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A letter to lawmakers: My Birth Control Isn't Political

Posted by Melissa Cunningham-Sereque on April 06, 2015 at 11:02 AM

Dear South Carolina Law Maker,
I am writing to let you know how important it is for South Carolina women of all ages have access to all forms of birth control. At 17 years of age, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, or ITP for short. It is best described as a mimic of leukemia. The cause was a malfunctioning spleen that liked to “eat” my platelets, making me susceptible to spontaneous, and possibly unstoppable, bleeding.

Thanks to the birth control pill, the wonderful Dr. Asim Pati, and the Gibbs Cancer Center in Spartanburg, I am now a happy, healthy 35 year old business owner and college professor. However, you need to understand the severity of my situation. I had been unusually tired for several weeks when my parents took me to the doctor. An initial blood test was alarming enough to refer me out to a hematologist. Long story short, I was diagnosed with ITP the day before I graduated from Dorman High School.

I was started on heavy doses of the only ITP pharmaceutical protocols known at the time and required to come in every other week to check my platelet levels. Now, being a busy teenager, it did not occur to me until I was sitting in my 3rd blood-level check-up that I was on DAY 9 of my period. The severity of the situation became obvious when my nurse was certain my CBC must have been written incorrectly in my chart.

Let me explain. Normal platelet levels range from 125,000 – 400,000. Below 100,000 is dangerous, and below 25,000 means spontaneous internal bleeding. I had 5,000.

Within minutes, my parents and I were whisked into an exam room, surrounded by doctors, nurses, and lab technicians and being prepared for a litany of things including a bone marrow test and a weeklong stay in Spartanburg Regional Hospital on a lovely cocktail of steroids and blood thickeners. However, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was, “get her birth control, now”. I was bleeding to death and didn’t know it.

It was the beginning of a few years of surgeries, hospital stays, and a lot of needle sticks, but life-saving measure #1 was the birth control pill. I am thankful and proud of the great things I have gone on to do with my life. I continued to use the birth control pill as a safety measure and now have a Mirena IUD. I am not going to lie to you. I thoroughly enjoy these products for their intended purpose. However, it is thanks to that little pill that I am even alive to fully enjoy life as a woman, a wife, a step-mom, an entrepreneur, and even as a member of a Board of Directors for a local government agency.

Please vote against any issue that could restrict this kind of medical care for women. Feel free to contact me any time if you have questions.

Sincerely,

MelissaAnne Cunningham Sereque, MBA


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