From the ages of 11 to 13, I watched my mother, Betty, struggle with breast cancer. It was a cancer that, with early detection, would likely have been treatable. But while she was fighting the battle going on in her body, my mother was fighting another battle, one she had no hopes of winning.

She was one of the millions of uninsured in the United States. No insurance meant no access to the early detection that might have saved or prolonged her life.

After nearly three agonizing years, my mother lost her battle with cancer in 1988.

For years afterwards, I watched my self-employed father pay off her massive medical bills, $100 and less at a time.

In 2005, my father, also uninsured, died suddenly of a condition that, with early detection, might have been treated.

This is my space to speak out about the health insurance debate in this country. It's a place to drag into the light the fundamental sexism of a system that would deny coverage to pregnant women, domestic violence victims, and other women just for having the "risk factor" of being female. It's a place to look at the current research and activism about breast cancer, and to debunk the myths that feed the sexism and the fear. It's my place to speak out.

Because she didn't raise me to be silent.