Portraits of Navita Gunter, a cancer survivor, made for the Crowning Glory Project of the Parthenon Chapter of Links, Inc., of Nashville, Tennessee, 17 April 2010.

The “MeToo” movement is not only one of the greatest movements to come out of 2017 and into 2018, but it can also be another rallying cry for the prevention of cervical cancer and other sexually transmitted diseases. Not only have women been sexually abused but they have also been put at tremendous risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

Cervical cancer is one such disease, which is transmitted by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  So you might ask, “What is HPV?” The Human Papillomavirus, known as HPV, refers to a group of over 100 related viruses, according to Web-MD. About 40 of the viruses are sexually transmitted viruses that spread through contact with skin, mucous membranes and fluids in the genital area, most often through intercourse or oral sex. And smokers, get ready for another shocker.  Information obtained from the “Quit Smoking” website had this to say about smoking and cervical cancer: “Most everyone knows smoking increases your chances of lung cancer. But smoking also increases your risk for cancer of the stomach, mouth, throat, kidney, cervix, pancreas and bladder. 10 years after quitting your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker’s. Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases.”

Having said all of that, my article today would like to focus on the very real, very private, and very PAINFUL other aspects of sexual abuse, one that a lot of women while trying to deal not only with the trauma of a man violating their bodies without their permission, but that the doctors might also have to tell them that they will have to be screened for sexually transmitted diseases. This itself is a double WHAMMY! To that poor woman that one minute was in control of who she was and how she saw herself to now being a victim, not only forced to relive a vicious assault, but to also be told that it may not be OVER with yet and that she may have contacted a very nasty and potentially life-threatening disease.

Now, some of you may be thinking “Who is this woman that is trying to tell me about very painful subject?”  I will tell you, not only am I in the “MeToo” club, but I am also a member of the “cervical cancer club” and no, I am not saying this like some badge of honor.  I say it only to let you know that I can relate to you and what you may have been through or are going through. But like Ms. Oprah Winfrey said on the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” Ms. Winfrey said, as she settled into a preacher’s rousing cadence. She recounted the story of Recy Taylor, a black woman who was raped in 1944 and whose white assailants were never charged. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men,” Ms. Winfrey said. She paused, just for a moment. “But their time is up.” The audience broke into applause. “Their time is up!” The audience rose to their feet. “Their time is up!”

If I may add to Ms. Winfrey’s inspirational speech, this is what we as women need to say to cervical cancer,“YOUR TIME IS UP!” We will no longer let you keep our bodies captive and our tongues silent. I have always known that sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases walked hand-in hand, but because of the terrible effect that sexual violence has on women, a lot of times the possible other symptoms are often overlooked or understated.  Not anymore!

This is why I feel so passionate about getting and keeping the word out about cervical cancer and the damage that it causes those close to us and our families. Cervical cancer caught me by surprise over 20 years ago, but I vowed from that time forward by volunteering with the Cervical Cancer Coalition of Tennessee that it would not catch any other woman this way. I will continue to share my story and pray that it will inspire women to take better care of themselves and go for their Pap tests and pelvic exams. As I have often said, “CANCER DOES NOT CARE!” but you have an ally in me. I would like to leave you with a poem I wrote when I was going through some of my darkest moments with my illness.

THE ENEMY WITHIN

Beautiful mothers with your

heads held high.

Forever fighting the good fight

just trying to get by.

 

You open your loving arms to try and

heal major hurts.

Being the caregiver over God’s green

Earth.

 

Always taking care of other’s and forgetting

about you.

Being forever loving and strong never letting others know the

hurts that life is putting you though.

Being STALKED by a killer that is often silent and hides deep

within.

 

A killer that if is not detected early can bring about your slow

and pain filled end.

 

Beautiful mother you must STOP and make some

time for yourself.

For this KILLER can only be stopped if you seek

out early help.

 

There’s and ENEMY within you that will grow stronger

everyday.

Unless you get tested and put road blocks in it’s

way.

 

Mother this killer will attack the life-giving parts of your

body first.

So as to make you incapable of feeding life’s milk to your

baby and even giving birth.

 

Strong mothers don’t let this enemy within

win.

Take back your LIFE be a SURVIVOR and let your

healing begin.

 

Dear mother this enemy within has a name and causes families

and loved one’s unhappiness and pain so reach out your hands mother’s

to those that will help you get treatments and answers.

to help you defeat this enemy within, this enemy that goes by the name of

CERVICAL CANCER!

 

 

 

 

Navita, cervical cancer survivor and poet and founder of the Cervical Cancer Coalition

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail