My Journey to the Here and Now...
Michelle was born in 1975 in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside our Nation's Capital. Abandoned by her mother at age three, Michelle and her two sisters were raised by their struggling single father, who was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. When Michelle was eleven years old, her father suffered a serious injury that left him totally disabled and unable to work. Despite being the middle child, Michelle quickly emerged as the leader and care-taker (with the help of her beloved grandmother) of her two sisters and her father, who was frequently in and out of the hospital.
During high school, Michelle watched as her father battled bouts of depression and drug abuse. Determined to have a better life, she begin working retail her senior year and continued in that position following her high school graduation. Michelle's father then passed away when she was twenty-one.
After saving money for a few years, Michelle went back to school. A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Society, she earned an Associate of Arts in Business Administration from Montgomery College in two years. She then enrolled in Columbia Union College, where she graduated cum laude in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management. Despite being both a full-time employee and a full-time student, Michelle continued to be her family's anchor against the storm, as her sisters followed their father's path and fell into the devastating clutches of addiction and mental illness.
In late-2001, in the midst of her sisters' battles, full-time employment, and full-time schooling, Michelle was hit with yet another devastating blow. At just twenty-six, she was diagnosed with HPV-induced cervical cancer. As she had immersed herself in continuing her education and climbing the corporate ladder, Michelle had previously given no thought to motherhood. That all changed when her gynecological oncologist told her she needed a radical hysterectomy immediately, which would leave her unable to bear children. Unsure if she wanted children, but unwillingly to forever surrender the option, Michelle, being her typical feisty self, set out to find other options that would allow her to retain her fertility. She researched treatment options, sought out a second opinion, and challenged her doctors with many difficult and uncomfortable questions. In the end, she opted for a radical trachelectomy—a fertility saving procedure.
Despite having good overall success rates, the trachelectomy was not successful for Michelle. Only two short years after the procedure, Michelle's cancer returned, and she was once again encouraged to undergo a radical hysterectomy. She received the news only days after her boyfriend proposed. Despite calls of urgency, Michelle once again refused to surrender her fertility without a fight. She convinced her oncologist to give her eight weeks before performing the dreaded surgery and sought out the help of a reproductive endocrinologist.
Michelle did not waste a single second of those eight weeks. With the help of her physicians, Michelle harvested eggs, which were created into seven embryos—her "maybe babies." She flew to Jamaica, got married, and experienced temporary wedded bless on her short-lived honeymoon. Ten days after saying "I do," Michelle checked into the hospital for life-altering and life-saving surgery. She underwent a radical hysterectomy, a partial vaginalectomy, and removal of some lymph nodes. She then underwent five-and- a-half weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.
Michelle found herself about to turn thirty with a whole host of new, unexpected, and unwanted conditions, courtesy of her cancer treatments. She experienced early menopause, sexual dysfunction, and radiation damage to both her bowels and her hips. The experience was physically and emotionally overwhelming. Leaning on her loving husband, Michelle spent the first few years of her marriage trying to piece her shattered life back together. Several years later, on October 27, 2009, Michelle's dream of becoming a mother was realized with the birth of her daughter, Riley Grier Whitlock, who was born with the help of a gestational carrier. However, Michelle's family did not end there. Shortly after Riley Grier's birth, Michelle welcomed her biological niece, Shelby Kay Christy Hines, into her home. Michelle's "daughter by choice," Shelby Kay, lived with Michelle and the rest of their family until she got married in 2016. In early-2013, Michelle and her husband became foster parents to her biological great-nephew, who was just one-year- old at the time and who was himself a victim of the throes of drug addiction. In early-2014, her family welcomed their second foster child, Michelle's biological great-niece, who was only a few weeks old. In the summer of 2014, Michelle and her husband adopted their two young foster children and officially became a family of five. Michelle now lives in Arlington, Tennessee with her husband Mark, daughters Riley Grier and Savannah (Savvy) Rose, son Brody Aaron, and their two dogs and cat.
Today, Michelle is a medical sales representative for Hologic, which is at the forefront in women's health. In addition to focusing on breast and skeletal health as a representative of Hologic, Michelle devotes her time and energy to erasing the stigma associated with the HPV virus, engaging in national conversations about gynecological cancers, and helping women reclaim healthy and satisfying intimate relationships after cancer. Her conviction that no other woman should suffer from this preventable disease prompted her to start sharing her story through her memoir and her frequent guest appearances. Combining her years of leadership, resilience, knowledge, and survivorship with her passion for women's health, Michelle empowers women across the country to be the makers of their own stories.
Michelle's Previous Advocacy Positions
Women's Cancer Subcommittee of the Tennessee Cancer Control (TC2), State Chair (2011—2013)
Fertile Action, Board Member (2010—2013)
Concerts for a Cure, Board Member (2009—2013)
The Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to End Cervical Cancer for Tamika & Friends Inc., Director (2009—2011)
West Region Women's Cancer Subcommittee of the Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition (TC4), Chair (2008—2010)
Mid-South Chapter of the NCCC (National Cervical Cancer Coalition) serving TN, AR, & MS, Chapter Leader (2008—2010)