Friday, March 16, 2012

when you push a mouse's buttons....

This is the email that started everything.

This is the email I sent to Kansas Senator Steve Morris in response to this article:

If you haven't read it yet, please do.

In light of my current health situation, I felt the need to respond. What follows is my own personal story, written to him in an email. It contains more information than most of you would ever want to know about my uterus, but if you're interested in reading it, please do.

I encourage you to write your own response. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable.

Mr. Morris,

As enraged as I am to learn about the proposed bill in Kansas, I am going to attempt to address my concerns with grace and tact. Whether you'll even read this email remains to be seen, but bills like the one in your state concern me on a personal level, and I can no longer sit by and allow my voice to go unheard.

This is where my email gets personal. And you know what? If that makes you uncomfortable, I really don't care. Politicians have decided that my uterus is something they should be intimately concerned about, so they may as well know every little detail about what goes on inside of it. Take a moment to put on your big boy pants, and keep reading.

When I was in high school, I started menstruating. I was a late bloomer, to be honest. But from day one, my cycles were abnormal. I was 15 at the time, and was bleeding so heavily on a monthly basis that I became severely anemic. I was embarrassed about it and said nothing until I went to donate my first pint of blood at our High School blood drive and was turned away because my iron levels were dangerously low. I ended up discussing it with my mother, and she took me to visit the family physician. As soon as the phrase, "my period is abnormal," left my lips, my doctor whipped out her prescription pad and sent me to the pharmacy for birth control pills. Or, "Whore Pills," as they're referred to this day in age. 17 years old, not sexually active, and the answer was to put me on hormone pills in order to regulate my body. Great.

Well, I took those pills for a few months. Did they do anything to help? Not at all. They tried putting me on the birth control patch, thinking that maybe I just wasn't receiving the RIGHT dose of hormones. Again, no help. It wasn't until the third failed attempt at putting me on birth control that my physician decided that perhaps something else was going on with my body, and decided to conduct a full gynecological exam. I remember lying on that table, in stirrups, and in tears - being poked and prodded by fingers and various instruments. Do you know how that feels? More importantly, do you know how it feels to be lying there, in stirrups, with a doctor and a med student between your legs, only to hear the phrase, "Huh. That's weird...."? Come to find out, I have a double cervix. They sent me for an ultrasound, and discovered that I also have a bicornuate uterus. I tried in vain to get my doctor to explain to me what that meant, and her reply was as follows: "It's nothing you need to worry about until you're ready to have children." Every time I asked and pressed for more information, that was the line I was fed.

By the time I left Michigan to attend college in Chicago, my doctor had switched me over to the Depo Provera shot, which I only ended up taking twice. Why? Because the hormone cocktail it delivered to my system every three months made it impossible for me to function like a normal, active 20-something female. So, I stopped taking birth control all together. Nothing was helping, and the only thing that was normal about my cycle was that it was abnormal. I figured that I would just learn to deal with it, because I had no other options.

Let's fast-forward to, say, 2009. Right around the time when I graduated college, and I was immediately booted from the health insurance plan that my parents have. My periods were still incredibly heavy, and incredibly abnormal - they came like clockwork, but when I say abnormal, I mean that they were incredibly heavy and lasted twice as long as any other woman I knew. Skipping ahead to 2010; my periods were starting to affect the way that I lived my life. I am an avid cyclist, and a passionate artist - both in the theatre/film industry and as a musician. There were days when I was afraid to leave the house, let alone be on stage and in costume for 2 hours with no bathroom break. But I had no health insurance, and knew that going on birth control pills hadn't helped me in the past, so I was forced to suffer through and deal with it.

In the fall of 2010, parts of the Obama Health Care Plan went into effect. For me, that meant that I would once again be able to have health coverage through my parents - only for a few extra years, but every little bit helps. I'd been in honest, constant contact with my mother since then, and we made plans for me to see the doctor as soon my feet touched Michigan soil. This time, I saw a doctor who listened to EVERYTHING I had to say, and who was 100% honest every step of the way; a doctor who was also blown away by the amount of blood loss I have every month, and who could not understand WHY no one had addressed it before. She DID put me back on birth control pills, but explained that birth control had come a long way in the last few years, and thought it might be worth another try. I was not thrilled, but I figured I'd go ahead and trust her judgment.

