Local cervical cancer survivor spreading awareness for disease

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — January is the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. LaTasha Bostick has used the past 31 days to share her story about her battle with cervical cancer.

“I have to speak up,” LaTasha Bostick said. “I have to be a voice for the women who no longer have a voice.“

Bostick was diagnosed with cervical cancer 8 years ago in 2011 when she was just 32 years old. At the time, she said she was ashamed. She felt a stigma around the disease.

“I wanted to deal with everything that was coming for me silently because I didn’t want anybody to use that against me,“ Bostick said. She explained that it took a lot of strength to finally tell her own family about her diagnosis. “My daughter —I’ll never forget when I told her— she was like, 'Mommy are you gonna die?’”

Bostick was treated at UF Health and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. She was finally able to call herself a cancer survivor in 2013.

But Bostick believes if she had gotten regular check-ups earlier she might have caught the cancer a lot sooner.

“Early detection saves lives.” Bostick said. “Just like we preach about breast cancer. It is a vaccine to prevent the cancer. Why not use it?”

92% of cancers caused by HPV could be prevented by the vaccine, according to the Center for Disease and Control.

“This is something that lives within all of us if you’re sexually active,“ Bostick said.

She explained that there is a stigma around this disease. She said many people believe it’s associated with an STD, but it’s something that lives inside people’s bodies, and if they are sexually active, even just one time, they become exposed to it. This applies to men, too.

While the number of deaths from cervical cancer are down, the survival rate for non-Hispanic black women over a 5 year period is only 56 percent. Whereas, white women have a 69 percent survival rate over five years.

“A lot of us lack insurance. A lot of us do live in poverty,” Bostick said, referring to black women. “Then, even the ones that don’t live in poverty, they go and have a Pap. It’s abnormal. They get scared, and they don’t go back,“

That was the case for Bostick. She had no insurance and was scared.

Now, she speaks across the country to help people find free resources within their community.

In Jacksonville, the Florida Department of Health provides free exams for those who qualify. UF Health and the Mayo Clinic also have support groups.

As for Bostick, a disease she was once embarrassed about has now become her life’s work.

“Over 4,000 women die annually from cervical cancer,” Bostick said. “That’s one too many.”