Letter 28: Letter from Elizabeth
To hear of a perfectly healthy young woman pass away unexpectedly from entirely preventable causes is not only devastating, but it is wrong. To read of the agony your family underwent--and continues to grapple with every day-- leaves me heartbroken.
Your story has given me time to reflect on my own sexual education and advocacy. When I was nine years old, my mom gifted me “The Care and Keeping of You.” It sat on the middle of my bed, awaiting me after school one afternoon. The three smiling girls on the cover, draped in colorful bathroom towels, motivated me to flip through the book’s pages with enthusiasm. Published by American Girl Doll, the authors wrote this book in the hopes of helping young girls navigate the trials and tribulations of puberty. “The Care and Keeping of You” became my bible. It was a staple in my household, as I am the eldest of four sisters. I have passed this book down to my siblings, urging that they, too, could learn tremendously about themselves and their bodies using the advice offered throughout.
I am fortunate to have gone to an all-girls school for 13 years where sexual health was frequently and openly discussed. Every week during my junior and senior years of high school, small sections would meet to understand the most pressing concerns we would face as young adults just ready to enter college and “the real world.”
Since then, my formal sexual education has stopped. But it should not have.
Your story is a jumping-off point for me. Though more complex than the issues tackled in “The Care and Keeping of You,” selecting adequate and appropriate birth control is a concern for which all people should truly and deeply care. I am impressed by the strides your family has made to prevent others from following in your footsteps. I am inspired to learn more about Yaz and other generic forms of this medication and to spread this researched knowledge--in addition to the significance of seeing your doctor regularly as you did--to others.
I just brushed the dust off of the cover of “The Care and Keeping of You” and read its opening lines once more: “The more you know about your body, the less confusing and embarrassing growing up will seem--and the easier it will be to talk about.” Annie, your story has inspired me to lean in to the discomforts frequently propagated by topics surrounding sexual health. I can no longer stand idly by. I must act to ensure that you are not a statistic. I will speak out and let your story be heard so that it may never happen again.
Duke University Class of 2021