Choice

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A few weeks ago, my childbearing years ended.

Due to a surgical procedure which stopped the dangerous uterine hemorrhaging I experienced every month, I would have been at great risk for tubal pregnancy which would be life threatening for me and would not have resulted in a viable fetus.

So I chose to have a tubal ligation while the surgeon was “already in there”.

At nearly 50 years old with my ovaries showing no signs of giving up any time soon, this was a great relief. As my friend Joan told me almost 20 years ago, “It really sucks to be 47 years old and still worrying about birth control.” She had already raised her children and was in a different phase of her life.

I know other women who have had to go through similar or much more invasive surgeries for the same reasons, for whom losing the ability to have children is the loss of a dream, a tragedy.

We are all different, with different wants, needs and life circumstances. This is why we need choice.

This got me thinking about the still controversial Row versus Wade decision in 1973.

I was only ten years old at the time and it was several more years before reproductive rights and issues would be of concern to me.

I never had to worry about access to birth control or women’s health care. I never had to fear that I would be forced to carry a rapists child to term nor risk my own life should an accidental pregnancy be deemed dangerous to me.

Thankfully, with the availability of birth control, I never had to worry about any of that.

Had birth control failed, I had a choice.

I realized how blessed I was to have never lived with those fears, nor other horrors older less fortunate women had described to me.

I was ready to raise a glass and toast the fact that it was all over.

Until the current war on women escalated.

First, it was the Susan G Komen Foundation, under pressure from Anti-Choice groups and their own Vice President with an agenda, cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of womens preventive health care to uninsured, poor and undeserved women.

They didn’t fool anyone with their cries that it wasn’t political and have now hired a PR firm to assess the damage they did to their organization. So you guessed it, your donations to “the cure” (which is roughly 18-21% of what they raise with their high profile events depending on which reports you read) will be going to the high priced consultants they had to hire to get themselves out of this mess.

Immediately on the heels of that attack, the Catholic church began directing their obscene wealth and power to join with the GOP party to lobby not only to allow Catholic hospitals and universities deny birth control coverage to women, but to allow any employer who thinks birth control is immoral to do so.

Not only would the nursing student who works long hours at St Joe’s hospital saving lives not have the same right to decide when to start her family as a nurse working at Tacoma General, but the college student working at Taco Bell to get through school could be denied birth control coverage if the owner of that franchise didn’t believe in it.

I have heard Catholics say, “Well, they just shouldn’t work at a Catholic owned business if they want birth control.” What about the women who work where the only hospital in town is a Catholic hospital?

It’s not religious persecution to require that a business follow the same laws as every other business. Hospitals, clinics and universities are highly profitable businesses. If the Catholic Church does not want to obey the law, then they should get out of those business and stick to being a church. For that matter, perhaps they should spend the ostentatiously displayed wealth they are directing into politics and use it for the charitable work they claim is so important to them.

While all of this is going on, conservative states are attempting to redefine “person hood” as the moment of conception which leads to a very slippery slope as a miscarriage could be investigated and punished as murder should the woman have done something deemed by white conservative males as dangerous like going for a run or hiking.

You best just stay barefoot and in the kitchen young missy, lest you get yourself in trouble.

The supreme court in Washington State just ruled that a pharmacist can refuse to provide legally prescribed medications on “moral grounds”. This is in direct response to a mandate that they must provide “Plan B” emergency contraception (which is not an “abortion pill”).

So if a woman is raped or the condom breaks and she doesn’t have a choice of pharmacies in her rural area, she can’t get the medication she needs in the very short time frame required.

This is another slippery slope. Suppose the only pharmacist in town doesn’t think that any woman should be on birth control? Suppose they think that those who have HIV/AIDS are being punished by god and should not receive their life saving drugs?

If pharmacists don’t want to follow the rules/regulations/laws that apply their well paid profession, perhaps they should find a different line of work that allows them to “speak for god”.

Even more vile, the Commonwealth of Virgina actually tired to pass a bill requiring that any woman seeking an abortion submit to a trans vaginal ultrasound in order to bully and intimidate them in to not having the procedure.

Rather than the ultrasound most are familiar with where a sensor is moved across the abdomen, this requires that a rather phallic shaped object be inserted into the vagina.

