Planned Parenthood is 'why I'm alive today'

Since July, Congress has voted four times on whether to defund Planned Parenthood. That effort failed this time around, but there is plenty of evidence that they'll try again in the coming months. When politicians talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, what they are really talking about is taking away the type of care that saved my life.

In April of 2013, my annual mammogram came back suspicious. I was referred for additional screening. Further testing was done and the radiologist concluded everything was fine. Not long after, my family lost our private health insurance.

A Planned Parenthood Clinic in Oklahoma City, July 24, 2015.
Sue Ogrocki | AP
A Planned Parenthood Clinic in Oklahoma City, July 24, 2015.

A few months later while I was undressing after working out, I felt something in my breast. Figuring it couldn't be a coincidence or a hernia, I knew that I needed to get it looked at right away. Unfortunately, there are very few screening options in the Dallas area for women like me without health insurance or the ability to pay directly. Of the handful of clinics that accepted patients like me, I did not meet the qualifications of three of them because of my background or where I live. Of the two that said I qualified for treatment, one was out of funding and hoping it would be restored at the start of the new year. The other was booked at least eight weeks out.

Thankfully, they suggested Planned Parenthood. Not only were they able to see me immediately but they offered the financial assistance I needed to get the diagnostic testing done immediately. Vivian, my guardian nurse, literally saved my life. She worked tirelessly to make sure a grant — which the Texas Legislature later disqualified Planned Parenthood patients from receiving — would cover the costs of the diagnostic tests required.

Vivian called me just about every day to make sure that I was being scheduled for the proper tests quickly and that the costs would be covered. When word came back that I had invasive lobular carcinoma — or as my surgeon refers to it, "a tricky form" of breast cancer — Vivian and Planned Parenthood helped me fill out the applications for funds that would allow me to begin treatment. Planned Parenthood is the main reason why I'm alive today. She went above and beyond, understanding that access to timely care is a human right that should be available to all women.

Yet some in Congress are still vowing to block access to cancer screenings and other preventive care for low-income and uninsured women at Planned Parenthood. That's what defunding is. It's blocking resources like grants and Medicaid reimbursements from covering the preventive care that millions of women get at Planned Parenthood — including essential things like well-woman exams and birth control.

Let me tell you something: In the fight against cancer, time equals your life. If you let the enemy amass an army of immense proportions or spread out and take over more territory, you will lose the war. Between the time I first went to Planned Parenthood and only five weeks later when I began treatment, my tumor doubled in size. If Planned Parenthood hadn't been available, I would have been forced to wait at least two months just to have a medical professional palpate it and begin the diagnosis process — time that could have literally meant the end of my life.

I still have one surgery to go, but after chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and other surgeries, I am cancer free. It was a tough battle, as cancer always is. Many, many women, "sheroes" — like me — don't have the resources to put up a good fight without allies like Planned Parenthood on the line with them.

Perhaps, like me, you were unaware that Planned Parenthood provided breast and cervical cancer screenings. Perhaps, like me, you were unaware that people at Planned Parenthood will move mountains to get their patients the care they need — and to get that care paid for.

My treatment would not have happened without Vivian and Planned Parenthood.

However you feel about abortion, Planned Parenthood saved my life and the lives of countless other women who don't have the resources for health care. If Congress succeeds in its long-running campaign to defund Planned Parenthood, women most in need of doctors and nurses like Vivian will have an even harder time finding a place to turn. All in the name of politics. Saving the lives of women like me IS a pro-life position.

Commentary by Dayna Farris-Fisher, a Planned Parenthood patient and advocate. Her story was included in recent testimony given to Congress by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. Follow her on Twitter @DaynaFarrisFish.