Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Martina vs. Breast Cancer: Her Own

Martina Navratilova announced today that she has breast cancer. Apparently her prognosis is very good. She has had surgery and will undergo radiation. I expect she will take on this battle the way she has taken on every political issue, athletic challenge or social justice cause she has encountered in her life: with focus, honesty and candor. Her diagnosis must have been a shock for a woman who takes such excellent care of herself and prides herself on her physical health and athleticism even as she enters middle age.

The recently passed health care reform bill once included provisions to address health care issues faced by LGBT people, but they were removed in the final bill. According to this article, there will be an opportunity to add these provisions back in later (but going by how difficult it’s been to pass ENDA and repeal DADT, I’m not seeing it in the near future). This article describes some of the ways that LGBT couples face higher health care costs because our relationships are not recognized by the federal government.

According to the Mautner Project, a national lesbian health care organization, “Lesbians are more likely to smoke, drink more alcohol, and be overweight, which increase the risk of cancer. They are less likely to use oral contraceptives, bear children or breast feed, and to go to the doctor regularly, which can decrease the risk of cancer. Lesbians and bisexual women are also significantly more likely than heterosexual women to have never had a mammogram and to eat fewer fruits and vegetables daily.”

I wish part of the efforts by women’s basketball and other women’s sports to promote breast cancer awareness and raise funds to fight it specifically addressed the issue of lesbians and breast cancer and women of color and breast cancer who also face elevated risk factors. It would be a great service to lesbian and women of color athletes and fans to make them aware of these elevated risk factors.

Maybe Martina will take this on as she enters a club that I am also happy to be a member of – cancer survivor. Like Martina, my ovarian cancer was caught early and I celebrated my 20th cancer-free year this January.

I also hope that Martina has a family of friends and relatives who will surround her with the love and support she will need for the next stage of her treatment. Martina, my best wishes for your speedy recovery. We need you out there leading the way as you always have.

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