Survivor Spotlight: Tamika Felder
At age 25, many young adults are just starting their adult lives. Beginning a new career, living independently, planning and looking to the future. But for Tamika Felder this was not the case. In 2001, Tamika was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“It was really shocking, devastating, and totally unexpected.” Tamika recalls. “I was working, and living life, and you know – being a typical 25-year-old. Cancer came in and just swept the air out of my lungs and my feet from under me.” At the time of Tamika’s diagnosis, there was no social media, no Google, no online communities, and returning to her life after treatment was more difficult than expected. “I was trying to put back the pieces of my life, and those pieces no longer fit the same way.”
Does life go back to normal?
Tamika’s experience with cervical cancer had a profound effect on her. She had always thought that once her treatment was over, her life would return to the way it was before cancer. That she would just pick up right where she left off and try to find some sense of normality. “I think the hardest thing for humans in general sometimes is change. Cancer is so disastrous, so emotional, and you can never prepare for it.” Tamika never saw herself as a cancer patient advocate, and during her treatment she thought she wouldn’t want to be an advocate at all. But after her experience something changed – she realized something needed to be done about cervical cancer.
We need to talk about Cervical Cancer.
“There wasn’t a lot of talk about it, and I was getting annoyed by this. [Laughs] And not that I wanted to talk about it, but I wanted someone to talk about it. And one day, someone said “why don’t you talk about it?” and I was like “oh ok” and I went down this rabbit hole of advocacy and here I am over a decade later, trying to really work to end cervical cancer.”
Rebuilding a way forward.
Tamika put the pieces of her life back together in a new, and big way. She founded a nonprofit Tamika and Friends. Now known as Cervivor, the nonprofit aims to educate women on HPV, cervical cancer, and cancer prevention. This group empowers individuals, patients, and survivors to educate themselves, get active, and ultimately fight to end this disease. Cervivor also serves as a strong community to heal and connect those who have been through, or are still fighting, cervical cancer.
“My overarching goal, for all cancer survivors, no matter what diagnosis or stage, I want them to live the best life beyond their cancer. Whatever that looks like for them. But in terms of my organization and cervical cancer, I want to be put out of business. I want us to forget cervical cancer. I want there not to be a need for my organization.”
Chart your own Path.
When asked what advice she would give newly diagnosed patients, Tamika offered: “There is no blueprint. You cannot follow anyone else’s steps and think that is going to be your outcome. It’s a daily learning experience, it’s overwhelming, and it’s tough, but you have to be all in. Days where you don’t feel like being all in, lean on your tribe. Have people that you can lean on. You can honestly tell them how much it sucks and how awful it is and have your pity party. But then you’ve gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.”
At the beginning of her journey, Tamika was a 25 year old thrown unexpectedly into the world of cancer. Her goals, aspirations, and life were put on hold at a time when she should have been thriving.
Now, Tamika runs an incredible organization, helping cancer patients every day. Tamika is married and has a step daughter. Tamika speaks internationally and is an award winning TV producer and host. Tamika dusted herself off, and kept moving forward. Always Forward.
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