Monday, July 15, 2013

Things I'm on the Fence About

I'm generally an independent person, but the Republican party has gone so far to the right over the last 20 years that I haven't voted for a Republican since 1999 and have been a registered Democrat since just after the 2004 presidential election.

Despite this, I try not to be a knee-jerk progressive. I don't completely agree with progressives on a couple of issues:

  • Government-ID for voting. Most poor people do have government-issued ID, even if they don't have a driver's license. It isn't that hard to get. If anything, it might be harder for older people or people who live in very rural areas, and who might be more likely to vote Republican to get a government-issued ID if they don't already have a driver's license. That said, the Republicans are clearly over-rating potential voter fraud, and are trying to disenfranchise people likely to vote for Democrats. I encourage everyone to ensure they have a valid, government-issued ID of some kind to ensure they can vote no matter what weird gymnastics the Republicans require.
  • Edward Snowden. He's not a traitor and he's not a hero either. Still not quite sure what to make of him. Neither side, nor Snowden himself, have made a compelling argument either way. He is telling us stuff our government has been doing for years, but I've found everything unsurprising. He's clearly broken a number of federal laws (as a government contractor, he had to sign a number of papers promising not to divulge what he learned in his job), but that isn't the same thing as being a traitor. But the Snowden problem raises a larger issue, one that's been generally ignored - why the hell is the NSA hiring contractors? If our security is so important, why isn't the NSA only hiring regular government employees who have to undergo a full security clearance before they are hired?
  • Investing. I've always believed in enlightened self-interest. Capitalism and the stock market can raise people out of poverty. I only need look as far as my own husband to see that (coupled with native intelligence and an excellent education, paid for by scholarships, work/study and loans). Sadly, many people who start investing don't understand what they're doing. Coupled with unregulated behavior by many financial institutions, it looks like the deck is hopelessly stacked against small investors. It isn't - you need to be a careful investor. If anyone tells you they have an easy way to $1,000,000, they are lying.

When I was younger, I used to be more on the fence about unions, but given the current mess Republicans (pushed by ALEC and the Kook...errh, Koch Brothers) have made of employee rights, we need unions now more than ever.

I believe strongly in the tenants of the modern Democratic party, including its promotion of personal rights, protecting women and minorities, education, gun control, infrastructure, having a strong social safety net including health care and environmental protection. The Republicans have been very much wrong over their anti-tax raving. As Twitterer @AngieinWAState said "I like paying taxes, with them I buy...civilization." I want to live in a civilized country. The Republicans don't care if the United States is a civilized country, they only care to keep as much of the country's wealth for themselves.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My Uterus - a Look Back

Wouldn't you know that during the year after my hysterectomy, public discussion of the uterus is more popular than ever?

Despite my lack of a uterus and ovaries, I don't feel particularly left out. Jim and I felt early on that one kid was plenty and that my anatomy did not mean I had to have many children. We were always extremely careful about birth control, stopped using it when we were ready to have a child, had a child, returned to mandatory birth control use and then Jim had a vasectomy when we were sure we were ready for that. We made those plans and we retained control of the size of our family and of our reproductive health.

At the same time, while birth control no longer impacts me directly, I have always very strongly believed that individuals must have easy access to birth control, Plan B, and abortion. So I will continue to stand with women across the country who must fight the state to retain their rights to unimpeded birth control and abortion.

I didn't wake up one morning and decide "I think I'll get rid of my uterus and ovaries so I'll never need to worry about them again." I'd had a few rounds of ovarian cysts that got progressively more painful and led to multiple surgeries. In fact, when the cysts came back again when I was 51, I switched to a new gynecologist whenever I was told "You should have a hysterectomy." After all, I was well into perimenopause, and menopause itself tends to stop ovarian cysts from reoccurring. But, at 55, I was still having painful periods and then got quite sick. So I was more than ready to say "Enough, I'll finally have a hysterectomy." It was my decision. My choice. I had the surgery because I was ready for it.

Women should always be able to make their own decisions about their reproductive health care, something that is no longer true in states like Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Oklahoma...the list goes on.

If you look up information about hysterectomies online, you'll read all kinds of information, some of it quite scary. Women are different, and the age you have a hysterectomy makes a huge difference. Since I was 55, my ovaries were already making less estrogen. Since I have a history of endometriosis and am a DES daughter, I could not consider going on hormone replacement therapy after the surgery. I admit, I was a little concerned about that, even though I've never been a "girly girl" type. Would a hysterectomy create more problems than it would fix?

