An Open Letter to My Former Gynecologist
I was a patient of yours. Maybe you remember me. I was in my teens and twenties when you were my doctor. I had Endometriosis and was seeking a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation, either of which would have left me unable to have a child. That was no big deal to me, but it was to you. You patronized me time and again saying that I was too young to know what I wanted. I never wanted children, and only wanted an end to the extreme pain, profuse blood loss, nausea and vomiting that I suffered from. You denied me that relief. You put me on medications that caused other serious health problems, all because you thought that a woman’s only value is as a baby maker.
I finally got my hysterectomy after Governor Doyle repealed the Conscience Clause. I then told you that if you weren’t willing to perform my hysterectomy, you would need to refer me to someone who would. I then saw a doctor who diagnosed and treated my interstitial cystitis, a problem I have likely had since early childhood, as well as perform this life changing surgery.
You know, I have never regretted having that hysterectomy. I have never regretted not having children. I regretted you talking me into trying Yasmin, Depo-Provera, and Lupron, all of which caused serious health problems. I regret you making me dependent on propoxyphene until I suffered a frightening reaction that made me quit the highly addictive pain killer. I especially regret all of these stopgap measures because they robbed me of what might have otherwise been the only pain-free years in my adult life.
I developed multiple sclerosis (MS), likely as the result of having mononucleosis as a teen along with other environmental factors. I believe that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are likely another factor in all the health problems I have suffered. We now know that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) cause Endometriosis. I likely had MS since my late 20s, but was misdiagnosed for years. Unfortunately, by the time I had my hysterectomy, I had a whole new source of pain in my life. My MS is likely an underlying cause for my chronic vestibular migraines, hemiplegic migraines, and trigeminal neuralgia. All of these cause me a great deal of pain, just as Endometriosis had. If only you would have performed the hysterectomy when I wanted and needed it, I may have had close to a decade where I wouldn’t have had frequent absences from work. I could have earned enough money to establish adequate savings, travelled, finished my Master of Arts degree, and maybe gone on to law school.
Despite all the pain, I was able to help others. I did this as a journalist, a teacher, and through my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I won the Governor’s Service Award for my service because of everything I did to alleviate hunger and poverty in Central Wisconsin. Isn’t it ironic that I now live in poverty because my medical conditions necessitated me going on disability. The little bit of savings I had were exhausted in the five-month waiting period for benefits.
All those years ago, when you were my doctor, you failed to do the right thing. My mother likes to say it is never too late to do the right thing, which isn’t always true, but there are always means of atonement. You can atone for your past wrongs by supporting political candidates who will reinstate the rights of women to make decisions about their reproductive health.
I know you are Catholic; so am I. Being Catholic didn’t stop you from prescribing contraception or fertility treatments that the Church opposes, so it shouldn’t stand in the way of supporting women’s health in other ways.
Women have value. We are not mere vessels. I never gave birth, but I helped numerous children thrive and flourish. I helped many families escape poverty and hunger, access healthcare, and build a better life. I have value. What I don’t have are happy memories of a time when I wasn’t suffering debilitating physical pain.
I know you have since retired, so the only way you can atone is to take a stance to fight for the rights of women to make decisions regarding their health. Vote for candidates who pledge to protect women’s rights to reproductive healthcare, donate to their campaigns, and encourage other people to vote for them. Women’s lives have value.