Allison Hicks' Story

"Just two years ago, I was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. I had been under the... "

span quote left Just two years ago, I was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. I had been under the consistent care of a family doctor and had check-ups regularly, so when I was diagnosed it was a terrible shock. Within days of my diagnosis, I underwent radical surgery that left me scarred and unable to bear any biological children.

This tragedy is even more profound because I am a doula. Doula is Greek for "mother’s helper." I taught prenatal water aerobics and helped women give birth and care for their little ones during those first few weeks of life, so I was very much looking forward to experiencing pregnancy and motherhood one day.

But I was very lucky to have had so much support throughout my ordeal. While I was undergoing treatment and unable to work, my "urban tribe" of friends in Burlington, VT, provided me with tremendous support. The local media covered my story and I received much love from the community.

However, during my treatment and recovery, I never met any other cervical cancer survivors. I did not have access to the Internet so I couldn’t connect with survivors online. Not even my doctors were able to provide me with any contacts or support groups. Even though my friends were supportive, I felt I was being under-served. I didn’t know if it was my relatively young age (29), or the fact that I was on Medicaid, but I knew that there was more that could be done.

So, just months after recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I started the Hicks Foundation. This was the first foundation of its kind in the country founded by a cervical cancer survivor to offer free screenings and prevention tools. My initial goal was to raise money to provide free cervical cancer screening for women who had no health insurance.

But as I learned more about HPV and the new breakthroughs in medical technology, like the HPV test and vaccine, I wanted to do more! I became convinced that we could eradicate cervical cancer in Vermont, which has one of the highest rates of the disease in the nation. Thus, the Hicks Foundation added fundraising to provide free HPV vaccines to its mission. We also created www.freepap.org to provide information about our free cervical cancer screening days.

The foundation’s first silent auction raised more than $14,000. With this money, on January 20, 2007, we held the first free screening day, in which 40 women received free cervical cancer screenings and breast examinations, and 10 women received the HPV vaccine. They also received information about the HPV test and how it works along with the Pap and vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

I was honored when the Vermont State Legislature recognized my work with a resolution, which was passed that same day. The City of Burlington also demonstrated great support by declaring the date the Allison Hicks Free Cervical Cancer Screening Day. In addition, I am proud to be able to say that I was nominated for Vermonter of the Year for my work. The free screening clinic and all the support I have received have generated lots of publicity, helping to get the word out that cervical cancer is a preventable disease.

Meanwhile, as co-chair of the Vermont Cervical Cancer Working Group, I am working with policymakers to create programs to target women who don’t have access to cervical cancer screenings and are thus most at risk of the disease, providing them with medical services. I hope that people will contact me with any ideas they may have about these issues so that I can share them with this group, which is committed to eradicating cervical cancer in Vermont.

These days, my life is very busy raising money for the Hicks Foundation and working with others to eradicate the disease. I still struggle with health issues and am managing my loss and depression, which seems never-ending. But I have always been a caregiver and a nurturer, and I don’t know what else to do with all my pain and loss but try to be proactive in making sure no one else has to go through what I did. It’s all part of how I am healing.span quote right