Typically, as an advocate and a Clearity patient, I write about ovarian cancer and subjects that would interest women in the United States.
However, in my professional life, I am working with former colleagues and students on writing a chapter for a reference book on Global Women’s Health for those ages 16 to 24. The countries included are divided regionally suggested by the World Health Organization. Because I have a 16 year old adopted South Korean grandson, I chose to write about Central Asia, more specifically Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.
However, contemplating the parallels between my work on this reference book and my advocacy for Clearity I recognize that as a woman who lives in the US, I have a privileged situation as do many other women.
Most of us have clean water, nutritional food, the freedom to marry or not marry whom we choose, a safe environment, access to public education, an opportunity to grow up in families with our siblings, and the ability to work as a free agent. We also still have the right to control how many children we bear.
March is Women’s History Month — a time when I think of women collectively, not personally. Consequently, I’m also reminded of the divisions that arise in healthcare in the U.S. as a result of insufficient money and access to healthcare.
As I try to connect with ovarian cancer survivors on Facebook and various social media outlets, I’m compelled to read the stories of women who don’t have insurance and cannot afford the tests for cancer, genetic tests, the necessary surgical follow-up procedures like CT or PET scans, and expensive chemotherapy. Their stories remind me of the great need we have in the U.S. for affordable healthcare. I’m frightened that the Affordable Health Care Act — which has helped so many who don’t have health insurance through their employer — will be dismantled.
I’m outraged that Planned Parenthood is being defunded. Most people think Planned Parenthood is active only in birth control, STDs and abortion services, but that is not the case. They are active in screening for cancer as well! In fact most of their services are in screening and preventative health. For many women who don’t have health insurance, Planned Parenthood is be their only option for mammograms, Pap smears, and much more.
In addition, I’m acutely aware of the role of access to progressive health care. If an ovarian cancer survivor lives close to an urban academic center offering the latest treatment and clinical trials, she is more likely to take advantage of them. Such is not always the case for survivors who live in isolated or rural communities.
Another area affected is ovarian cancer survivors who lack access to support groups or counseling services. In urban areas specifically, it is often difficult to find support groups specific to our disease. Finally, state-run organizations may offer information, guidance, counseling and even financial help. However, this is not always the case for women in many rural areas.
This confirms why I am an advocate for The Clearity Foundation. Clearity exists only to assist ovarian cancer survivors. Clearity conducts its own research and shares the most current information on treatment and clinical trials. Their consultants guide survivors through accessing and choosing the most appropriate clinical trial. For those survivors who are fortunate enough to have insurance, their insurance may pay for molecular profiles and guidance through selecting clinical trials. However, if survivors who qualify for profiles don’t have insurance, Clearity will deliver the service free of charge.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the latest and best treatment. I have insurance and a strong supportive network. Because I’ve been so fortunate, I want other women to have the same kind of excellent care. Consequently, I hope those of you reading this will join me in whatever way you can, in working for the best treatment and experience for all ovarian cancer survivors.