Trigger Warning: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Perpetrators of Sexual Assault
Recently I met with the best breast reconstruction plastic surgeon in Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss a breast reduction. She specializes in breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, so it’s pretty safe to say she knows boobs.
I have been contemplating a breast reduction for at least 10 years. I’ve always been well-endowed in the chestal region, and everyone assured me that after I stopped nursing babies, they would deflate like a balloon and I would be left with two wrinkled raisins on my chest. Only that didn’t happen. Like about a 1/3rd of all mothers, my breasts have only gotten larger as I’ve had more children. What started out as a 34 D in my first pregnancy has become a 34 FF. Yep, I just dropped my numbers on y’all.
My sister had a breast reduction the summer before her senior year in High School (sorely needed) and wasn’t able to exclusively nurse her babies because of it. Because of her experience I wanted to wait until I was completely done having children and done nursing them before I pursued this option. Since the hubs had a vasectomy and we have 4 little offspring ruling our lives, it’s safe to say this womb is now closed. The milk factories have shut down. It’s time to reduce the number.
The reasons why I would like a breast reduction are:
- None of your business but I will tell you anyway.
- Even though my breasts are NOT grossly large and disproportionate to my frame (and I’ve been told I carry them well many times – thank you, I spend a lot of money on good bras) I have severe neck and shoulder pain. I see a chiropractor twice a month to alleviate this and have seen one for 10 years now. I see a massage therapist twice a month, to deal with constant knots in my shoulders. Last Saturday when I saw him he said, “Marisa, what on earth did you do to your shoulders?” Nothing. I did nothing. They are always like this.
- I do the stretches, massages, stem treatments, adjustments, icing, and Ibuprofen that my chiropractor and massage therapist recommend to me every day. There is not a day where I’m not hunched over my computer where I don’t stop every 2 hours to stretch out my shoulders. And I’m in still near constant pain. I keep a tennis ball at my desk that I use to rub out the knots in my shoulders so that I can keep typing without crying. I have a high tolerance for pain, and I’m at the point where my tolerance is low.
- Like I said in #2, I buy really expensive bras. I can’t go in to Target or even Kohl’s and buy a bra off the rack. Nope, mostly I shop online from specialty stores. And the bras I buy are the exact opposite of cute. Function over form. It would be really nice to not have to spend $80+ on a bra that was comfortable and didn’t further worsen my back pain. AND don’t you even dare get me started on swimming suit tops.
- My posture is atrocious. Big chested women are not keen on keeping their shoulders back when their breasts already draw a lot of unwanted attention and comments. Also, it really hurts to keep my shoulders back and my spine straight when I got these big bags of flesh/fat/milk ducts/sin tissue weighing me down.
- I would like to wear a button up shirt for once in my life without it gaping. So sue me.
However, when my surgeon submitted the pre-authorization to my insurance it took them 3 weeks to get around to telling me that their doctor , who has no specialty in this area, and who is also a man who doesn’t have to deal with breasts, decided my surgery wasn’t medically necessary.
Good for you. I’m so glad a man with no expertise who gets paid a lot of money to deny claims has decided whether my quality of life is worth paying for. I’m glad he decided that the immense back/shoulder/neck pain I feel every day isn’t worth solving.
In 2011 the hubs had a bone impingement in his right hip. He wasn’t in excruciating pain all the time, but it was uncomfortable. The square joint was causing tears in his labrum and severely lessening his flexibility in his joint. The insurance didn’t even think twice about covering that surgery or his 6 weeks of physical therapy. It would have worsened and he would have had to have it addressed sooner or later, but it wasn’t a surgery he had been contemplating for over 10 years. No one ever stopped in the street to catcall him over his square hip joints. He didn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on comfortable pants. No one assumed he was a slut because of his square joints.
BUT I guess when it comes to a man’s comfort, well the insurance will just bend over backwards to make sure that’s taken care of. We can’t have a man suffer, while women are just expected to suffer. I mean, we push babies out of us sometimes with little to no medication, so what’s constant neck and shoulder pain for a woman? Nothing.
However, I’m not going down without a fight. I’ve already contacted the necessary doctors who are going to do their part in appealing this decision. I’ve already called my insurance and wrung ever little bit of information out of them that I can. I know my rights and they are hoping that I don’t and that I won’t raise a fuss. They don’t know me at all. They will rue the day a man with no expertise decided my breasts weren’t uncomfortable enough for me to live with a little less of.
