Being Diagnosed with PCOS
This is the first time I’ve written about this, or even talked about it beyond my very close family. Please be nice!
About three years ago, I went to the doctor’s for the first time in … a very long while. I’m generally healthy, and didn’t have any long term health conditions.
Correction: I didn’t know that I had any long term health conditions.
Since my teens, I’d noticed a few things about my body which bugged me, and occasionally worried me.
For one, I had a lot of body hair. Not just on my legs and under my arms, but also in areas I really didn’t want it and hadn’t expected it (like on my stomach). A bit of Googling told me that I wasn’t some freak bear-woman, and I shrugged it off and put it down to bad luck in the genetics department.
Plus my monthly cycle was always a bit irregular. Sometimes five weeks, sometimes six, rather than four. I considered this a blessing.
I knew the symptoms could point to PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) but I also knew just how easy it is – with a bit of obsessive Googling – to imagine yourself with every disease going.
And I didn’t want to be ill. I just wanted the symptoms to magically go away.
So again, I shrugged it off.
By October 2006, a few things in my life had changed. I don’t know which of these was responsible for what happened, but they may all have played a role:
- I started living away from home – having previously lived with two women (my mum and sister) or near a bunch of them (at university).
- I worked in a mostly-male environment.
- I was doing more exercise – cycling for around 45 minutes each day, and heading to the gym three times a week
- I was eating less. Probably too little, in all honesty. I got my weight down to 116lbs, which is the lightest I’ve been since before puberty.
My periods stopped.
I blamed the upheaval of moving, and the sudden lack of female hormones around me.
But, after a few months, I knew that something was definitely wrong: healthy women don’t just stop having periods. Eventually, I got up the courage to talk to Paul (my then-boyfriend, now husband) about it. He encouraged me to get medical advice.
I went to see the doctor. After a couple of appointments at the hospital for a blood test and an ultrasound, I was told me what I’d suspected for years.
The tests indicated that I had PCOS.
I was upset and relieved all at once. Upset because I know there’s no cure, only various ways of attempting to treat the symptoms – and because PCOS affects fertility, and I want a family one day. Relieved because at least I now knew there was an explanation for the things that had bugged me about my body.
Most women with PCOS are overweight or obese. I’d been overweight throughout my teens, but had successfully lost weight and kept it off (even though my body’s tendency to store weight around my stomach was bugging me – and still does). The best way to reduce the symptoms of PCOS is to lose weight, but I’d already done that.
So, for the first time in my life, I started taking daily medication.
To be continued next week … grab the RSS feed so you don’t miss part two.
(Photo of Ali by Antonina Mamzenko)
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