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January 20, 2017

January 20, 2017

As I reflect today on the nearing one year anniversary of my explant surgery, I am aware of how this year not only landed me back in my body, but also emboldened my desire to stand up for the truth. Today, we witness a transfer of power that tugs at heart strings and twists the guts of many. We are faced with a 180-degree turn on how many of our collective beliefs are endorsed by those in leadership roles. Over the past 8 years, we witnessed movement towards and upholding of values that, in 2017, should no longer be up for debate. Empowerment. Equality. Inclusivity. Openness. Hope. Tolerance. Coverage. Progress. Change. In the months leading up to today’s inauguration, we have experienced a shift towards stress, negativity, fear and disrespect. Many feel as if things are completely out of control. Now more than ever, we need to be asking ourselves the fundamental questions of Last Cut. What is most true to me? How am I living it? Do my internal beliefs match up with my external actions in the world? Am I standing up for the values and truths that I believe in for myself and for others? 

Last Cuts involve a deeply personal and honest assessment of what is happening inside of us in relation to what is happening around us. Sometimes we are affected by politics. Sometimes we are offered up a cancer diagnosis. Sometimes we lose all of our money. Sometimes we find ourselves in a relationship that is not healthy or serving our best good. Sometimes we seek greater fulfillment and connection. Sometimes we dream of having an impact on the world beyond our own imagined sphere of influence. In those moments of curiosity, desire, disharmony or pain, we have the power to choose action on behalf of what is most burning inside of us. By asking ourselves questions about our beliefs and reflecting upon how and where to take action, we step into the change for which we yearn. To the best of our ability and within the parameters of extraneous circumstances, we do our best to make our internal world begin to match our external one. 

As a cancer survivor and previvor, I have been torn inside out over the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without an actual, tangible replacement. The idea that so many will potentially be denied health care coverage in coming years pains me. Why should anyone become a pariah based on a pre-existing condition or a lack of resources? We did not ask for cancer. People do not willingly sign up to be sick. I know too many people, myself included, who are alive because of access to treatment and surgeries that removed {often life-threatening} maladies. How then can we value one life over another? How can we determine who has a right to live based on the ability to pay for health insurance? I cannot stop the running thoughts in my head, “Where would I be now if I had not been fortunate enough to have the resources and coverage to rid my body of cancer and other pressing health challenges over the years? Where would I be in this moment if I had not been able to remove my silicone implants a year ago?” I was incredibly sick and cannot fathom being stuck in that place based on denial of coverage or lack of resources. 

I recently met with Planned Parenthood California Central Coast CEO & President Jenna Tosh to discuss the implications of the proposed ACA repeal and the Federal Government’s “defunding of Planned Parenthood," which is actually termination of reimbursements for Medicaid health services offered through Planned Parenthood. Speaking about these changes, Tosh said, “The impact would be disastrous. Planned Parenthood health centers serve 2.5 million people each year, at least 60 percent of whom rely on federal programs for health coverage. In many places, Planned Parenthood is the only provider. Our patients come to us for basic preventive care, including cancer screenings, birth control, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. We serve college students, single parents, immigrants, LGBT folks, those with private health insurance, the homeless, republicans, democrats and everyone in between. We are a critical safety net provider, a trusted and nonjudgmental source of health care. When patients come to Planned Parenthood, they are not making a political statement. If we were unable to receive Medicaid reimbursements for our patients’ care, access would be reduced. Plain and simple, this isn’t about funding for Planned Parenthood – it’s about access to care for the most vulnerable.” How do we stand up for the most vulnerable citizens amongst us?

In my immediate circle, my heart aches for the number of people that cannot vision their futures without certain drugs and therapies that are prohibitively expensive without health insurance coverage. How can we not speak up? How can we not act? I have called and written my Senators and Representative, and have been taking the time to be better informed about how to help. I have been listening to my peers and learning. I have been grateful to have been connected to Kyleanne Hunter, a 10-year Marine Corps attack pilot and gender advocate for the military, breast cancer survivor and now PhD student. Hunter recently shared on Facebook, “As a nation we are stronger and more prosperous when we are all healthy, and human life isn't treated as a for profit enterprise. And sure, I may not use every single thing I pay into a health care system for, but I sure as hell care about my neighbors life at least as much (ok, a lot more) than their house. So if I'm ok with paying taxes to keep their house from burning down, why wouldn't I be ok paying taxes to keep them alive in the face of illness or injury? A strong nation is a healthy nation, and we won't be healthy until we stop treating human beings as a way for insurance CEO’s to make a buck. Healthcare for all is security for all.” As a society and as individuals, where do we place value? Where do we need to exert ourselves beyond our individual stories?

I also reached out to 33-year old Jessica Tousignant, an individual recovering from active cancer treatment, who has been sharing her story on Facebook. Tousignant worked full-time and used investments from money won in a settlement after her father’s death to pay for food and medicine while undergoing cancer treatment. Yet, in spite of all that, she still feels as if she was, and still is, one of the lucky ones even in the face of impending loss of health care coverage. Tousignant wrote, “I haven't slept in 24 hours. I was up researching immigration policies in case I lose my ability to hold health insurance. If I don't follow my health regimen, my doctors say my likelihood of living ten years past my diagnosis date drops from 93% to 20%. I was diagnosed almost five years ago. Most of you can do that equation, yes? And even still, I'm in a better position than so many others.” Her quote drives home two key points in this discussion: 1) As a nation, what will we tolerate as acceptable treatment of our citizens? Who has a right to live and who can be dismissed because of a poor lottery draw? 2) How can we think beyond our own experience and speak up on behalf of our values and stand up for those who may be in need of a voice and support? So many of my peers (Chiara D’Agostino, Vonn Jensen and Alex Kip to name a few other powerful voices on the subject) are discussing what this particular issue means for them, and this arena is but one of the many that are ripe for our attention and advocacy. 

These times, and these incongruities between our beliefs and the decisions around us, require voice and action. It is the time to do the internal assessment, see where you are not satisfied with yourself or what you see around you, and take action on behalf of the truths you believe in most. If it is not the moment to make a Last Cut in your own personal life, perhaps you can make one on behalf of the collective by picking up the phone and calling your senators or representative to speak up on behalf of health care access, or anything else that you believe in for yourself and for all? When we see something that does not match our values, we have the choice and the power to give voice to change. We can speak up on behalf of others. We have a duty to take action. We are complicit if we sit by when we see intolerance and unkindess. We must continue to teach our children to see beyond themselves and to adopt a sense of responsibility to act on their truths and stand up for those in need.  

Last Cuts happen all the time. Last Cuts ask for voice and action. Last Cuts happen within and without. It is a dedication to change, wellness, harmony and freedom. This moment in history is ripe for the Last Cut attitude. This chapter in time is a calling for us to wake up, ask the big questions about what matters most to us and then act on behalf of those beliefs. 

{For more information on how to reach and voice your opinion to your Senators and Representatives about the Affordable Care Act "Repeal and Replace" proposal and any other issues you support, check out this helpful article on Bustle or visit usa.gov.}

 

January 22, 2017

January 22, 2017

January 15, 2017

January 15, 2017