Thing is, I pay over $500 a month for the privilege of having this insurance. Shouldn’t I get something out of it? Shouldn’t I say if this is bothering me my word should be good enough? Especially when uneducated people are making medical decisions for someone like me who deals with this every day.
I will have this surgery. I will get out of pain. And no one is going to stop me.
They will rue the day.
They don’t know ’bout me.
I will not go gentle into this good night.
Eff the Patriachy that has men making medical decisions for women. Eff it.
If a man’s testicles hung down to his knees, the insurance would approve in a heartbeat to get that taken care of. Why is it any different for a woman?
Because misogyny in the Health Care System.
On Friday, February 5, 2016 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposed a bill in the Utah legislature brought forth by Senator Mark Madsen that would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. citing unintended consequences that could come with use of the drug.
And I am angry.
I grew up being taught that the LDS church was politically neutral. Every election season a letter is read over the pulpit in every Ward in the United States written by the First Presidency emphatically stating that the church keeps out of politics.
However, this past legislative session in Utah has proven that the church’s long-claimed stance of political neutrality is false. Most people outside the state don’t understand how one religion, no matter how prominent, can have such an effect on state policies. But it does. Most of the state legislators identify as LDS and as any LDS person will tell you, when the prophet speaks, you listen, and you do as you are told. Obedience above conscious.
The reason for opposing medical marijuana?
You mean like people suffering from chronic, debilitating, and painful diseases getting relief?
You mean like people who do suffer those painful diseases not becoming addicted to the opioids their doctors prescribe because that’s all doctors can do legally?
You mean like people being high all the time on THC? NEWFLASH – these same people are high all the time. On opioids.
And because they are having to ever increase their opioid use with no legal proven alternative available, it is leading to some patients becoming addicted. Utah has an insanely high opioid usage rate as well as heroin rate. The Utah Department of Health has noted that Utah has an experienced a more than 400% increase in prescription drug use injuries and death in the last decade. An average of 21 Utahns die a month due to prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranks 8th highest in prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States.
Marijuana isn’t the drug you should be worried about, LDS church.
Heavy opioid use for chronic pain also leads to liver damage, digestive difficulties like not being able to keep food down and chronic, and bowel damaging, constipation.
I’m sure the LDS church leaders believe this is a moral issue, so I have to ask…
What’s so moral about letting people suffer?
No one has ever overdosed on Marijuana.
I could see if this were legalizing recreational marijuana use why the LDS church would be opposed to that and taking a strong stance against it.
But this is about medicinal use in oil form. Mormons love their medicinal oils. I’m sure if doTerra was pushing this, all the prominent MLM owning Mormons would jump at having it legalized.
Luckily Senator Madsen is not kowtowing to the incredible and inappropriate overreach of the LDS church into state politics. He has proposed 8 amendments to the law that he hopes will alleviate concerns to the Bill.
Anecdotally, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer in August 2007. She opted for chemotherapy treatments to extend her life and it was awful. She threw up constantly. She couldn’t keep any food down, thereby becoming dehydrated. She was in constant pain. Her doctor prescribed for her Marinol to help increase her appetite and deal with the nausea chemotherapy caused. Marinol is one of the cannabinoids.
I wish I could sit down with the leaders of the LDS church and describe to them what it was like to watch my mom suffer an absolute nightmarish hell during her last 3 months on this earth. I wish I could tell them what it was like to sit with her in her hospital room watching her writhe in pain, wake up and look at me with panic-stricken eyes that reminded me of a wounded animal, and beg me, BEG ME, her second daughter, someone she called “girl baby” and nursed at her breast until I was 15 months old, BEG ME to go find someone to kill her. Please tell me how you would feel to have your mother, a light and sunshine to everyone she knew, be suffering so much she begged you to find someone to take her life.
You know that scene in Terms of Endearment when Debra Winger is in the hospital dying of cancer and her mother, Shirley MacClaine, goes and screams at the nurses and demands they relieve the suffering of her dying daughter? Yeah, that was me.
Please tell where the dignity is in letting dying people suffer when oil from a plant…A PLANT that God planted in the ground.. can alleviate suffering? Why are those who aren’t suffering constantly asking others to do it when they have no idea the pain that is involved?
