I grabbed the stationary from the Washington Court Hotel as almost an afterthought. The bags were perched by the door and the bed was haphazardly remade to resemble the fact that I wanted to leave the room as I had found it. I tucked the heavy, creme-colored paper in between the screen and keyboard of my netbook. I can’t really explain what happened in Washington DC, except to tell you that for 32, glorious hours, I was struck silent with wanton, political and passionate love. I wrote Ava a letter on the way home while sitting in the airport during a layover. As my pen traced each shape, all I could think was how I had become a living, breathing, example to what I so wanted to prove.
Our weaknesses, make us stronger.
I stood up in front of a group of people in Minnesota only a year prior. I told a room at Imation Headquarters that the old adages were false. We are at our very core, storytellers to what we have overcome. I played this scene and expressed with utter belief that no one would ever give us opportunities to play our own music and passions, unless we commended their presence. You could say, that was the tipping point of my career. Some of my favorite people were in the room for Social Media Breakfast that morning and I wanted them to view me as I viewed myself: beautifully and artfully scarred and strong. I was more than a Social Media enthusiast or a cancer survivor. I was 4’11 but felt 7’0. I wanted to become a force for good. Proof that the numbers behind Social Media weren’t what mattered at all.
I wrote to my daughter as passionate tears flowed down my face:
“We brand ourselves with titles that are far less important: Manager. Director. Connoisseur. We actually pretend we matter by the number of followers we have, or our retweets. Our scars, are what sets us apart. In life, the ugly and disfigured moments are the greatest gifts we have. ROI and analytics resonate with the brain, but not the heart. Do conquer both, give testimony to what you have overcome and encourage others to do the same. This, my Ava: Is your legacy. We will never be victims as long as we open our mouth long enough to ease the plight of others. That, is what makes us survivors.”
I stood in front of Barack Obama and First Lady Michele’s Presidental Advisory Team. I hugged Senator Amy Klobuchar as she listened to my concern for women’s health. I sat across a table in the Capitol Building from Senator Al Franken and confidently expressed my story and thanks for his advocacy for Cervical Cancer Survivors. I walked the pavement of others before me, and I realized the potential my words held. I gave my story, and each person listened.
That evening, in the airport bar, we dropped our Cosmopolitan glasses and tears streamed down our faces as President Obama addressed cancer and affordable health care in the State of the Union Address. The bartender moved everyone out of the way as I remarked, “This is for Patti, this is for Terri, this is for JANET.” For those that fought cancer, and those that I lost this past year the President’s words had invaluable meaning for me. People came before, and someone thought enough to listen. Now it was my job to pave the way for my child to know that her mother believed in the GOOD of government, (as faulty as it sometimes was.) Just hours prior, I had sat in a rarely-seen reception room of the White House as my eyes took in every nook and crevice: this privilege was unimaginable.
I went to Capitol Hill. This happened, as hard for me to believe. I took a back-stage tour of the White House, (and met the florist and the butler and the kitchen staff.) I saw the Presidental china newly washed and stacked and my fingertips touched a tangible piece of history. I brought home nothing except the hotel stationary and the confidence that if we all EMBODIED what we believed in, we would be unstoppable.
I put my pen down in time to see the lights dim outside the window as the plane climbed higher. I never imagined it would take me weeks to process one of the most important moments of my life.
I closed the letter to my daughter saying:
“You might remember me as the one who demanded more from you. You must know why: You are born of me and I refuse to accept that anything is out of our reach. Dream on, Ava.”
Play your music loud.
These women, will change your life. Join us in speaking out passionately about Cervical Cancer. http://www.tamikaandfriends.org/