Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jackie's Story

Hi everyone. It's been YEARS since I posted a story to this site, but Jackie just wrote me with this story, and I can't not share it.

My period was very early (I had just turned 10). After about six months of having them, they became very irregular and would alternate between very heavy and insignificant flows. I would have severe cramps to the point of vomiting, muscle spasms, and off the charts migraines. By the time I was 15, my periods were so heavy that I could go through a super plus tampon in less than an hour, plus a pad. I became anemic, and went on iron supplements because of it. I had to stop going to physical therapy (I fractured my patella, partially ripped my meniscus, and tore part of my ACL about 6 months prior) due to becoming dizzy and disoriented easily. My iron levels dropped so low that I couldn't concentrate, and I ended up spending days at home on bed rest (with a doctor's note, of course). Between the therapy and the anemia, I missed nearly 1/2 of my sophomore of high school.

One day, when I was in class, I randomly began bleeding. A lot. The school called 911 because they thought I was having a miscarriage, despite my adamant protests otherwise. When I was taken to the ER, they found that I had an ovarian cyst the size of a golf ball pressing against my appendix. And it had ruptured. The bleeding stopped on it's own (thankfully), and they immediately sent me to the OB floor for a full check up. I ended up being diagnosed with a severe case of PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome).

(For those of you unfamiliar with PCOS, it can be rough. It's uncommon, but not rare. It's thought to be genetic. It can cause Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, lack of ovulating, acne, weight gain and retention, and (unfortunately) infertility due to not ovulating, and other disorders/diseases.)

I personally thought all was lost and I was going to lose my ovaries. However, my doctor suggested I started on the pill. I was placed on Ocella and was told to come back after 3 months. In the next ultrasound, they found that the cysts were becoming smaller and there were fewer of them!

The pill saved me from having to have a oophorectomy (ovary removal) due to all the cysts! It also inhibited their growth, and saved me from having to have regular (as in nearly monthly) surgery to have the cysts removed. It's helped me to stabilize my hormones, manage my weight, and keep my anemia under control. It also gives me a chance at actually having children! Although slim, my chances of conceiving have gone up due to the pill regulating my body and getting it used to ovulating. It'll be a few years before kids become an issue for me, but, thanks to the pill, I have some semblance of a future in naturally getting conceiving and giving birth to my own child!

Without the pill, I would have been though countless surgeries (I'm 21 now), and possibly have had my ovaries removed. I have since switched to Natazia, and am thankful that this medicine has helped me, as it has so many others. I am healthy, and have control of my life again. :)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Amanda's Story

Amanda wrote in with a compelling story of how the pill literally saved her life. Her contact info is included here with permission.

I began having irregular menstrual bleeding when I was sixteen. Within the course of a year, it worsened to the point that I was bleeding constantly, quite literally all the time.

I became so anemic that my life was in danger. My blood cell count plummeted, and the cells I did have were very small. When I was finally tested, my red blood cell count was only two above the number needed to send me to the hospital for a transfusion.

Let me tell you what it is like to have life-threatening anemia.

You are always cold. Even on a warm day, you will chill easily. If it is cold, you are in a special hell, indeed, as your body withdraws what little blood you have from your extremities, leaving them icy cold and painful.

You cannot catch your breath. Because blood cells carry oxygen, you always feel tired and out of breath even when you haven't been physically exerting yourself. Physical exertion becomes impossible, as there is not enough oxygen in your blood to support sustained motion. Attempting to push through it leads to fainting. Even standing for long periods of time would cause me to become dizzy and nauseated.

You are tired, all the time. I slept ten hours a night or more, and would still fall asleep in class four or five times during the day. I would nap for three hours when I came home, and again for an hour after dinner. I slept probably fifteen or sixteen hours a day. I was still exhausted all the time, unrelentingly. I would fall asleep and wake up chilled and shivering. I slept so deeply that I didn't even dream.

You become weak. There is not enough oxygen in your muscles, and it saps your strength. I could not carry my backpack from class to class without becoming exhauasted.

You are always craving food rich in iron. I started craving red meat and bone marrow. This was a little disturbing. Yet, perversely, my appetite was terrible because I felt sick to my stomach all the time.

I missed a lot of school, two to three days a week, and was so sick that my doctors recommended I be allowed to finish out my senior year on half-days, to avoid exhausting me.

I was put on a high-dose birth control pill to stop the bleeding. Within three days it had stopped, and within two weeks I was recovering, though it took a long time for me to become fully-functional again. I was still booted out of the private school I had attended, and forced to attend public school.

No cause could be found for the bleeding. I had test after test, but the tests revealed nothing. I simply had to remain on the Pill. This was frustrating for me because my insurance at the time would not cover it, even though it was not for contraceptive purposes. The brand I was on was expensive -- forty dollars a pack -- and I was very poor. Paying for them was very hard. Planned Parenthood helped, and I was able to get them at a greatly reduced cost, but it was still prohibitive.

