I recently returned from Uganda where I spent three months volunteering with a health rights organization. Next door to the NGO at which volunteered is the UgandaWomen's Cancer Support Organization (UWOCASO) run by a small, courageousgroup of breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer survivors.
Last night I watched Joanna Rudnick's intimate and informative documentary, "In the Family," about the BRCA genetic mutations that cause a predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. Using her own story as the framework for the film - she learned that she is a BRCA mutation carrier at age 27 - Rudnick speaks with cancer survivors, doctors, genetic counselors, other "previvors" like herself, and family members about what it's like to know that your body is, as she puts it, a "time bomb."
From a first-grilled Shabbat meal of the summer on Friday night (and my first beef hamburger in maybe a year), to picking up our remarkably green CSA farm veggies (what will we do with so many radishes?), to baking a lemon-blueberry pound cake for my friend's birthday yesterday, for me this weekend was all about food. Which inevitably, in my house, means long, drawn-out discussions about food, kashrut, and ethics. Seriously. Every week we talk about it.
I first "met" Barbara Seamen through my dissertation research. Reading her books about women’s health and her personal archives, I encountered a woman who was prescient, outspoken, and brave. At a time when most feminists celebrated the wonders of the Pill, which freed sex from reproduction, Seaman investigated its costs to women’s health, publishing her first book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, in 1969.
Today is the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion. In commemoration, I’ve been reading Behind Every Choice is a Story, by Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood – a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while.
I’ve never met Lorraine Rothman, a women’s health activist and inventor of the Del’Em menstrual extraction kit. But I came to know her work through my dissertation research, and so I was deeply saddened to hear that she is dying.
With the flowering of autumn Jewish holidays consuming our attention, it’s unlikely that many of us have tuned into September as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I wasn’t aware of it either until I listened to NPR yesterday for the first time in several days. Ovarian cancer—often called the “silent killer”—seems to garner less attention than breast cancer whose awareness month is assigned to October, awash with pink ribbons, walks, fundraisers, and other benefits.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) and the increasing number of Jews making environmental advocacy an ethical priority, or for many, a religious imperative. What I didn’t muse about was how CSAs, organic farming, and food equity programs are appealing to other religious groups and, in many ways, uniting them.
While Hadassah, Jewish Women International, and the National Council for Jewish Women were busy weighing-in on the HPV vaccination debate (see February’s blog entry: “HPV Vaccinations: Choice or Mandate?”) the Orthodox Union (OU) has been firing its way into sexual health rhetoric by launching its own take on the “abstinence only” movement; a movement which has been dominated by the Christian Right. The OU now stands proudly behind the First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens.