Ann Zijac: On a journey of advocacy and empowerment

By Anne Zijac, Cervivor ambassador and 2023 Cervivor Chamnpion

I'm excited to share with you the incredible strides I've made since attending a few powerful patient advocacy training courses. I attended HPV Cancer Survivors School in Memphis, Tennessee last October after being selected to attend the Cervivor School in Nashville, Tennessee in September 2022. At the time, I had no idea that those pivotal events would launch me on a journey of advocacy, awareness, and empowerment.

My journey began with a bold step at the start of the year. In November 2022, I drafted and submitted a proclamation declaring January, Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in Kansas. This proclamation sheds light on early detection, prevention, and support for cervical cancer patients. It was a meaningful way to kickstart a year filled with purpose. Governor Laura Kelly signed the proclamation on January 3, 2023. Just a month later, I was honored to be a keynote speaker at the Kansas Immunization Coalition's Immunization Advocacy Day at the Kansas Statehouse.

photo of Anne Zijac

Anne Zijac, 2023 Cervivor Champion

My speech focused on the significance of vaccinations in preventing HPV-related cancers and the importance of spreading awareness about immunization. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who share a passion for protecting the health of our communities. I drafted and submitted another proclamation, declaring March 4 as HPV Awareness Day in Kansas. Governor Kelly signed the proclamation on March 4, 2023. This proclamation was crucial in highlighting the importance of HPV education and prevention, aiming to prevent HPV-related cancers and save lives. In May 2023, I took my advocacy efforts to the next level. At Cancer Action Day at the Kansas Statehouse, I spoke with legislators and advocated for policies that support patient care. This experience allowed me to be a voice for those affected by HPV-related cancers and to promote measures that can make a real difference.

Clara Zijac

Clara Zijac, Anne's 10-year-old daughter

This past September was an exceptional month. On September 15, my ten-year-old daughter, Clara, received her second shot to complete her HPV vaccination series. My daughter's achievement is also my most significant advocacy achievement over the past year. We discussed that I had cervical cancer because of HPV, and I did not want her to experience what I went through. I kept the conversation simple with Clara because of her age and explained that this was a shot to prevent cancer. Clara bravely said yes, and I am so proud of her!

Later that month, I continued my journey of learning and empowerment by attending Cervivor School in Seattle, Washington. As a Cervivor Ambassador and mentor, I had the opportunity to connect with other survivors and share my own experiences. This enriching and inspiring experience reaffirmed my commitment to the cause. I am also incredibly honored to receive the Cervivor Champion Award. This award represents my achievements and the collective efforts of countless individuals working toward a world free of HPV-related cancers. It's a testament to the power of advocacy, awareness, and community.

My journey as a Cervivor Ambassador has been remarkable, marked by proclamations, speaking engagements, and the honor of receiving the Cervivor Champion Award. I'm deeply committed to the cause of HPV-related cancer awareness and prevention, and I'm excited to continue making a difference in the lives of those affected by these diseases. As we move forward, let us all work together to create a world where no one has to face the challenges of HPV-related cancers alone and where every day is an opportunity to spread hope and support.

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