She sent me for a new ultrasound reading, because she was shocked that the previous doctor had sent me away for one and then refused to explain it to me. She also ran new blood work for me; I'd ask you to guess if I was still severely anemic, but I'm pretty sure you already know the answer. The ultrasound results came through in the inbox of my email the next day, accompanied by the following note from my doctor (copied and pasted, word for word):
   They found a bicornuate uterus, which verifies what you already knew. The lining looks okay.  No evidence of any other pathology that would make you bleed excessively, so we'll take the hormone route to control it first. Please feel free to call me with any questions or concerns.
I called her the next day, and asked her to explain what exactly a "bicornuate uterus" was, and what it meant for me/my future. Apparently, mine is unique - I have two completely separate uterine cavities - each one with its own cervix. She was thorough with her explanations until I asked her, again, "Ok. What can I do about it?"

Care to take a wild guess at her response?

"It's nothing you need to worry about until you want to have children. It would be a high-risk pregnancy, so you'd need to consult with an OB/GYN before conceiving."

I'm sure you're shocked by her answer. Right? Because all women DESPERATELY want to have children and can't make their own decisions about their future, right?

Now that you have all of the details about my uterus - the uterus that the government is so oddly interested in - I'd like to tie my situation into YOUR current situation - that being the proposed bill in the state of Kansas. See, here's my problem; I'm 24 years old. I'm only going to have reliable health insurance for the remainder of 2012, at which point I'm going to either be paying for birth control pills out of pocket, or I'm going to have to stop taking them altogether. I've known for years now that I don't want to have children - not my own, anyway. I've always said that if I wanted children, I would rather adopt - give a loving home to a child in need rather than bring another into this world. But our dear government has decided that I am not old enough to make that decision. I am old enough to serve in the armed forces, I am old enough to drive a car and buy cigarettes, but I am NOT old enough to decide that I would rather not procreate.

Seems silly, right? That I could decide to go to war for my country, but am incapable of deciding whether or not to give birth?

At this point in time, it seems that I have two options: continuing feeding my body hormones for the rest of my child-bearing years, or undergo a surgical procedure that, in all honestly, I most likely will not be allowed to get due to my age. Never mind the fact that I made the decision years ago that I didn't want children - the government has decided that I AM NOT OLD ENOUGH TO MAKE THAT DECISION. So, when 2013 arrives, I will either have to pay for birth control out of pocket, or go off of it completely. Which then, begs the question, what if I get pregnant? Knowing full-well that I am already on the "high-risk" list, what am I supposed to do?

If your doctors conduct an ultrasound, and they find out that there is a danger to my life, the life of the fetus, or both, how can you allow them to NOT provide me with that information? If I sat down with an OB/GYN tomorrow and was told that I could never carry a pregnancy to term without loss of life on either end, would you allow your doctors to perform an ultrasound and flat-out LIE to my face about it?

If anti-abortion bills get passed in this country, you are essentially signing my death certificate. I WILL NOT sit idly by and allow that to happen.

I am on "whore pills" because I have a severely abnormal cycle that has been taking a toll on my body and my immune system since I was 15 years old. I cannot get a straight answer from a doctor about my future, because they all assume that I'll want to have children one day - despite my constant (and loud) vocalizations to the contrary. I probably won't be able to find a doctor to perform a hysterectomy because I am only 24, despite the fact that I am a high-risk case - and also because the government has decided that I am not old enough to decide AGAINST having children. If I accidentally get pregnant, either because I can no longer afford birth control pills OR because they have failed to do one of their jobs, my doctor may be able to LIE to me about my health and the health of the fetus because he or she doesn't believe in abortion.

What then? What if a woman, living in the state of Kansas, is in my exact predicament? And what if that woman gets pregnant? Can you honestly say that you would stand by and allow her doctor to lie to her about her pregnancy? What would you say to her grieving family members if both lives were lost due to a provision in a bill that allowed her doctor to pretend that everything was ok?

You, sir, should be disgusted by this. You do NOT get to decide what I can and cannot do with my own body, and you do NOT get to decide how I live my life. And when I say "you," I am speaking to the government as a whole.

Do you understand? At all? Do you see that you could be one of the first middle-aged male politicians to fight back and actually take a stand for women's rights? Fight this bill, and encourage your fellow politicians to fight as well. Decisions such as these should be between a woman her family - they do not involve you, and they do not involve the government as a whole.

Stay out of the uteri of America. And in this case, stay out of BOTH of mine.

Lindsey C. Gavel

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