Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pleading for Proceding with Bleeding

I've had Katie Thorpe on my mind lately. I've been thinking about the importance of wombs and ovaries and sexuality and hormones and the ebb and flow of women's cycles. I've been thinking about menstruation and my experience with it and the experiences of other women I know and the wide variety of reactions, being negative and being positive. Some women are lucky enough to have minimal cramps, headaches and other discomforts that go with periods. Some women have horrendous discomfort. Some manage the pain with ibuprofin and acetamenaphin, some manage it with fertility drugs. Some women want a regular cycle so they go on birth control pills. Some want to avoid pregnancy so they go on birth control pills. Women experience their periods and then react to them.

Kate Ansell also has cerebral palsy. She writes an excellent article for The Independent today reflecting on her own experience with menstruation. Ms. Ansell is different from Katie Thorpe in that Ansell's disabilities aren't as profoundly debilitating as Katie Thorpe's. Nonetheless, Ansell's article explores the experience of a disabled woman with menstruation from lack of access in a public washroom to the supposedly simple task of opening a pad/tampon package to pushing the foot pedal on the waste can.

My first reaction to reading that Katie's mother is planning a hysterechtomy for her daughter before the onset of menstruation was disappointment and discomfort with such an enormous decision being made on Katie's behalf. Katie is unable to communicate her own thoughts and Ms. Thorpe believes that sparing her daughter menstruation will make Katie's life more pleasant. That said, I can understand why Katie's mom would consider this an option as the caregiver for a severely disabled person, she wants to make Katie's life as comfortable as possible. But as Ansell aserts:

[Katie's] menstrual cycle has become headline news. That such personal matters are being discussed on GMTV is ironic given that one of her mother's reasons for requesting the procedure is that she will be unable to be "discreet" or "private" about it if she does menstruate.
So Alison Thorpe might be right. Periods could be a trial for her daughter. But it's possible that they won't. I don't believe she is wrong to suggest a hysterectomy, but I'm perplexed as to why it's being considered before Katie's periods have started, before anyone knows how they affect her, before other, less invasive methods of management have been tried.

It's a poignant, complicated issue. It's not just Katie Thorpe's menstruation that is making headlines but underlying that is her experiences with her own sexuality. I do believe Alison Thorpe has her daughter's best interests at heart and contrary to criticism, I acknowledge that it is her decision. A tough one, and I hope that with the media frenzy, whatever decision she makes and whenever she follows through with which decision she makes, she and her daughter have no regrets.

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