I was 31 years old – singing my songs, living and loving my life when I was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer with extensive lymphatic invasion. I fought the fight – surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and brachytherapy. And I won.
I learned a lot about cervical cancer and HPV (the virus that causes it) along the way. I learned that it is PREVENTABLE and that there are TOOLS to help women – of all ages – avoid this cancer. So I decided to use my story, my voice, my passion and my music to educate and empower other women.
I held a benefit concert and called it POP SMEAR. It worked – people listened, learned, and went on to spread the word. So I did it again and again and again and called it THE YELLOW UMBRELLA TOUR and established www.theYellowUmbrella.org. The TOUR has made over 100 stops across the country. We have united local, national, and international musicians around this cause. Now we bring the message even deeper into communities with PAINT IT YELLOW – a week long program that brings the music and the message into colleges, high schools, middle schools, and other community settings and work places so that EVERYone hears that cervical cancer IS indeed preventable.
In addition – The Yellow Umbrella Organization is always trying to find new fun ways to get the word out there. We have collaborated with my survivor sister Tamika Felderto create an educational tool kit, and most recently teamed up with celebrity makeup artist Debra Macki to create special beauty and fashion events all themed around taking care of your body, inside and out!
2011 was an exciting year under the organization – with 5 more Paint It Yellows under our umbrella, we applied for our very first grants to support our work in rural, upstate NY and WE GOT BOTH OF THEM!!!! This will allow the Paint It Yellow program to continue in 2012, to enrich the communities beyond the “primer coat” – and allow us to follow up to assess what information has turned into action, and how we can most effectively reach everyone with this empowering message. In addition, I released “SHINE ON” – an EP about finding your way through the storm, whatever your storm may be, and is exclusively to benefit the organization. The CD release was filmed by a documentary crew and MAY be part of a documentary that will help raise awareness on the big screen through film. And our big dreams for 2012 include another national Yellow Umbrella Tour – to coincide with September, gynecologic cancer awareness month. In the meantime, I continue to do speaking gigs and music gigs wherever people ask me to be…. And I’m always happy to be there!
I LOVE MY LIFE. I KNOW WHY I GET UP EVERY DAY. I KNOW WE CAN STOP THIS CANCER. WE HAVE THE ANSWERS – we just have to use the tools:
THE HPV VACCINE – for ages 9-26
THE PAP TEST (liquid is better!) – ages 21+
THE HPV TEST – ages 30+
No matter what your age, there is SOMEthing you can do. Please – help us spread the word!
Founder and Executive Director of The Yellow Umbrella Organization