“I knew what cancer was; I knew what the cervical part of it was, but I didn’t really understand where all this came from,” Moore said. “I had never even really heard about HPV (Human papillomavirus) until I had gotten my diagnosis.”
After she learned of her cancer, Moore immersed herself in cervical cancer information in order to truly understand the disease. Since then, she has made it her personal mission to spread the word about the deadly, yet preventable, cancer.
Imagine Moore Life
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and in the United States nearly 15,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, a third of whom die from the disease, said Kristen Sheeley of the Women of W.O.R.T.H. Inc. Clinic in Rome.
“This is despite the fact that cervical cancer is highly preventable because of screening tests and a vaccine that prevents the strains of virus that cause most cervical cancers,” Sheeley said. “For women aged 21-65 years, regular cervical cancer screening can help prevent cancer.”
Moore, owner of Imagine Studio for Hair and Art on Broad Street, has become the face of cervical cancer awareness throughout the Rome and Floyd County area.
She said that because of the story that was published about her and her cancer struggles in a March edition of the Rome News-Tribune, community members have reached out to her for more information about cervical cancer. And now, Moore has become an inspirational beacon to many, so much so that students at the Floyd County College and Career Academy created a cervical cancer awareness campaign in her honor called Imagine Moore Life.
Moore said a teacher at the Floyd County College and Career Academy, Janda Canalis, wrote a letter to her thanking her for sharing her story in the newspaper. Canalis expressed in her letter that Moore was such an inspiration and asked her if she would be willing to come give her testimony to the heath care class, informing Canalis’ students about cervical cancer. Moore spoke to several classes in October and November.
“The next thing I knew, they set off a whole campaign called ‘Imagine Moore Life,’” she said, “and they asked me if they raised money for cervical cancer, where would I want the money to go? And I chose Women of W.O.R.T.H.”
When the students kicked off the campaign, she said, they called it Holly Week and designed and sold T‑shirts and sold teal bracelets that said Smear Me Yearly, a reference to the Pap smear used to detect cervical cancer.
Since teal is the cervical cancer awareness color, Moore had local muralist Holly Cothran come and paint her windows with teal ribbons and awareness messages. The inside of Imagine is decked with teal ribbons and other decorations as well.
Moore said they have sold a lot of T-shirts at her downtown store and have also gotten monetary donations, and all proceeds will go to Women of W.O.R.T.H. Inc.
“Here, we have several hundred dollars going to the clinic,” she said, “And we’ve still got about two weeks left. And donations can be made to Women of W.O.R.T.H. any time. It doesn’t even have to be made by us.”
Sheeley said Women of W.O.R.T.H, which specializes in preventative gynecological care and cancer screening, plans to use the proceeds from the “Imagine Moore Life” campaign to continue its effort to provide affordable cervical and breast cancer screenings, STD screening and treatment, family planning services and more, that women of any insurance or income status can access.
Cervical cancer is the eighth most common cancer affecting U.S. women; worldwide, it ranks second, Sheeley said. For women in the U.S. who live in rural areas, cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths remain high among uninsured and underinsured women who do not have the financial means to access Pap smears.
“The rate of abnormal Pap smears among uninsured women in Northwest Georgia alone is shockingly three and a half times higher, that’s 21 percent higher than the national average of 6 percent,” Sheeley said.
A manageable fire
Moore, who originally had a tumor that was six centimeters in diameter, also had cancer activity in all the lymph nodes in her abdomen and had two spots on two separate nodes in her lungs.
“In 2011 I underwent chemotherapy and radiation at the same time for a nine-week period,” she said, adding that her cancer had reduced after the treatments and there was no current activity.
However, in March of 2012, her scans showed a slight increase in activity, but there was a silver lining: her tumor was 25 percent the size it was at the time she was diagnosed and there was no activity in the nodes in her stomach or lungs.
“We look at it as, it’s better to tend the small fire than it is to remove it and it being gone today and then it jumping and spreading somewhere else tomorrow,” Moore said. “From this point forward, they look at my cancer as something that’s manageable. They told me not to get discouraged, they don’t want to use the word curable. It’s more positive to look at it as something that’s manageable. And I may have to manage this for a very, very, very long time. But that’s OK.”
Though she still battles cervical cancer and has accepted that she will for some time, Moore said she feels better today than she did when she was diagnosed. She strongly encourages people, she said, to support clinics such as Women of W.O.R.T.H. because they’re essential to women who need those services.
For women who haven’t had a Pap smear in years, and who may be afraid of what the results of one may yield, Moore offered advice, demonstrating paramount strength and courage.
“There’s power in knowing what you’re dealing with versus fear of the unknown,” she said. “If there’s slight changes that are occurring in your body, listen to those changes. Don’t drag your feet, don’t sweep it under the rug. You have to be your own advocate for your own health.”