stop me. I attended graduation and I'm so glad I did! My flight back was pretty rough and I was checked into the hospital upon return to Indiana
I am so happy that I went to Cervivor School and I can't wait to expand my advocacy efforts!