I probably shouldn’t say any of this. I probably should just get over what happened earlier this year, let it go. I probably should forget the people who threw me away, hurt me, because it’s “their loss”. And though I know and understand that it’s their loss, it still hurts like a bitch that a group of women … I’m sorry, not just your average group of women … a group of CERVICAL CANCER SURVIVORS preaching advocacy and support, threw me away for no reason and, to this day, ZERO explanation.
As someone who never felt like she fit in not only as an adolescent, but also as an adult, finding Cervivor, a cervical cancer advocacy and support organization, made me feel understood and accepted after going through surgery and treatment in 2009 for cervical cancer treatment. After dealing with the scariest time of my life, this close-knit group of women brought me in, spoke of acceptance, encouragement and sisterhood.
They pulled me in further through becoming an advocate for cervical cancer prevention. They brought me to “Cervivor School” to help me be a better advocate by finding my voice as well as forming bonds with other “cervivors” that formed into friendships. My first Cervivor School I received a scholarship to attend; my second school I was gifted the airfare and hotel stay once again, but this time because I’d agreed to assist with their social media outreach while attending.
I was elated to go. I’d felt empowered by these women because our cancer connected us. Women who’d felt the same insecurities, anxieties, and a wide range of other emotions I’d felt in dealing with my own cancer. I’d bonded with women, sharing my story on a variety of levels, some of which were extremely personal, but their closeness made me feel comfortable and confident. And each time I left Cervivor School, I left with new friends and confidants; women who “friended” me through Facebook to keep in touch. Women who, when I posted on Facebook, would tell me how much they cared about me, and how happy they were that they’d met me. I’d felt the same way for them. I had a group I felt I could turn to. I had the support of women who understood me better than others sometimes could.
As someone who often shut people out, I had let a large group of women into my life based on trust; based on the thought that this group that had gone through similar pains and struggles was a new part of my “family”. Boy was I was fooled.
During my last Cervivor School trip there was an amazing woman who spoke to us about toxic people in our lives and how bad they were for us. At that time, I certainly didn’t realize that some of that toxicity was sitting in the very same room. Some of those women would do anything for the Founder of Cervivor, no matter who got hurt along the way.
Earlier this year, I was removed from a Cervivor Ambassador’s group, a group created for women who’d “graduated” Cervivor School and were on social media and in their communities trying to educate women about cervical cancer by telling their stories and offering information. I’d been involved as an advocate as much as possible, writing on social media and even being interviewed by magazines to tell my story. My abandonment was a sudden overnight change after the Founder came out telling members through a live video that someone who had been part of the group was threatening her and her family. No proof was given of the threats, only words in a live streaming video that some members who were also booted never even got to see because they were in the hospital or just not logged into Facebook late that night. From what I’ve seen, some were removed from a group that was special to us because they were “Facebook friends” with the woman in question, others because they weren’t advocating for the Cervivor cause enough. Either way, there was no message sent to inquire about the facts or to fully alert us of any issue. I woke up the following morning to find I’d not only been banned from a group I’d felt close to, but also unfriended and blocked by not only the Founder, but also by women I’d come to call my friends. They’d thrown me away for a reason that still has not been explained. These women who were part of a support system for cervical cancer survivors blocked out other survivors who called them friends as well. They took our feelings and sense of belonging and tossed them aside. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when Cervivor threw me away. It felt like a complete abandonment. And to make matters worse, those who still called me a friend, didn’t really care in the long run. Didn’t question the group or the Founder on why not only myself, but others, had been banned and blocked. No one stood up for us and said it was wrong. No one took a moment to say they knew us as friends and knew we deserved better. They watched us hurt for the loss of a support system that they all knew meant a great deal to our lives.
To those who blocked me, tossed me aside during this ordeal, I’m calling you out. You know who you are. You know what Cervivor and our group of ambassadors meant to me on a personal level. You watched me speak about my story during Cervivor School, tears streaming down my face, something I could only do because I felt I was surrounded by friends who understood me; women with enough class to be comforting and supportive towards others who’d faced cancer. You hugged me and told me I’d found my safe place.
You were full of shit. You followed someone else’s lead because, let’s face it, it’s just easier that way, isn’t it? It’s easier not to question the Founder of an organization because they lift you up. They send you goodies. They pat you on the back and make you feel like you mean something. Until you yourself are the target.
I know this because I didn’t stand up for others when I should have. When I listened to others saying things that were untrue or just insensitive to those I’d called friends, I didn’t stand up when I should have either. I’ve apologized to those women and now I’m standing up. Now I’m telling you that you can’t proclaim your friendship for someone, and then just decide you don’t care anymore or that something being said about them is correct without bothering to ask even a stickee question. In a time when women should offer empowerment toward one another, we shouldn’t be knocking one another down. And in an organization that promotes support and empowerment through cancer stories, we should not be such despicable, uncaring human beings as to make others who’ve already gone through so much feel like outcasts. Cancer groups are supposed to uplift, not discourage and cause unjust anxieties (like we don’t have enough anxiety as cancer survivors to begin with).
I’m not asking for these friendships back. However, I keep bringing this up not because I’m unable to get over it, but because the hurt doen’t just go away and what was done was in fact wrong. I bring it up for my friends who were also pushed out and feel the same hurt. I bring it up because these women who hurt us will surely never be our friends again, because even if they wanted to be, how can you trust someone who’s so easily thrown you away, but maybe they’ll think twice about doing it yet another cervical cancer survivor. And if you find yourself in that situation with this same group, feel free to call on me. There’s quite a few of us who’ll be here for you if you ever need someone. I am and always will remain a Cervical Cancer Advocate. I don’t need a group for that.
I’m sorry for those that got rid of me, because it’s true that it’s their loss. You lost a true friend, I only lost a bunch of toxic ones.