Today marks the last day of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, but Houston philanthropist Narieka Barrett doesn’t want women to push the importance of taking care of their “lady parts” to the back burner once the month is over. Barrett, the founder of VanRosa Angels organization, believes the conversation surrounding cervical cancer awareness needs to happen more often and be a driving force to get women to become more active about their health. I caught up with Barrett at Starbucks last week and asked her to share her knowledge about cervical cancer and tell me more about her new organization. The VanRosa Angels organization, named after Barrett’s deceased mother and mother-in-law, is Barrett’s way of healing, helping and educating Houstonians about cancer and heart disease. “[The organization] was formed to show people who are battling with these sicknesses that someone is always there with them,” she says of her work through VanRosa. Barrett says showing support to those battling cancer is paramount during their journey through hard times. The organization is the brain child of Barrett and her 50-year-old mother Vanessa Elaine Tucker, who recently lost her life to cervical cancer after battling it for a year. Barrett spent the last year tending to the needs of her sick mother. “Everything just happened so quickly,” Barrett recalls of her mother’s bout with cervical cancer. “It was really hard. It still is hard.” Barrett made a promise to her mother and herself that she would carry out the plans they made to be inspirational and benevolent in the way of helping those in need and spreading awareness. “We pick one person a month who is dealing with cancer or other diseases and raise money for that person.” Money is raised through efforts such as, selling raffle tickets and hot meals and sponsored events.
Moving forward in her crusade to help others, Barrett is urging all women to practice getting a Pap smear, a vaginal checkup, once a year detect any signs of diseases, especially cervical cancer. “This is important, especially if you are sexually active.” She believes in being proactive instead of reactive about health. “Don’t wait until the last minute. It’s something I even have to make sure I practice myself, ” the mother of five insists.
Here’s what you should you know about cervical cancer:
*Cervical Cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina, grow out of control.
*In April 2016, it was estimated to affect nearly 13,000 women in the United States.
*Cervical cancer can be treated adequately if caught in the early stages. Pap smears can uncover the abnormalities in the cervix. In many cases, women are still able to have children with it.
*Cervical cancer typically comes from the contraction of human papillomavirus or HPV, which is spread through sexual contact with someone who has it.
Sypmtoms can include :
- Pain in the lower belly or pelvis
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal bleeding
( this information was obtained from http://www.webmd.com/cancer/cervical-cancer/cervical-cancer-topic-overview)
So if it as been a while since you have made your way to the gynecologist, the time is now to know the health of your “lady parts.” Be proactive, not reactive. Loving yourself is about taking care of yourself holistically. Be blessed, beauties. And go get your annual check ups.