On another anecdotal note, I’m old enough now to have several friends who suffer from various chronic, painful diseases: Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Anxiety, Erytohmelalgia (or Mitchell’s syndrome), and numerous other autoimmune disorders. THC has been proven to alleviate the pain and other symptoms that these debilitating and painful diseases cause. Prescribing people who are suffering ever-increasing amounts of opioids is unconscionable, and I would argue, ammoral.
So I’m begging the leaders of the LDS church to do the right thing. I was always taught growing up in church to do the right thing and let the consequences follow. I was taught to be honest in my dealings. I was taught to put the pain and suffering of others above my own comfort. Please LDS church, practice what you preach. Again I ask,
What’s so moral about letting people suffer?
I’ve had a lot of loved ones recently suffer the loss of someone they love. Whether that be a parent, child, grandparent, friend, significant other, etc. My heart breaks for them because I know this pain too well. I’ve been living with the loss of my mother the past 8 years and I wanted to share what I have learned.
Several months after my mother died I attended a grief support group. Everyone in the group had lost someone significant to their lives and it was healing to be with people who knew exactly how I was feeling and it was healing to be able to support each other in our collective grief. One particular night the Social Worker who was leading the group told us that we had to find our “new normal.”
I felt an instant wave of anger at that statement. I didn’t want a “new normal.” I wanted my old normal back. I wanted a normal that included a living mother to help me navigate life and motherhood. I wanted a normal where my kids had a relationship with both their grandmas. I wanted a normal where it didn’t feel like my heart was hemorrhaging at every moment of the day.
Eventually I realized how kind that Social Worker was when she talked about a new normal. Because I didn’t have a choice. Life was going to give me a new normal whether I wanted it or not.
I learned that my new normal was going to be like if someone cut off my right hand and I had to learn how to write and function with my left hand. It’s not easy. It doesn’t feel natural. It’s against my gene’s predetermined hand dominance. But eventually I learned how to write with it. And it was sloppy and messy at first, but over time, it got easier.
And although it’s easier now, it’s not perfect. Every happiness that has come to me since my mother died has been bittersweet. She’s never going to be here for all the births, weddings, birthdays, happy occasions, accomplishments. She’s never going to be able to be a grandma to her grandkids, four of whom she will never meet. She’s never going to call me again and recap American Idol for me while I pretend to be annoyed. I’m never going to cry to her again when someone is mean to me. She’s never going to cheer me on, root for me, or tell me how much she loves me again.
And that’s okay. It’s not fair. It’s not what I want. It’s never going to be alright. But it’s okay.
Despite the bittersweet, there has been joy. And when I do have those happy moments or we as a family have welcomed a new member or enjoyed a family gathering together, we feel her with us in Spirit. If I can’t have her here on earth, I’ll settle for guardian angel.
So my new normal has become honoring her life. I do this by living the best life I can. By being happy with what I have. By helping others as much I can. By raising grandchildren to be people she would be proud of. By making others laugh. By being kind to strangers and children. By leaving the world a better place for having lived in it.
Like she did.
1997 – 2015
On Sunday morning Afton graduated from this mortal life. She will be missed. I have no words except the ones I already wrote here.
A little over three years ago my supervisor was a Marriage and Family Therapist. He had done therapy with individuals, groups, and families for more than twenty years and always had really good insight in staff meetings. We all learned a great deal from him on how to communicate effectively and efficiently with each other in the office, with clients, and others in our private lives.
Unfortunately at that time I was having conflict with someone in my life that I was trying to make right. I went to my supervisor on many occasions for advice, but it wasn’t until I sat down with him during a performance review that turned into a pseudo-therapy session that I finally gained some insight to how to fix the problem. He was giving me some very good advice about humility and forgiveness and I was soaking it all in. I felt like I was finally getting the answers I needed. Then I shared with him all the things this person had said about me and done to me.
He said to me that he never liked to badmouth another person. Having worked with him for more than five years at that point I knew that to be true. But then he said something that changed my life, it set me free, and I surrendered to the fact that nothing I ever say or do was going to matter from that point forward. He said to me:
Marisa, some people are too toxic to have a relationship with.
I’d like to say that my life changed instantly and it was all made better after this. I took in what he said, but I didn’t listen. I still believed that if I was just humble enough, fell on my sword enough, said I was sorry enough, I could fix it. It wasn’t until I tried one last time, thought things were better, only to step in the proverbial dog pile again did I realize how true his words are.
Some people are too toxic to have a relationship with.
Once I finally realized this, once this little piece of enlightenment had finally taken root deep within me, once I surrendered to the notion that there is nothing I can say or do to make things better because it’s really not about me at all, I was set free.
