Bear with me as I tell the story of my mom’s breast cancer. I try to stick with issues that impact labor; however, this issue strikes a chord with me and affects hard-working women without health insurance.
In 1989 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was the staff duty driver on duty for the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) that night. My job was to answer the battalion phones after hours and provide a ride for any officer or visiting dignitary if needed. In most cases it meant I was on duty for 24 hours without sleep. I reported to the staff duty NCO, who in this case was SSG Pena, my squad leader.
It was about midnight when the call came. SSG Pena answered the phone, and it was the Red Cross. Calls from the Red Cross were never good—it usually meant serious trouble back home for a soldier. I was shocked when SSG Pena handed the phone to me.
“Corporal Andersen, SSN XXX-XX-XXXX?” she asked me.
“Yes ma’am,” I answered, wondering who in my family was ill, dead or dying.
“Sir, go ahead,” she said.
“Mark,” my dad tried to say through the sobs.
“Yeah dad” I said.
At this point the phone on the other end dropped to the floor. I could hear my dad fighting his emotions in the background, and my sister came on the line. “Mom has breast cancer she just came out of surgery. We need you home.”
With that the Red Cross lady came back on the line and asked to speak to SSG Pena. I gave the phone to him while trying to fight the tears. I had no idea how sick my mom was or what was going on at all. SSG Pena pulled out an emergency leave form out of the desk and filled it out while on the phone with the Red Cross. My leave was approved by the Battalion Commander and by noon the next day I was driving down I-24 as fast as my Ford Escort would go to Madison, Wisconsin with maybe an hour’s worth of sleep in the previous 24 hours.
I arrived home around 8:00 pm to find my mom sitting in her chair doing a word search with an IV in her arm. Evidently the surgery had been successful. My sister was sitting on the couch and dad was taking a nap. At that time I was filled in on what had transpired the days before. Mom had found a lump, the doctor checked it, she had a mammogram and was in surgery within about 36 hours. They removed her left breast and her lymph nodes. My dad took the diagnosis of her cancer harder than my mom did, I think in part because her sister, my aunt Jeanette, had passed away just a few years earlier from cancer. Dad expected the worst. Mom was in and out the hospital in just a day, something that my sister was not happy about; however, that was dictated by the insurer and not the doctor.
Over the next week I helped out with getting mom to and from doctors’ appointments because dad was just too emotional to go.
This happened in 1989. My mom passed away in 2010, 11 years after my dad. She was a cancer survivor. She survived an aggressive breast cancer because it was caught early and she had surgery quickly.
If Scott Walker has his way, women like my mom, but who are not fortunate enough to have health insurance, may not have the chance to become cancer survivors.
The Wisconsin Well Woman Program is an 17-year-old state service created to ensure that women ages 45 to 64 who lack health insurance can access preventive health screenings.
In four Wisconsin counties, Planned Parenthood is the only health care provider currently contracted as a coordinator for the cancer screenings. Coordinators evaluate women for eligibility, enroll them in the program, and then connect them to health care providers that can perform the exams. The coordinators also do community outreach, letting women know that there are options for preventative care even if they don't have health insurance. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin has been a contractor since the program began—including during the terms of previous GOP governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum—but the group recently learned that its contract is being terminated at the end of the month.
That’s right…the Walker administration is terminating a contract with Planned Parenthood. My guess as to why is that the misinformed, uneducated members of his administration are clueless when it comes to women’s health. This is a politically motivated action to punish Planned Parenthood for providing a safe and legal procedure, abortion, that the right-wing hates, yet they do everything they can to make it harder for people to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
I am sick of the stupid coming from the right. I do not want to see one child in the State of Wisconsin lose their mother to a treatable disease just because she doesn't have insurance. Evidently Walker does. As I have said in other posts this is not just about collective bargaining. Walker and his reactionary agenda must be stopped!