Hello! We are Jennifer Wilson and Tiffany Bartek of the Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa metro area. We are the leaders of the Glenwood, Iowa chapter of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition. We grew up together in our hometown of Glenwood with our dear friend LeAnna, who is our motivator and our life-long friendship with her drives our passion to work for this organization.
The three of us, along with the rest of our beloved hometown crew, grew up together and graduated high school in 1999. For the next 23 years, we went through a lot together—boys, babies, marriages, divorces, moves—and we always had each other’s backs. Life took us in a lot of different directions, but there’s just something about those people who have known you since childhood. Every time we all got together, it was like coming home again.
LeAnna had become a hair stylist and was living with her boyfriend Robert and their two kids, Leo and Carmen, in our hometown of Glenwood. Leo was in elementary school and Carmen was still too little for school on March 10th, 2022, when LeAnna was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
The next six months were an absolute blur to us all. Six months. That’s all we had left with our LeAnna. Six months of tears, Googling what words meant, and anger. Six months of Tiffany having to translate everything to us, as our nurse expert friend. Six months of what-ifs. What if she had just been getting regular exams? What if she hadn’t ignored that abnormal pap from years prior? What if one of us had just forced her to go to the doctor? Six months of trying chemo, the chemo not working, then trying radiation, and then finally the words that treatment wasn’t working at all and we had reached a point of just letting her be comfortable. And then, on September 10, 2022, our group gathered for a final time to surround LeAnna’s bedside, and then, late that afternoon, she passed away.
There was a day before she passed that she was ready to talk about what she wanted to happen after she was gone. We talked about funeral plans, her mom and sisters, and of course, Leo and Carmen. We talked about her resting place; she wanted it to be near her dad in the cemetery behind her childhood church. And she said that day she wanted her death to mean something. If her story helps even one woman get preventive care, she would be so happy.
We will continue to tell LeAnna’s story. We will do whatever we can to help educate women on their need for preventive care, and to help educate everyone on the importance of the HPV vaccine and early detection. If we can help one person not lose their LeAnna, we will. And we will do our work with the National Cervical Cancer Coalition based out of Glenwood, Iowa, the town that brought us all together and where LeAnna wanted to raise her children.
Jennifer holds a Master’s degree in Management and is currently the Director of Enrollment and Advising at Clarkson College, a healthcare college in Omaha, Nebraska. Tiffany holds a RN/BSN license and has almost completed her Family Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Her dissertation work centers around preventive care and early detection of cervical cancer in patients.