I stopped taking it several times, but each time the bleeding returned. I remained on it until I was twenty-five, and the bleeding finally didn't come back.

Later, I found out that I have a condition called Asherman's Syndrome, and my uterine scarring is so bad that if I were to become pregnant, the risk to my health would be significant. Again, it was a good thing I never got pregnant.

The Pill quite literally saved my life.

It saved me on a metaphorical level as well. I got married, and we didn't want (nor were we able to support) children, but I am one of those unlucky women who cannot use latex condoms. I was extremely poor, polyurethane condoms had not yet been put on the market, and there was no other avenue of reliable birth control open to me due to my youth. The Pill was all that saved me from bearing an unwanted child into abject poverty. If I had become a mother at that time (even if I could have carried to term, which is doubtful), it would have been disastrous.

-- Amanda Gannon
So in review, here's what the pill afforded Amanda: not just calmer hormonal cycles, not just birth control to prevent what is likely to be a life-threatening pregnancy, but a reliable, if somewhat dear (no thank you to her insurer), treatment for life-threatening anemia.

I guess those are all just minor benefits according to the American Life League.

Garnet writes in praise of the Nuva Ring.

Of course, the American Life League's attacks on The Pill aren't just about The Pill, they're also about other means of chemical contraception (or as they put it, "chemical abortion"), such as the NuvaRing® and Ortho-Evra®. (Don't take my word for it, check their website.) But as Garnet points out, these methods also help to regulate chaotic menstrual cycles. She wrote:

I went on birth control at 19. I had suffered, for three years, debilitating cramps so bad I had to miss a day or so of class every month. One time it was so bad all I could do was lay in bed and cry. Tylenol or Ibuprofen wouldn't even come close to the pain.

Now, I am able to function like a real person, 100% of the time. Gone are the killer mood swings that would have lost me the man who became my spouse. Gone is about 85% of the fatigue.

I have my life back, and its all because of my nuva ring.

E's story

E sent me her story earlier today. As with Mary and Lori B, The Pill wasn't so much about birth control, as it was about managing her periods and the health effects of their periods.

E writes:

My pill story is hardly a dramatic one, but nonetheless I feel like birth control helped me a great deal in my youth.

When I was a teenager, I had hellish menstrual cycles--a heavy flow that lasted ten or more days and left me iron-deficient, terrible changes in mood that I always had to apologize for later, and weeks of cramps so bad that I frequently missed school for days at a time because I couldn't eat or even get out of bed. And I never knew when it was coming, since it was always irregular. My grades began to fall because I was either missing school, or being an absolute beast to my teachers. It was definitely a disruption to my life, one that I dreaded.

I thought it was something that I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life until finally, when I was sixteen, my mother took me to the gynecologist. The doctor gave me birth control pills to regulate and lighten my periods. It helped ENORMOUSLY. Suddenly I had these wonderfully short, predictable three-day periods, and my cramps were manageable. I didn't become a monster every few weeks. I didn't need to take iron supplements anymore.

That was years ago. I know it's not a terribly exciting story--I didn't need birth control to keep me from becoming a teen mother, and I didn't have to squelch the odds to get my hands on it, it still helped me a great deal. And I know there are many more women out there just like me, who would be a sobbing mess on the sofa every three weeks were it not for their BC pills.


Lori B's Story

Lori B tells us another story of how The Pill allows her to function normally.

I was incensed when I saw the American Life League's site and the blatant lies they intend to spread. Not only is their information just blatantly WRONG about how the pill works, they also ignore the fact the pill is used for a vast variety of gynecological issues.

My own story is I have a tubal ligation, but I'm still on the pill. This is necessary to me because I suffer from chronic long periods, even after an endometrial ablation six years ago. My ovaries are healthy and so is my uterus, but my periods can last for up to a month without the pill. My periods will come back to back with only a couple days of respite. The only option after this is a hysterectomy, and I really do not want to suffer through horrendously painful and invasive major surgery to remove an otherwise healthy organ. My last and only option is the pill. I've suffered from irregular and heavy periods since I first got them at 15 years old and it's been a nightmare. Without the pill, I could not hope to have a normal sex life or feel comfortable in my own skin day to day because my body cannot regulate it's own hormones and nobody knows why. I could not have had the family and life I do now. The pill is NOT just for birth control! The pill is a desperately needed and necessary medication simply for quality of life. I am far from the only woman who suffers from problems like this, and I know many who suffer much worse.

That's my story. You may call me Lori B. for your website.

Now, there's an interesting twist to this story. Lori's choice is between the pill, a hysterectomy, or hormones that are essentially out of control. Or, given the American Life League's self-proclaimed philosophical foundations, no choice but hormones that are out of control.