Recently I came this article titled, “10 Toxic People You Should Avoid Like the Plague,” on Inc.com written by Lolly Daskal and I found it incredibly insightful and helpful for me. I hope you find it helpful as well.
1. Toxic arrogance
There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence inspires; arrogance intimidates. Arrogant people always know best and feel superior to others. They will never celebrate your confidence because it interferes with their arrogance.
2. Toxic victimhood
One of the most dangerous people you can have around you is the perpetual victim. Perpetual victims look at their own issues and mistakes and always find others to blame, from their unreasonable boss to their unloving parents. They never take ownership of their own lives.
3. Toxic control
Controlling people know everything and the best way to do anything. They’re usually very insecure beneath it all, but as long as they’re around you’ll never get a chance to voice an idea or do anything yourself.
4. Toxic envy
Those plagued with jealousy are never happy with what they have, and they aren’t capable of being happy when good things happen to you. They can’t appreciate it when others achieve or move forward; they feel that if anything good is going to happen, it should happen to them.
5. Toxic lies
As long as there are people, there will be people who lie. But chronic liars are harmful because you never know what to believe, so you can’t count on their promises or their word. They will lie to you about others, and they will lie to others about you.
6. Toxic negativity
You probably know someone who’s always angry and resentful, suspicious of everything. Negativity destroys relationships, and spending time with negative people makes you feel they are sucking the life out of you.
7. Toxic greed
So much of our culture tells us to want more, achieve more, earn more. And to a degree that kind of desire and ambition can be good. But it turns toxic when people want it all–what’s theirs and what’s not–and when having, rather than doing or being, becomes the focus of their life.
8. Toxic judgmentalism
There is a big difference between making a judgment and being judgmental. Judgments are objective and based on discernment, while being judgmental is just about criticism. Judgmental people are always quick to jump to conclusions. They are poor listeners and communicators.
9. Toxic gossip
Gossipers see themselves as having a deep conversation about someone, an exchange of information. They do it to elevate themselves above their insecurity, and there’s no distinction between speculation and fact. Few things are more destructive than gossip.
10. Toxic lack of character
When someone lacks integrity and honesty–when cheating, lying, manipulating, gossip, and greed are part of the norm–there are few things they won’t do to get their way. If they decide you’re an obstacle to them, they’ll come after you with everything they’ve got.
It’s so much more than a hashtag. #AftonStrong is a cause close to my heart.
Afton Wallace is my second cousin on my mom’s side. Her dad, Rob, and my mom are first cousins. My grandma and her grandpa are brother and sister. Afton and I share great-grandparents. I think that’s how second cousins work.
Afton Wallace is more than just my second cousin. In the last year Afton has taught me to live more fully and love more deeply. She has taught me about courage and fortitude. She has taught me what a real Superhero looks like. She’s half my age but has taught me about the kind of person I want to be: strong, brave, fearless, positive, inspiring, formidable, optimistic, loving, generous.
Afton is a senior in High School in Mississippi. Afton was her high school’s Homecoming Queen last Fall, she was named Miss Warren Central High School, she was voted Class Favorite, was the captain of her swimming team this year, scored a 33 on the ACT (that’s the 99th percentile), earned a full-ride scholarship to BYU for this Fall, took AP classes her senior year, and is graduating with honors this month  . She is quite a smart, accomplished young woman. But the truly remarkable thing is she has done all of this while battling Stage 4 Ewing Sarcoma, a very rare childhood bone cancer that is very aggressive  .
Afton was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma on May 22, 2014 and was only given a few days to live. Afton had tumors on her pelvic bone, spine, liver, and kidneys. She immediately started chemotherapy and radiation and her progress far exceeded doctor’s expectations. In January of this year we thought things were starting to turn around when doctors declared her to be in remission. However, a short month later Afton relapsed with a significant tumor on her brain. In March scans showed that Afton has numerous tumors growing throughout her body. Since last May, Afton has spent over 120 days in the hospital, undergone 45 radiation treatments, and received 70 doses of chemotherapy. 
And through it all Afton has “just kept swimming,” her motto from the movie Finding Nemo. Swimming is something Afton knows well considering she has been competitively swimming since she was in grade school and was a star athlete on her swimming team. Afton’s positive attitude in the face of insurmountable odds has inspired thousands of people, including me, her older cousin. On her Facebook page, Afton Wallace #mymissionisremission, she and her parents post countless videos of Afton singing after chemo treatments and pictures of her bright, smiling face . Afton acknowledges she has her hard moments as well. “You can have breakdown moments cause everyone has breakdown moments, and sometimes you have them every day,” says Afton. “But you have to keep a smile on your face to make it through. You really do.” 