While I had some problems post-op (an infected ovary led to an infection that migrated to the surgical wound which required all kinds of extra treatment (but, luckily, no additional hospitalization)), I recovered pretty rapidly. I felt I was about 95% back to normal within 6 weeks of surgery. Jim and I went to Chicon and while I couldn't carry much, I walked a lot and had some great meals out.

A year post-op, I feel pretty good. I lost and regained 20 pounds, so I weigh about the same I had for the last couple of years. My weight "realigned" a little - my skin is a little looser, my breasts are a little smaller and so on. I'm walking a little over 2 miles a day (I've walked over 1,000 miles since early 2012 when I increased my walking and started using MapMyWalk to track my activity). But the frequent pelvic pain and all that extra bleeding is gone and I generally feel better. I still have a horrible case of insomnia, so I'm exhausted much of the time and my concentration is so-so - the hysterectomy had no impact on that at all.

So, do I talk a little about sex? A hysterectomy impacts a woman's sex life in many ways. The issue here is that while I may want to be very open about how I feel about sex, I'm part of a longtime couple, and Jim is not fond of TMI-type discussions because they involve him too, and I do respect his privacy. A hysterectomy has to impact your sexual response over the short term because of scar tissue, the lack of a uterus, lack of estrogen...but, after a few months, if you take sex very easy (think of any kind of physical rehab), it can be as good as before. Sex is slightly different for me, but really not that much. My advice is don't panic during the first couple of months about sex after a hysterectomy, but if you have severe pain, go see your doctor. In general, if you had a positive attitude/experience about sex pre-surgery, you'll make adjustments and have a positive attitude/experience afterwards.

Support from family and friends after any major surgery was extremely helpful. I was very moved to get many messages from folks online after my surgery. I was very active in an online forum called Hystersisters for a few months which is for women who are having/have had hysterectomies. I had some mixed feelings about the forum. Most of the information they gave was accurate and practical, and sharing posts with other women who were pretty-much home-bound for a few weeks about their experiences was good. was cutesy in places ("pamper the princess" - UGH), they tended to be overly cautious on activity and there's some odd group-think that goes on among the leaders. With those cautions, I do recommend that hysterectomy patients check out the forum to see if it's helpful to them.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Fighting the Rapislators

Did you know that we now live in a country where some of the states are now legislating state-sponsored rape while gagging doctors' ability to provide actual medical advice?

Here is the FBI definition of rape (1/2012)

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

In Ohio, legislation that Republicans have passed mandate that women have an ultrasound (which is not medically necessary for an early abortion) with a vaginal probe (ditto).

I don't know about you, but I would observe that a state mandating an unnecessary test that includes a vaginal probe is the state raping the woman symbolically. It's meant to make abortions more difficult, impeding women of their right to have an abortion if they chose to have one. It means states like Ohio and Texas no longer have Republican legislators - they have rapislators, a sadly accurate term coined by @WiseRiseInfo on Twitter on 7/1/2013. Rapislators are people (usually men, almost always Republicans) who are using state-sponsored rape to restrict women's rights.

Often, we hear rapislators claim they are pro-life. BULLSHIT! Rapislators are are only interested in restricting women's rights. In Ohio, they've gone so far to add the unnecessary sonogram with vaginal probe to women seeking birth control. If you are truly only anti-abortion, you'd encourage women to get birth control. And, apparently there's language that restricts a doctor's ability to give accurate medical information to women who want to get abortions.

I do not believe abortion is murder. But, if it is murder, it is murder in self-defense. It's a woman standing her ground. If a woman does not want to have an abortion, I support her decision. But I do not, I cannot, support any government that makes any decision about her reproductive health for her.

We need to find ways to fight the rapislators. I'm sending the following to Attorney General Eric Holder and to President Barack Obama:


Dear Sir:

In January 2012, the FBI defined rape in the following way:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Since this is now the definition of rape, how can the Justice Department permit states like Ohio to mandate an unnecessary test like a sonogram with a vaginal probe before a woman gets an abortion? How is that not rape?

The Justice Department should nullify any state law that includes unnecessary medical tests and runs counter to Roe vs. Wade. Frankly, it looks like the federal government is supporting symbolic state-sponsored rape by some states by not acting.


I could not find a direct address for Attorney General Holder, but this address is supposed to forward DOJ E-mail. And you can write to President Obama via this form.