Throughout my 2006-2008 confinement at ORW (Ohio Reformatory for Women), I fought for my life and I am still fighting today.
I was admitted into the prison system with a previous diagnosis of breast cancer that was treatable through surgery. All results of my medical tests from a local hospital were easily accessible to the prison. ORW chose not to access any of them, the first of many negligent decisions made by the State.
Six months into my confinement a biopsy was performed and shortly after that a lumpectomy. More cancer was discovered, but it had not yet moved to my lymph nodes. At post-op I discussed my treatment options with the surgical oncologist. I opted for a bilateral mastectomy (total removal of both breasts) due to a strong family history of breast cancer that had claimed the life of my grandmother at 38 and my mother at 42. I also requested total breast reconstruction. To the best of anyone?s knowledge, this would be the first breast reconstruction performed on an inmate in the US.
The prison rejected my request. I grieved, and appealed to the chief inspectors office. I asked questions and when I didn?t get answers, I asked more questions. I wrote every related and unrelated agency that I could locate an address for and put a postage stamp to it. I believe that the questions my case raised about equal and appropriate medical care of inmates, coupled with the scrutiny of the Ohio State Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, were the basis for finally approving this surgical milestone. On 1/10/08, plastic surgeon Dr. Pankaj Tiwari performed the first breast reconstruction on an inmate (me!) in US history.
Unfortunately, because of repeated clerical errors and precious diagnostic time being wasted again and again, the cancer spread to my lymph nodes. Because of sub-standard prison medical care, I developed MRSA and twice had to be rushed an outside hospital. In July 2008, seven months after my original surgery, the ?discovery? was made that I should have started chemotherapy seven months prior. It was also discovered that no pathology from 1-10-08 surgery had never been completed, and was not done until 7-18-08. The pathology shows the aggressiveness of your cancer and how it will respond to chemotherapy. It came as no surprise that I had a very aggressive cancer that did not respond well to chemotherapy.
I am currently in my 16th week of treatment. And I want to tell you sometimes this is really hard, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?really hard. I have a year of chemo left. I know I?ll get through this and beat it.
The message that I want to carry to you isn?t about how incredibly F—– up the penal system is. This is a shout-out to you about hope, to tell you to help each other write those informal complaints, grievances, and appeals. It is only after we have exhausted their procedures that we will have actual LEGAL RECOURSE. My hope is that through litigation of cases such as mine, we will force a corrupt system to change and be held accountable.
Help each other, teach each other, stand for something, unite your voices?It?s not someone else?Girl, it?s you!!