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Mary: Finding A Greater Purpose

Mary: Finding A Greater Purpose

Mary Baker did not plan on a journey through cancer in her 30's. However, like similar young women before her, her attitude and determination through this journey is nothing short of admirable. Not only is she a survivor, an advocate and a passionate woman determined to live her life to the fullest, but she is a hero. She is a hero to all the women she comes into contact with that she inspires to never give up. Mary shares her story...

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At 33 years old, I was diagnosed with metastatic cervical cancer. I thought, how could this be happening to me? I’m a young mom. I knew I had HPV from prior gyn visits, putting me at an increased risk for cervical cancer, but I never thought it could actually happen to me. A week later, on my 34th birthday, I was on the operating table having lymph nodes removed. Once I recovered enough from surgery, I went through nine intense weeks of treatment, which included external radiation, chemotherapy, and brachytherapy (internal radiation administered directly to the cervix). I was extremely sick and scared. I had even ordered my children books on grief, because I wasn’t sure I would come out of it. Thankfully, those books are still in their packaging. All scans since my 2016 treatment have showed no evidence of disease. I had a lot of physical and mental recovering to do. I was gentle with myself. I did some yoga stretches every morning followed by reflecting on what I was grateful for that day, and it set me on a path to recovery. Before I knew it I was able to go from not having the strength or energy to stand long enough for a shower, to short walks with the dog, to hikes with my family. I still have many limitations due to long term side effects from treatment, but when there’s a will, there’s a way.

Whatever I’m able to do, no matter how big or small, I go forth in gratitude.

It has had a powerful effect on every aspect of my life. Today I am an advocate for cervical cancer awareness and run a casual local support group. These have given me a sense of greater purpose, and continues to bring the most wonderful people into my life. To anyone else facing a diagnosis of cervical cancer: it is tough, and there will be times of despair, but you can do hard things. Know that the other side of this ugly disease is a beautiful place to be. Reach out to other women going through it for mutual support— social media is your friend for this (hint: follow #cervivor!). Finally, understand and remind yourself as often as you need to, “it’s not my fault.” 

 

A person who has made a difference in my life and whose story compels me to advocate is a dear friend that I met and had an instant connection with at Cervivor School this summer, Lisa Moore. She lived in reality about her situation and spoke with refreshing honesty. She didn’t really view herself as a good candidate for an active advocate because of the stage of her progressive illness, but she did it, and her voice was powerful. She became my reason for advocating. Her passing left a hole in our community and yet a bittersweet gratitude for her peace. No one should have to suffer the way she did, and I am dedicated to making sure that her story continues to be told so that we can eradicate cervical cancer for future generations. 
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