By Emily Fitzgerald / email@example.com
Cheryl Myers never thought she would be modeling and competing in a Washington America pageant — yet alone at the age of 53.
But after battling uterine cancer in 2020 and a recurrence in 2021, Myers decided to fully embrace her second chance at life and try something new.
“It really gives you time to think and you appreciate life so much more,” she said of cancer. “And so I thought, you know, what do I want to do? I’m not young anymore. But you know what? I’m going to try some things.”
In her reflections following her cancer treatment, Myers recalled meeting a woman years before who held the Mrs. Washington title and had encouraged Myers to run for the title.
“Looking back, I was like, ‘why didn’t I do that? I wish I would have.’ And so that was something I thought, ‘you know, maybe I could try a pageant,’” she said.
Myers, a single mother living in Chehalis, no longer qualified for Mrs. Washington when she decided to try out pageants, but a quick Google search revealed there was a “Miss” equivalent for single, widowed or divorced women between the ages of 18 and 60.
Myers ended up submitting her application for Miss Washington for America Strong a few days before the April 15 deadline.
She will be representing Lewis County in the competition for the title of Miss Washington in the Washington America pageant in Bellevue on July 9. The winner will represent Washington state in the Miss America Strong pageant later this year.
Now in its fourth year, the Miss America Strong pageant is “an effort to discover the most accomplished single, divorced or widowed women qualified to compete for the esteemed title,” according to the pageant’s website.
While she feels like the underdog of the competition compared to some of the younger contestants with more pageant experience and more funds at their disposal, Myers said she is focusing on running her own race and enjoying the experience.
“I’ve been able to get out and go to events and put on my crown, and it’s just so cool to have little kids come over and want to have their picture with me,” she said. “I feel like I’m already a winner. I’m just trying to focus on the positive. This is just a great experience. Win or lose, I feel like I already won.”
Myers is using her Miss America Strong platform to raise awareness for uterine cancer, a disease she was unfamiliar with until she was diagnosed with it in January 2020.
At the time, Myers had been having health issues on-and-off for a few years.
“They couldn’t figure it out,” she said.
By the time her doctors figured out what was causing her medical issues, the uterine cancer was in stage three and had spread to her cervix, her lymph nodes and her muscles.
“I had a pretty hard battle,” she said. “At one point, things didn’t look good. Doctors had me doing my will and had me sign a power of attorney to my son so he could make my decisions and things. So I really didn’t expect to still be here.”
But when she finished chemotherapy, her scans came back clear.
“I just felt like, ‘oh my gosh, I get a second-chance at life,’” she said.
Just as she was starting to live her life over, Myers received devastating news: the cancer had come back.
“Recurrent uterine cancer is often incurable, so that was really awful news to hear,” she said. “But I tried not to Google. I tried to stay positive … I’ve just got to focus on living my life.”
Her scans came back cancer-free after she finished radiation treatment a few months ago.
“I’m at high risk for it to come back, but I thought, ‘I need to get busy living so I’m not focused on dying,’” she said.
While pageants are partially about beauty and performance, a major element of them is highlighting women and the work they do in their communities to promote causes that they’re passionate about, Myers said.
“I’ve met such amazing women doing this,” she said, adding: “These women are doing such amazing things and promoting such amazing causes. And I thought, ‘This would be a great way for me to build awareness around my cause, which is uterine cancer.’”
One of her frustrations during her cancer treatment was the lack of resources available for uterine cancer patients — especially compared to the resources available for patients of more “popular” cancers, like breast cancer.
“So many women know to get mammograms and check your breasts, but most women don’t really know anything about gynecological cancer. I didn’t,” she said.
If Myers and her doctors had been more aware of uterine cancer when they were first looking into her symptoms, Myers believes her cancer would have been caught sooner and would have been easier to treat.
“I don’t want other women to go through that,” she said.
Myers has started a website, spot4acure.com, to share her story and raise awareness for uterine cancer.
Myers is seeking sponsors and donations to help offset some of the costs of competing in pageants — including wig and outfit costs. Donations can be made to Myers’ “GoCrownMe” at https://www.pageantplanet.com/fill-donation/ZTBnQlV1RVlOYks1TTVTdWIvU2RRQT09/cEZWd1ZpRWRxOWJJMGMwdlFaUm1Gdz09, or potential donors can reach out to Myers directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the Washington America pageants can be found at https://www.washingtonamericapageants.com/.