My name is Diana Gittens and I’m from Guyana. In 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 3B cervical cancer.
I currently coordinate Guyana’s largest cancer awareness and fundraising initiative at the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, I’m involved with the Healthy Caribbean Coalition and also an Our Views, Our Voices Global Advisory Committee member. Previously I was on the Board of Directors of the Dominica Cancer Society. My NCD Diary reflects on a few important learnings from my lived experience: beginning with uncertainty and fear and facing stigma to finding my community and becoming an advocate.
19 November 2020
Shhh… Say Nothing!
“You did IT plenty?”
This was a comment made by a male friend when I told him of my cervical cancer diagnosis. He was referring to my sexual activity. The shame I felt after his comment made me stop talking about my diagnosis.
The memory has stayed with me until now.
It took many months of encouragement from a female friend to finally have the courage to say, “My name is Diana Gittens. I was diagnosed with Stage 3B cervical cancer.”
Sadly, along my journey, I became increasingly aware of the stigma that prevents women from speaking about their diagnosis. They have admitted to being silenced by the words and actions towards their diagnosis. This includes the healthcare professionals misconstruing “promiscuity” as a risk factor for cervical cancer whilst placing little or no emphasis on women with single partner being diagnosed with the condition. Fear of judgement prevents them from sharing their cervical cancer journey.
After over eight years of cervical cancer advocacy, I still hear the voice saying, “Shhh… Say Nothing! They will judge you”.
However, I listen to the loud, powerful cries of women seeking life-saving information about the symptoms, treatment and impact of cervical cancer on my life. And I will keep listening to the amazing, strength-filled journeys whispered to me by the women too shy to come forward and I will be their voice.
I will use every opportunity to share our common stories to increase awareness and motivate women to get screened.
I MUST say SOMETHING!
We need to unite our voices and call on governments, private sectors and civil society to support the creation of enabling environments. This can be achieved through access to knowledge and the provision of resources and skills needed to meet the unique needs of various communities.
Diana Gittens, lived experience of Cancer, Guyana
About NCD DIARIES
The NCD Diaries use rich and immersive multimedia approaches to share lived experiences to drive change, using a public narrative framework.