Catching up with Anna Ogo

Tell me about when you were first diagnosed with cervical cancer and how that experience was for you.

At the end of 2020, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, I underwent my annual health check, including cervical cancer screening. This was a routine I diligently maintained. To my surprise, the results came back abnormal, accompanied by a positive HPV test. While I had experienced occasional abnormal Pap results in the past during my time in Japan, they were often dismissed by healthcare providers as inconsequential, leading me to believe they were nothing to worry about. Consequently, I continued with yearly Pap tests, unaware of the lurking danger.

Anna Ogo

“It was a pivotal moment when I realized I wasn't alone in my experiences.” -- Anna Ogo, Cervical Cancer Survivor since 2021

The news of my cervical cancer diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. Despite feeling perfectly healthy, the reality sunk in that my body was harboring a silent threat. Regrettably, my ignorance of the significance of those past abnormal results haunted me, and I wished I had been more proactive in seeking further investigation or guidance.

How did you get connected with Cervivor? How did you hear about it?

After completing my cervical cancer treatments, including surgery and radiation, I found myself grappling with a profound sense of loss and isolation. Despite powering through the physical challenges of treatment, I struggled to reconcile the changes in both my body and mind that persisted long after cancer had been treated.

In my search for support and understanding, I stumbled upon Cervivor, a community of individuals who had walked similar paths and understood the complexities of life after cervical cancer. It was a pivotal moment when I realized I wasn't alone in my experiences.

In 2022, I had the opportunity to attend the Cervivor School, an experience that proved to be truly transformative. Being surrounded by others who shared their stories, insights, and resilience was incredibly empowering. It provided me with a sense of belonging and validation, helping me navigate the challenges of survivorship with newfound strength and courage.

What have you been working on since Cervivor School?

Since attending Cervivor School, I've been committed to advocacy work within the Asian Amerian and Pacific Islander community, with a particular emphasis on raising awareness about cervical cancer screening and the importance of the HPV vaccine.

Immediately following Cervivor School, I seized the opportunity to join the Teal Blue Japan project—a nationwide campaign aimed at promoting cervical cancer screening and enhancing understanding of the HPV vaccine among local communities in Japan.

My involvement in this initiative has been incredibly rewarding, allowing me to leverage my experiences and newfound knowledge to make a meaningful impact within my community. Through collaborative efforts with local organizations and community leaders, we've worked tirelessly to dispel myths, address cultural barriers, and empower individuals to take charge of their health.

What has been the most significant change you have seen in yourself since you've started this journey?

The most significant change I've witnessed in myself since embarking on this journey is a profound shift from feelings of shame and guilt surrounding my diagnosis to a newfound confidence in sharing my story with others. Initially, cultural influences and internalized stigma made me feel ashamed and burdened by my diagnosis during treatment. However, as I've progressed, I've come to recognize the potential impact of my story in potentially saving someone else's life.

This transformation has been accompanied by an increased sense of resilience and compassion towards others. Through my own experiences, I've cultivated a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those navigating similar journeys, and it has ignited within me a passion for advocacy and support.

By embracing my story and sharing it openly, I hope to break down barriers, challenge stigmas, and inspire others to prioritize their health and well-being. Each opportunity to connect with others and offer support reinforces my belief in the power of resilience, compassion, and the human spirit.

What is your advice to women about cervical cancer?

My advice to women about cervical cancer is straightforward: prioritize regular cervical cancer screening. It's crucial to stay up to date with screenings because early detection can truly be lifesaving. Additionally, I urge women to seek accurate information from reputable and credible organizations to ensure they have a clear understanding of cervical cancer risks, prevention strategies, and available resources.

Above all, remember to prioritize self-care and advocate for your health. Don't hesitate to schedule screenings, ask questions, and seek support from healthcare professionals and community resources. Your health and well-being are invaluable, and proactive steps like regular screenings can make a significant difference in early detection and treatment outcomes.