My name is Jessica Rivera. I am a mom of three beautiful kids and married to my high school sweetheart! I am a medical assistant in downriver Michigan. My love for the medical field grew when I was about 12 years old. My mother Sandra was a CNA and did some schooling for paramedics as well. The love for the field passed on to my older sister Tara, who was also a CNA for a while. Our little sister Deanna even took the course for the class, because she was just as interested. Hearing my mom and Tara both talk about their experience and the love and passion they had helping people is what got me thinking that I wanted to do something. I was unsure what it was but something in the medical field and here I am!
I have been in this field for about four years now, between being a patient sitter at a local hospital and moving on to a job on the ICU floor as a nurse assistant which I loved so much. Because I got pregnant and COVID was running rampant at that time, I had to do what’s best and leave. After I had my daughter, I took on a job as a medical assistant at a local doctor’s office and let’s just say I love my job, the patients, literally everything about it.
If there is one thing I was scared about in life it would be that I would disappointed my sister Tara. I looked up to her. She was not only my big sister—she was my first best friend growing up and like my second mother, especially after our mother passed away. Tara had a LEEP procedure in 2015 and everything was in the clear until May of 2022. She called me around 5:00 pm on May 12th, telling me her legs were hurting, like there was something stabbing her behind her knee, and that her feet had been hurting her since the end of April. I told her to elevate them and just relax and I would be over shortly to take her blood pressure. Two and a half hours passed and she called me at 7:30pm, so confused. She said she did not remember what she did that day, did not remember where she took her son, or if she went to work. I rushed over, took her blood pressure, checked her out, and had our dad take her straight in to ER. She suffered a bilateral stroke and a heart attack and was in the hospital for a week. On May 19th, we found out she had stage 3 cervical cancer.
In that short four months, Tara suffered multiple strokes and blood clots throughout her body as cancer spread rapidly out of her reproductive system. Her cancer moved to stage 4, her brain was damaged due to the strokes, and every time we got her set up for treatment she ended back in the hospital with a new health concern. On September 16th, she had a procedure to look at her heart and we saw how much damage was done. The doctor who performed the procedure called me and told me the news, recommending a doctor with the University of Michigan to discuss replacing her aortic valve.
On Monday September 19th, during Tara’s video chat with the cardiovascular surgeon, he noted that her breathing looked off and suggested she come on into the ER right away. My dad ended up taking her and from then on things went downhill. On September 21st, my dad called me and my little sister Deanna and told us that the team of doctors talked over everything and said Tara would not make it. I rushed to pick my nephew up from school, met Deanna, and we rushed to the hospital to sit with her and allow her son to spend some quality time with her. That night, me, Deanna and our dad took turns being in the room with Tara throughout the night. Around 5:20 am on September 22nd, Tara started to breathe weird and I just knew something was wrong, I rushed to get my dad and he went back into the room. He came back out to tell me to come in and the moment I walked into the door I hugged her—all three of us did. She took her last breath at 5:40am on September 22nd, and from then on our life, her son’s life, and the lives of the people who loved her changed forever.
With all this being said, I wanted to do something for Tara, in her honor, to spread awareness that not all cervical cancer shows symptoms and to educate others on how important it is to be screened and stay on top of your health. This is for my sister Tara Lee Ozment, only 39 years old when she died. I will make sure her memory lives on forever.
My name is Alyssa Wade, I am a mom of one handsome boy and I am engaged to my high school sweetheart! We are getting married September 22nd of 2023, and I cannot wait! I am a medical assistant in downriver Michigan. Right out of high school, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field because I loved helping people—it was my passion. It has now been 12 years since I started my career and I still love every second of it. The people I come across, the interactions, and the bonds I make with the patients are very rewarding.
The reason why I am joining Jessica is this adventure is because cervical cancer runs in my family in my family. Most women on my mom’s side had actual cancer and had the LEEP procedure, which luckily worked. Other females like my sister carry the gene and that’s why it’s important to me to help raise awareness, educate and help others fight. Seeing it firsthand in my family was just devastating. Being able to make an impact on females, even if it’s just one, will be one less female that will feel like she is alone in her battle—whether it’s her or someone she loves, she will be supported by us. I cannot wait to see what the future hold for the Detroit Chapter, I am excited to be a part of this great organization that is trying and is making a difference in everyone’s life.