As I have watched my sweet cousin face this impossible battle over the last year I am continually humbled by her optimism, good humor, and ability to give to others during, which should be some of her darkest moments. As part of her occupational therapy, Afton has been crocheting infinity scarves and donating them to a clinic for abused women in California. She also reaches out to other cancer patients and lifts their spirits. Anyone would be justified in being angry at their situation and not want to help others and maybe sometimes Afton does feel that way, but she does not show it publicly and instead her generous spirit shines through every time.
This quote by Helen Keller is one of my very favorites. If anyone had reason to give up and wallow in the unfairness of life, it was Helen Keller. Instead she overcame all her disabilities to be a social justice warrior and an iconic and inspirational American. This quote exemplifies Afton to me. Afton has opened a new doorway for the human spirit. Before her, I never knew that a young person could be so hopeful, optimistic, brave, wise and mature beyond her years, and heroic. She has reminded me just how precious and beautiful life is. She has taught me to never take a single day for granted. Her parents, Rob and Sheri, have taught me how precious our children are and how to be a rock of strength when everything inside you is crumbling to pieces. The Wallaces have taught me what true courage looks like. They have taught me more about unconditional love, sacrifice, and faith than I could ever learn from any book. And like I said at the beginning, Afton has taught me to live more fully and to love more deeply than I ever would have before her diagnosis.
Sadly, our hearts all broke last Friday, May 8th, when Sheri made the announcement that Afton’s latest CT and PET scans showed that her latest chemotherapy was not working and her tumors have tripled in size and dramatically increased in number. There are no more standard treatment options available to Afton and her body will not be able to recover enough to participate in a clinical trial. The doctors believe that Afton has less than 3 months to live. 
I read the news when I was checking Facebook on a break and I broke down in tears. I cried for Rob and Sheri and the devastation they must be going through. I cried for Afton’s siblings, Kaylynne, Abigail, Scott, and Katie. I cried for Afton and for the life and future she deserves. I cried for Afton’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, 58 first cousins, extended family, friends, and hometown of Vicksburg, MS.
It’s not fair. It’s not fair when this happens to those who want to live the most and have the most to live for.
I thought about Afton and what I could do to help, and there’s nothing I can do except contribute to her GoFundMe page . I thought about how selfless and giving Afton has been through all of this. I remembered that she always felt better after having blood transfusions, and though I have never done it before, I made an appointment for the very next day with the Red Cross to donate my blood. I learned that my blood will help save the lives of three people. If I can’t save Afton’s life, I can at least help someone else. 
Despite the odds, Afton is not giving up and neither are the people who love her. We don’t give up. We just keep swimming and we petition the Lord constantly with prayers for continued miracles.
I can’t let myself think far enough ahead into a future that doesn’t include Afton. If and when she passes from this life, whether that’s 90 days or 90 years from now, Afton will leave a great legacy of love, courage, optimism, enthusiasm for life, endurance, strength, grace, and success.
Afton your life has been a success because you made the lives of those who love you better by simply being you.
There are no words in the English language adequate enough to express my deep love and gratitude to Afton and her family. They are a miracle, and through the atonement of Jesus Christ, no matter what happens, we will all be together forever. There is no mutant cell that could ever take that away. Because of His grace, cancer will never win. It can destroy a physical body, but it cannot harm an eternal soul.
Don’t give up. Never quit. Just keep swimming. Just keep smiling. Just keep loving. Give more. Love more. Live more. Enjoy more. Seek out joy. Look for miracles. Never let go.
Those are the lessons I’ve learned from my dear, sweet, younger cousin.
“…unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
This article is posted with the gracious permission of the Wallace family.
The article was featured on The Huffington Post where Afton herself picked the beautiful pictures that were featured. RIP Beautiful girl.
 MS NEWS NOW | WLBT, WDBD (http://www.msnewsnow.com/story/28949637/afton-wallace-her-fight-for-life)
 The Vicksburg Post (http://www.vicksburgpost.com/2015/05/03/just-keep-swimming/)
 Afton Wallace #mymissionisremission (https://www.facebook.com/aftonwallacemymissionisremission?fref=ts)
 Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson