I really am not sure how many blogs are out there about PCOS, but my chin hair and the twinges in my ovaries agreed that it couldn’t hurt to start my own. At best, I will help some other poor woman inflicted with this repeated-punch-in-the-face condition feel like they aren’t alone; and at worst no one will read it but I will release some pressure, likely a pressure valve for frustration and crazy hormones. But the usual writer’s block I encounter; where to start?
Well, if someone is bored enough to happen upon my blog, or for the confused women who have ended up here through googling the most unwanted symptoms for women – ever (am I right, ladies?) I suppose starting with my experience and symptoms so far will get the cysts, err, ball, rolling.
It was a bright, sunny day, in a land not to far from anywhere, when a 12 year old girl woke up to find the long awaited menstruation era had arrived; all over her bed sheets. It was an exciting time though; to this pre-teen girl it meant the beginning of “womanhood” and joining the highly esteemed ranks of… well, I’m not sure, it just seemed like I was finally growing up. Somehow I was different now, and being a woman gave me power; somehow, I’m sure. Of course the first task of womanhood would be washing the sheets.
The first 2 years or so were pretty normal. I experienced very little to no discomfort during my periods, and the were usually almost regular. I am not sure what I expected of this womanhood concept, but nothing much had changed – well okay, maybe I had become a tad moody from time to time, nothing that chocolate didn’t placate. It wasn’t until I was about 15 that things started to change. My periods began to arrive later and later each month; 4 or 5 weeks turned into 5 or 6 weeks, then to 6 or 7 weeks. A quick chat with the doctor had me reassured that hormonal fluctuations were probably the cause, with such happenings being perfectly normal for teenage girls from time to time. Fast forward a year later, and the periods were even further apart, with my cycle only coming around every 9 or 10 weeks, and they were becoming uncomfortable. But because I had had quite a lot going on in my home and school life, and suffering long episodes of depression, my cycles were considered “normal” and “not a major issue” by the doctor at the time, due to stress and hormonal fluctuations. That’s fine! I thought to myself, I don’t have to go through the ordeal every 4 weeks like the other girls, I’m lucky! My mother was concerned somewhat, disagreeing with the doctor dismissing it so readily, but I saw it as a bonus, not having to bleed and put up with discomfort so often.
It really wasn’t until I was about 20 that I suddenly remembered one day that I hadn’t had a period in quite a few months; in fact, I couldn’t remember my last one. And despite walking almost everywhere I went, and not eating all that much, I was still overweight, I never seemed to lose weight. And the other problem was becoming more noticeable; hair. At around 16 I had noticed I had a bit of fine hair above my lip and on my chin; but it was very fine and blonde, so others didn’t really see it. And on the small of my back the same thing, but fine and blonde, so although weird, it didn’t bother me. The very thin, barely there “snail trail” on my lower stomach didn’t worry me too much either. But then at 22, the hair seemed more pronounced – thicker, covering more skin, it started to bother me quite a bit. The last year or so of periods, when they did happen, were quite painful too. Not enough to cripple me, but enough for me to avoid too much activity, and for the first day or two of the cycle remain in bed every moment I could. I was in a toxic long term relationship at the time, with other factors that kept me preoccupied, so when yet another doctor assured me going months up to half of the year without a period was normal, I just nodded in agreement and decided I really didn’t care too much. My mother had expressed concerns about it and urged me to seek second and third opinions, and started mentioning a polycycstic something or other condition she found on google, warning that it may affect my fertility later on, but the way I saw it was the doctor wasn’t concerned, I had no plans of having kids at that time, and there were bigger issues to deal with. The depression episodes continued, regular headaches were a normal occurrence, my irregular sleeping patterns and increasing weight all slipped under the radar for me, I was too busy with life to wonder what was happening.
Life got busy. It became normal and barely noticed by me that my cycles were now 4 or 5 months long, and there was no evidence at all of any ovulation. But I just did not have time to pay any real attention to it. “I’ll deal with it soon” or “I’ll worry about it later” were my standard responses to my mother’s insistence I consult yet another doctor.
Fast forward a year or two, I was working crazy 12-14 hour days, exploring single life, and ignoring the increased body and facial hair and longer time frames between periods. The first time I ever actually worried about my cycle was when I was around 25. I had met and become engaged to the real love of my life, and we had decided to “stop not trying to fall pregnant”. We had decided we were ready to have a baby together, but assumed it would happen easily and quickly, so didn’t feel the need to map out dates and timing. Oddly enough, my cycles were pretty regular (for me) arriving every 6 or 7 weeks. I was no longer running a small business, but instead working full time, which reduced a lot of the stress. I had maintained my weight – not lost any – just not gained, and I was masking the hairy symptoms with regular and obsessive shaving.
When we didn’t fall pregnant in the first 6 months, and my cycles started going crazy long again, I finally demanded blood tests and an ultrasound to find out what was wrong. Initially, the blood tests come back fine – normal. The doctor didn’t tell me exactly what was tested, but assured me levels were normal, and advised I don’t have PCOS. She did express concern about my insulin levels, but dismissed it as a weight related thing, and shook her finger at me for being “too fat”. Thanks doc, I needed that extra boost of confidence on top of all the symptoms that already made me feel like an ugly duckling. Much appreciated.
The images from the ultrasound came back, and contrary to what that doctor had said, and contrary to my blood tests, clearly showed a string of cysts on one ovary. To this new evidence, the doctor decided “maybe you do have PCOS, take this script for an oral contraceptive and go lose weight”.
No further support or discussion was given. I walked out of that office completely numb. All of these years my mother had been right, and the symptoms were showing me something was wrong, and I was too busy to care. I went home feeling degraded by the harsh, dismissive attitude of the doctor, and feeling scared; what did this mean, and was I really infertile?
That is when the most confusing, consuming and frustrating symptom of having PCOS kicked in; the google obsession. I googled, and googled, and googled. I would sit up until all hours of the night, eyes squinting, screen blurry, headache thumping, googling the world of PCOS, infertility, discussion boards and for any sign of what I was supposed to do next. The first step, I realised, was to find a doctor who would take me seriously; cue my mother’s GP. He was always fantastic and attentive. The next step would be medication, going by the many discussions online. At that point, I was convinced that would fix it. Something is wrong; take the appropriate medication; problem solved. How simple was that! (Insert knowing chuckle here).
Jumping forward 2 years, and many confusing, heartbreaking and down right annoying cycles later, and that brings us to the current day; 27, still engaged, no pregnancy, no solutions found. If I haven’t bored you half to death, or if you can relate, feel free to follow the blog to see future posts, which will delve into medications, natural alternatives, symptom progress, and what has and has not worked so far.