This procedure can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful. I should know, I’ve had two of them which were used to help diagnose tumors in my uterus and ovaries. Of course, it was my choice to allow it to be done for my own health.

I can’t imagine how traumatic it would be for a rape or abuse victim to be vaginally penetrated in this manner, especially in an already frightening time.

Even in Virginia, vaginal penetration against a woman’s will is legally defined as rape.

And just to top off this latest rash of attacks on women’s rights, the GOP in the State of Wisconsin voted to end the protection for race and gender in the Wisconsin Equal Pay Enforcement Act.

After reading all of this over the last few weeks, I can not in good conscience celebrate the end of my reproductive years with the rights of sisters, nieces, daughters and granddaughters in such jeopardy.

Not since the 1960s has the fight for women’s rights been so volatile and so important.

The war against women isn’t over ladies; it’s only beginning and we are on the front lines; if not for ourselves, then for our daughters and their daughters.

~L



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No Surgery Scheduled; But Plenty of Frustration…

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I was cleared to have my surgery at my doc appointment on Wednesday. This is a good thing because I really want these tumors out of my ovary and to be able to plan my life past waiting for the next phone call/test result.

I called my surgeon’s scheduler today and she said they didn’t have any appointments this month.

She said they didn’t have any appointments next month.

She said she couldn’t tell me when she’d have a date for me or even when she’d call.

Needless to say, I’m pretty frustrated right now. (I hung up the phone before I said something I might later regret)

The original delay/cancellation (no one’s fault) was bad enough on my finances, stress level and any attempts to plan my life, accept jobs, performances, take classes, etc…

I did send a message directly to my surgeon and my primary care physician explaining that I like Dr Greene and would like him to do it, but if that’s not going to happen any time soon, could they please refer me to someone else.

I don’t expect to hear anything (and maybe not much) until next week.

I am trying not to flip out and get myself even more stressed out and to trust that they will try to work something out.

Health Care; Ain’t it fun?

~L


What Kind of Person Would Use a Planned Parenthood Clinic Anyway?

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With heated legal and political battles raging around a woman’s uterus and the current vote to de fund Planned Parenthood, many conservative (and often financially well off) people are asking, “What kind of (trashy) person would use one of those clinics anyway?”

Putting the abortion issue aside so as not to confuse the issue, let’s talk about women’s health care. Let’s talk about the fact that these clinics save lives.

There are many women who work full-time who do not have health insurance.

Women need annual exams and screenings, not only of their overall health and wellness, but specifically of their reproductive systems.

One of the important screenings that women are recommended to receive every year is a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer.

If detected and treated early, cervical cancer is virtually 100% curable.

If not caught early, it can spread to the bladder, intestines, lungs, and liver. As you can well imagine, the prognosis once that has happened is not as good.

Back in the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s, I was one of those women who worked full-time (and volunteered in my community) but did not have health insurance.

With no insurance and a very modest income, I depended on Planned Parenthood and their sliding scales for my annual exams.

There was a period of a few years when I just stopped going as I was living in SE Utah where there were no such clinics in existence. I was young, healthy and nothing was going to happen to me right?

Wrong.

After having some odd spotting, I drove nearly 200 miles to Glenwood Springs Colorado (which was the closest Planned Parenthood clinic at the time) for an exam. A few days later, my results came back.

I had an abnormal pap smear, a follow up test confirmed that I had a pre-cancerous condition.

I was stunned, I had suddenly transformed from being young, healthy and care free to worrying about biopsies, cryosurgery and possibly cancer.

Not only did I have to worry about the fear, pain (anyone who tells you that there are no nerve endings in the cervix obviously has never had pieces of it torn/cut out for a biopsy) and logistics. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it.

Thankfully, Planned Parenthood worked on a sliding scale and I was able to pay based on my income.

I am convinced that the detection and treatment of my condition in the early stages saved my life.

Since that time, I have fought wildland and structure fires, saved lives as a paramedic and search & rescue technician, taught others to save lives as an instructor, protected the lives and safety of visitors to public lands, taught children environmental science, raised a child not born to me as my own, and volunteered for numerous organizations that support women, children, the environment, our community and cancer research.

