I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, an aunt. I’m a wife, a mother and one day I hope to be a grandmother. I’m a neighbor, a friend.
You see me in the eyes of every girl, every woman you encounter – and every time you look in the mirror.
I am every woman who has ever used a tampon and every one who will.
I am a victim of TSS.
Here’s my story.
My first period started when I was 15. My first experience was not positive. The pads were bulky, thick, ill fitting and difficult to change. There were many times that I leaked through all the way to the chair. How embarrassing! I came to hate my period.
When I was 17 I received a box of Tampax tampons from an aunt and quickly discovered the freedom they brought me on my red days. I preferred a super tampon with a pad as back up. On heavy days I started using two or three tampons at a time with a pad. On light days I chose tampons over pads simply because they were so much more convenient – put it in and forget about it.
Tampons accompanied me everywhere. My periods were irregular so I started using tampons “just in case.” Then, whenever discharge was more than I liked, I would…you guessed it…put a tampon in.
Tampons ruled my periods. They were my life preservers in life’s FLOW. I always had one in my purse or in my pocket. And I recommended them to my friends, sharing with them if they started and had no protection.
Tampons got me through high school, my first job, college and into marriage. And, then along came a request from a company – would I be willing to try Rely tampons? The request came with tantalizing promises – last longer, absorb more, less worry about leaks. And FREE. Would I? You bet I would. 21 years old, working full time, supporting hubby in college – I was ready for a break and Rely tampons promised to give me one from my period issues.
The instructions I received requested that I leave the tampon in until it leaked. Curiosity got the best of me and I removed the tampons after only a few hours to see how well they were absorbing – except when at work and at night.
Rely Tampons did last longer than the tampons I had been using. A lot longer. They did absorb more…a lot more. And, I did have less worry. At least at first.
By the end of the second day of my period I noticed when I removed the Rely tampon, it hurt. The inside of my vagina felt raw. Inserting the next was painful.
On the third day I woke vomiting, with fever and chills. My throat felt raw and swollen. I was so weak I could not rise from bed without assistance. Diarrhea soon followed. My chest hurt and I was dizzy. A call to the doctor assured me all was well…most likely the flu or a stomach bug. He prescribed a suppository to calm my stomach and end the vomiting. All it did was increase my sleepiness.
My fever climbed and my back, muscles and joints ached. I knew this was no stomach bug and doubted it was the flu. There was no coughing, no sinus issues. By late afternoon I was in bad shape. I had developed a red rash on my arms and legs and my skin was flushed. My husband helped me into the bathroom and I almost fainted. As I sat on the toilet I remembered I’d not changed tampons since the night before and removed it. I placed a pad instead of another tampon.
A second call to my doctor brought assurance that it was nothing more than a virus and that it would soon run its course.
The fever raged into the night, the pain caused me to moan in agony. I was unable to keep anything down. My kidneys stopped putting out urine.
I don’t remember the next day at all. At some point the dry heaves stopped and my fever began to drop.
I missed over a week of work due to the illness and suffered from fatigue and joint pains for weeks afterward. My vagina took a long time to fully heal and my next period I used pads and not Rely tampons. And, I noticed something odd – my fingers and toes peeled.
When it was time for my next scheduled OB/GYN appointment (which was only a couple of months beyond my illness) I mentioned to the doctor that I had tried a new tampon. He asked how I liked them and what they were. I answered: “They were Rely tampons and I really don’t know how I liked them. I got sick the third day and wasn’t able to finish my period with them and my vagina was just too sore to use them for my next period.”
His eyebrows shot up and his eyes got really big. He left the room and then returned with a nurse who wrote down what I have just recounted for you. He did blood work and checked me over thoroughly. A few days later his office called me and said the “flu” I had was Toxic Shock Syndrome. My white count was still elevated. He felt it prudent to prescribe antibiotics. And I was told to NEVER use tampons again.
Never is a long time when you have heavy periods and the only solution is to wear a pad – and the pad leaks quickly.
I did wait several periods before I resumed tampon use. I didn’t go back to Rely, but I did return to the same pattern of using tampons – one, two, three – and keeping them in for as long as possible.
And, then I began to hear on the TV news about women dying from tampon related Toxic Shock. I was shocked – I could have DIED!
But, I didn’t stop using tampons. I just used them “smarter” – like it says on the package.
But, let me tell you – there is no “smart” way to use tampons unless they are organic – 100% cotton.
Now, years later, I find myself wondering if the problems I’ve had for many years come from damage done to my organs by TSS. And, if continued use of tampons following TSS further impacted my life in a negative way.
That’s my story. I don’t want it to be yours!
You might say, “That was a long time ago and Rely tampons aren’t even on the market.” Back then we thought Rely was the only concern, now we know better. If you question whether this is a concern today, please check out our stories page and our informational brochure.
Please, don’t put yourself at risk. Don’t buy into what most tampon companies are selling.
Take care of your body. Invest a few minutes to explore safer options like 100% organic cotton tampons, menstrual cups, the new pads, or go green with reusable pads.
Who am I? I’m a survivor of tampon related Toxic Shock Syndrome and I’m committed to doing what I can to raise awareness and prevent TSS.
Director of Connectivity
You ARE Loved