The American Life League's Answer to Mary

I once wondered what American Life League would say to women like Mary? Fortunately, we don't need to wonder:

Q: Is it OK to take the pill for my acne or other health reasons?
A: Although the pill may have some minor benefits, the fact that it can kill preborn babies and cause harmful side effects for the woman outweighs its minor benefits.
Apparently preventing extremely painful and debilitating periods is a "minor benefit."

Mary's Story

Mary reminds us that many women need the pill just to function normally from day to day.

I was put on the pill when I was 13 years old. I began menstruating when I was 11, and my periods were very painful, accompanied by nausea, extremely painful cramps, lethargy, and chills. I would frequently miss school for the first two days of my cycle. At 13, my cycles seemingly began to get shorter. Since my fathers health insurance didn't cover OB/GYN, my mother took me to the clinic at a local teaching hospital, where it was discovered that both ovaries were covered by cysts, due to hormonal issues (This was 17 years ago, so I'm fuzzy on the details). The Pill let me keep my ovaries by regulating my hormones - my niece wasn't so lucky and had to have one of her ovaries removed as an infant. Aside from taking care of the cysts, the Pill made my periods far more comfortable, enabling me to attend school throughout my cycle, and even participate in sports during it. I'm very grateful.

Mary Holzman-Tweed

Diane's Story

"Diane" wrote me with her story of being a young lover in Indiana who got a rude awakening.

The birth control pill saved my life. When I was a teenager in rural Indiana, I regularly had sex with my steady boyfriend. We were "in love" and the blazing attraction of youth could only be quenched by romps in the back seat of his car on dark, deserted country roads. We were the epitome of the clich├ęd young lovers. We were "Jack and Diane" with the small town backdrop and all the angst we could muster.

Fortunately, I noticed the consequences of such trysts at school where pregnant seniors, juniors and sophomores were increasingly common. Also fortunate was the Planned Parenthood in a larger town nearby.

As I walked in the door to the clinic that day, I had no fear of being caught and shamed. Nothing would be worse than the shame of an unwanted pregnancy since my father expected me to finish high school and wanted me to go to college. I also realized that my economic status would be harmed greatly by a truncated education. I wanted to travel and see the world. I had goals that didn't include children.

Eventually, my expanding goals began to exclude "Jack" to the point where he threw away my birth control pills in an effort to trap me into a marriage due to pregnancy with him. At that moment, the clarity that children trap people in bad situations occurred to my young mind. I didn't let him touch me again until the next pack of pills was being consumed and we broke up shortly after that.

Once I had escaped the confines of rural Indiana, I realized that I was never cut out for motherhood. Life with children wasn't the least bit attractive to me. There didn't seem to be any rewards and my peers who produced offspring were usually complaining about the difficulty of the enterprise. There isn't a law that says you have to have kids, so I got a tubal ligation when I was twenty. I have not regretted it for a New York nanosecond since. The pill was a liberating interlude for me while I awaited a more permanent solution to my childfree status. I will always be grateful for the freedom birth control has provided me.

Decades after those years in Indiana, "Jack" got back in touch with me. He never married and moved back to the state after a hitch in the military. I've lived on both coasts, gone to exclusive clubs, chatted with rock stars, attended conventions and generally had a good time in life that I could not have done if I had tried to fit my square peg outlook into the round hole of a conventional life. Any children I would have had would have been resented for keeping me from the things I truly loved. Others may be able to hide those types of feelings from themselves and others, but I never could.

As an aside: my wife and I are both big fans of Planned Parenthood, which does a wonderful service by providing reproductive health counseling and services in all 50 states. Of course, according to the American Life League, Planned Parenthood is public enemy number one. Consequently, one of the best ways to counter the "The Pill Kills" protests is to Join Planned Parenthood.

Introducing The Pill Saves Lives

Hi everybody.

As you probably have heard, The American Life League is organizing a day of protest against the birth control pill, in an attempt to mobilize people not just to overturn Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS ruling that protects the right to an abortion, but Griswold vs. Connecticut, the SCOTUS ruling that protects the right to access to contraception. The nucleus of this day of protest is their website ThePillKills.com. They claim that Griswold is the root of a "culture of death" that encourages abortion, and also that birth control pills, in particular, cause abortions. They're going after Planned Parenthood, Griswold, and ultimately, our right to contraception.

So I'm organizing the Pill Saves Lives Blog to collect stories from women whose lives were saved (existentially or otherwise) by the pill. If you don't mind me using your story, please send it to me here. I'll keep your name and contact info confidential (or not, if you so please), or use whatever alias you want. (Don't worry about my email getting hacked -- I use a random password generator for all my passwords, including my email. :))

I'll also use this blog as a focal point to organize counter-demonstrations, spread information, and possibly keep the heat on the American Life League and their allies in the anti-abortion movement. And of course, to have some fun as well, since every revolution must have some dancing to keep it alive.

Here we go!