“ Don’t give up. Fight like hell, even if there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. Live your life to the fullest until your last breath.
Tamika Felder is the Ebert and Roper of mAss Kickers. She is the queen of 80s B-movie knowledge and a strong advocate for cervical cancer awareness. Along with her duties as a television producer and onscreen personality, she founded Tamika and Friends , a cervical cancer nonprofit. We were lucky to find time with her to ask her a few questions.
mK: What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis? How old were you?
TF: I was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer in 2001 when I was 25. I found out when I went in for a routine pap smear after not having one for two years. That was my first mistake and one of those “if I could do it all over again” moments. Having your “coochie” sliced, diced, sutured and zapped is…man they don’t even have a word that suits my feelings! So, I will just let you use your imagination…
mK: What were your symptoms?
TF: I didn’t have any symptoms and that’s what really sucks about this cancer. It doesn’t really give you any warning signs. I went in because I finally landed a job with benefits. So, I made an appointment expecting them to tell me to loose weight and get more exercise. Instead, I left with a freaking death sentence.
mK: There is no way to prepare for those bombshells that physicians drop. Why did you start “Tamika and Friends”?
TF: I started Tamika and Friends because I felt that there was a need in the cervical cancer community. Right now there are all sorts of commercials and advertisements about cervical cancer, but when I was diagnosed there was nothing. I felt isolated and so alone. The little info that I did find just depressed the hell out of me and made me feel worse. I also didn’t know how to feel because my cancer was linked to an STD. So, it was like a double whammy. I just really wanted to build a warm loving community where people could talk honestly and open. It’s also not a “pity party” type of organization. We will comfort you but we will also make you laugh your ass off. We totally believe in laughter therapy.
mK: Yeah, mAss Kicking ain’t no pity party! What a great attitude! Who do you look up to?
TF: My deceased parents are my heroes. They were the smartest, most loving, fun people I’ve ever known. They grew up poor in South Carolina with limited education and created the best home and upbringing for their children. They taught us to work hard, love even harder, hold family close and get everything you want out of life. They were very humble and never truly realized the impact that they had not only on our family but everyone outside of it. They were just great all around. I owe my nurturing side, survival skills, warm heart and sense of humor to them. Oh, and my cuteness! LOL
mK: So, what motivates you?
TF: I’m motivated by the fact that I’m still here. That I made it to 2009. Seriously, I didn’t think I would make it. Then I survived the first year. Then the next and the next. When I made it to five it was like Barack Obama winning the Presidency…well, almost! I’m also motivated by survivors and patients who have an extremely grim prognosis but they find something deep within to fight.
mK: Yeah, the key is seeing people with a similar diagnosis doing well. When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
TF: September 2003 when I attended the President’s Cancer Panel meeting in Austin, TX for Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Survivors. It was the first time since my cancer diagnosis that I felt whole. I was surrounded by other young people like me who where dealing with cancer, as well as life i.e. work, dating, relating to your friends basically all the stuff people in their 20s and 30s go through.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
TF: Laugh – there are so many things. But, if I had to narrow it down to one it would be my nieces & nephews. They are constantly cracking me up.
Cry – knowing that my parent are gone. I would give anything for just one more moment.
Angry – when the Direct TV goes out during Grey’s Anatomy …that REALLY ticks me off!
mK: What was your toughest challenge during or after treatment? How did you overcome it?
TF: My toughest challenge after cancer was just learning to live life out loud again. I became a shell of who I once was. I didn’t enjoy life and I was just there. I overcame it with the love of my mother and friends. They basically didn’t give up on me. They allowed me to be depressed, but kept on me about living again. Surviving cancer is more than getting rid of the cancer. It’s about living your best life possible. And, there’s nothing that will make you enjoy life more than almost having it slip away.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
TF: Baby Bundt Cakes from Corner Bakery. They should be illegal. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
mK: Hmmm… have to try that. Random question time… What is your favorite movie?
TF: Grease 2. I like the original, but Michelle Pfeiffer singing “cool rider” is AWESOME. I also love when the calendar girls/pink ladies perform I’ll be your girl for all seasons at the talent show. Oh, and I’ll let you all know a secret Eric Galvez (our favorite mAss kicker) and I love Pirate Movie with Kristi McNichol and the blond guy from Blue Lagoon, I think his name was Christopher Atkins. For the record let me just say this was a really hard question. I feel like there should be some honorable mentions, like Coal Miners Daughter and The Color Purple.
mK: Hahaha! We heard Eric Galvez is a Star Wars fan boy… total geek. Anyways, if you were a character in Grease 2, who would you be?
TF: That would be one Stephanie Zanoni in Grease 2. Yup, Michelle Pfieffer’s character. She’s pretty, she gets the guy, she’s tough and she sings. I love to sing, but sadly I’m tone deaf. So, its really not good when I sing. I think I was a singer in a past life.
mK: You are already a “cool rider”! What do you like to do in your spare time?
TF: LOL – what spare time? I travel so much that when I get extra time I just lounge in my pj’s and watch movies or go to South Carolina and hang out with my family. But, seriously…what spare time?
mK: Jeez… busy busy! What are you doing now?
TF: Spilling my guts to my mAss Kicker peeps.
mK: Thanks for goofing around with us. Got any advice for people that get daunting diagnoses?
TF: Don’t give up. Fight like hell, even if there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. Live your life to the fullest until your last breath.
mK: Tell us something people probably didn’t know… anything.
TF: I’m a closet VH1 Reality TV show fan. Oh, and I have all of my baby teeth in a tiny preservative jar…on second thought that might have been too much information! Oh, well, it’s out there now…
mK: OK, that’s kinda gross! Hahaha… Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
TF: Never stop mAss kicking. Whether it’s for you or someone else!
Thanks Tamika for answering our questions! Tamika Felder: Inspirational cervical cancer advocate, B movie aficionado, tooth fairy contraband tooth runner, and genuine sweetie. Please check out Tamika and Friends and help her spread cervical cancer awareness.