Cervical Cancer Survivor Says Early Detection Saved Her Life

Written By:Stacy Simon

Editor’s Note: Cervical cancer screening guidelines are updated as scientific evidence continues to evolve. Please read the most recent screening recommendations here.

"I feel like I can help make a difference as we work toward a cure to keep my children and grandchildren from hearing those three dreaded words: 'You have cancer.'"

Cynthia Dickson
photo of Cynthia Dickson outside

Cynthia Dickson has a family history of cancer – her father died from colon cancer at just 55. Even so, she was still shocked when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2000 at age 39.

“My family and my faith were my sources of strength during this ordeal,” said Dickson. “They were there for me every step of the way.”

Dickson’s cancer was detected early through a routine Pap test and treated with surgery. No chemotherapy or radiation treatments were needed. “I was very blessed,” said Dickson. “Thanks to my routine women’s exams, my cancer was caught early.” The American Cancer Society recommends regular cervical cancer screening for women beginning at age 21.

Relay For Life

After her recovery, Dickson became involved with Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society event held every year in communities around the world, raising money to invest in research and to provide information and services to cancer patients and caregivers. “My daughter Casey attended Relay while I was home recovering from my surgery in 2000,” said Dickson. “She came home and told me about Relay and insisted that I participate. I participated the following year and after my walk in the Survivors’ Lap, I was hooked.”

As Dickson became more involved, her passion for the cause grew. “I feel like I can help make a difference as we work toward a cure to keep my children and grandchildren from hearing those three dreaded words: ‘You have cancer,’” said Dickson.

Dickson has held several leadership roles with the Relay For Life of Bastrop/Smithville in Texas, which has raised more than $2 million throughout the last 15 years. She also serves as a member of the South Central Texas Region’s Relay For Life Council.

Another way Dickson fights to make a difference is through Lobby Days, organized by the Society’s advocacy affiliate, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). Participants like Dickson meet with their state senators and congress members to advocate for issues that will help fight cancer, including funding for cancer research and prevention.

Spreading the word about early detection

photo of Cynthia Dickson speaking at a Relay for Life event in a purple wig and holding a stuffed monkey named Edsl

In 2008, Dickson was honored as a Relay For Life Hero of Hope for her volunteer work. She speaks often at Relay events about her experience with cancer.

“Relay is my vehicle to spread the word about early detection. The Society’s early detection messaging truly saved my life,” said Dickson. “It is now my duty to make sure that others use the Society as a resource for research, education, advocacy, and service.”

When she speaks, Dickson often brings along a toy purple monkey named Edsl to help get her message across. The name stands for Early Detection Saves Lives. Dickson tells her audience, “Quit monkeying around and get your recommended screening because early detection saves lives.”

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