THAT my friends, is the “kind of person” who would use a Planned Parenthood clinic.

I would like to think that saving lives and providing basic health care to women who can not afford it anywhere else, might be more important than funding a few missiles/bombs, tax breaks for the wealthy or corporate bailouts.

~L

Mood: WTF?



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Swim Sistah Swim!!!

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Saturday, I was up at the buttcrack of dawn to get up to Genesee Park to watch the sun rise over Lake Washington.

And a lovely sunrise it was.

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Saturday was the 2nd annual TrekWomen triathlon which empowers women, encourages health & fitness and raises money to fight cancer.

In addition to being a Swim Angel for the Danskin Triathlon, I also volunteer as a Swim Sister for the Trek triathlon.

Our job is to support and encourage the women on the swim course who might be nervous.

One’s first triathlon swim can be very scary and intimidating.

Seriously though, it is scary the first time, especially for those new to swimming, new to events or new to viewing themselves as an athlete. We also have women who are cancer survivors and/or in active treatment.

A woman who is experiencing anxiety or is just unsure of her ability can request a swim sister to go around the course with them. We also go out behind each wave to make sure no one who didn’t think they needed one of us might change their minds once they’re out there a while.

I finally got to spend some time with my good friend Julie (we’ve had a difficult time connecting this year)

Swim Sisters!!!  Trek Womens Triatlhon 2010 005

We all squeezed into our wetsuits did the morning briefing thing and waited for the first waves to start.

Swim Sisters!!!  Trek Womens Triatlhon 2010 002

There was some fun music playing at the start line and I started doing a crazy dance with my noodles. Much like this awesome sister…

Swim Sisters!!!  Trek Womens Triatlhon 2010 004

Ardis grabbed me and a few other silly sisters and we headed up to the start line where there was a Zumba demonstration going on.

So there we were, a half dozen women in full wetsuits (some of us with halos, tiaras and silly hats on) waving swim noodles around doing a Zumba dance performance.

It was hilarious and I hope, made the women waiting to start a little less nervous.

For what it’s worth, I do not recommend wearing a full wetsuit for this type of activity. I couldn’t wait to get into the lake and let some nice cool water into my suit.

After a turn working the start line, Julie and I got to go out and swim behind the last wave.

I LOVE the last wave!

Just after I passed the first bouy, Sally Edwards swam up behind me as asked how I was doing. Yes, she is as nice, down to earth and caring as she comes across in public appearances.

My reply was, “Well now I’ve been passed by Sister Madonna and Sally Edwards on a triathlon course, so pretty good.”

We chatted for a bit and ended up spending the last third of the swim course with an awesome 12 year old girl, Mikayla who was doing the triathlon with her great aunt.

The water was cold as we haven’t had any sunny weather to warm it up and the poor thing’s teeth were chattering.

But she kept going and going and going…

I made sure her aunt knew to make sure she dressed warmly on the bike course (and that her mom needs to get her a wetsuit for next time) and out of earshot, to tell her what signs of hypothermia to look for just in case.

This little girl was AWESOME and she finished that swim, cold, exhausted and smiling; seriously, she was all determination, no complaints, no whining, what an inspiration!

Sally went back out for the last swimmer.

Sally is always the last swimmer, rider and runner in a triathlon.

No woman will ever be in last place in one of her races.

We created a tunnel on the exit ramp with our noodles and did some “voguing” through it while waiting for the last swimmer (the race photographers were loving us for this and our pre race zumba performance.)

As the last swimmer came in, we chanted the “official” call of TrekWomen“YOU GO GIRL FRIEND… YOU GO GIRL FRIEND…”

She came in, just ahead of Sally, tired and smiling, and off she went to finish the event that would change her life and make her a triathlete.

All the women were awesome.

But there is always one who becomes your hero.

This time around, it was Mikayla.

I checked the results page and she finished. She was,the youngest person in the race and was bordering on hypothermia in the swim. She even finished 11 minutes ahead of her aunt.

Once again, I am inspired by those who put on and participate in these events and I am left with a warm feeling in my heart after having been involved.

~L

Mood: Happy



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