PCOS Took My Dignity And How I Earned It Back
PCOS is the most unfeminine medical disorder that a patient can experience. It affects your appearance, your energy levels, and the way your body functions. Early on in life, I experienced debilitating menstrual cycles, thinning hair, and increased weight gain despite constant activity. I had acanthosis nigricans on my neck, a skin condition where body folds and creases turn dark. I had no idea what it was so I would just scrub my neck constantly to try to get rid of it, but it didn’t go away. I always felt dirty when it was there. Little did I know it was a precursor to this condition. As I entered my teen years, and increased my activity even more with Varsity sports (six days of constant workouts all year long), my body thinned out and the acanthosis nigricans disappeared. As I hit college age and the activity slowed again, the weight returned and so did the hair loss. I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but I certainly did. It was thinning in the front so much that I could see my scalp as light reflected off of it.
My diagnosis of PCOS came in my second year of college. It wasn’t explained well. My doctor at the time threw some birth control at me and sent me on my way. I didn’t know the extent of this diagnosis until my husband and I prepared to have children. We tried for five years to have a baby. After three, we decided to look for help with a doctor. I endured so many tests where you have to strip from the waist down while medical personal check out all your parts. I experienced endless pelvic sonograms (basically a long rod is shoved inside you), a hysterosalpingogram (HSG test) where dye is squirted through your fallopian tubes to see if they are blocked, and even had to be hospitalized for a D&C. When all that was said and done, we also continued with years’ worth of intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures – you know the “turkey baster” method. Three years in total with my legs up in the air before I even became pregnant.
I was blessed with three beautiful children, something that not all women with PCOS will experience. PCOS pregnancies are considered high risk. Pregnant mothers with PCOS experience high rates of miscarriage, early births, and overweight babies due to increased chances of gestational diabetes. Mothers are also at higher risk of preeclampsia – high blood pressure, water retention, protein in the urine which if not treated properly puts the patient at risk of organ failure. I was so very lucky not to experience those things, but what did happen to me occurred after my pregnancies. I lost so much hair I was balding in some spots. I had to find ways to cover it up. I had increased hirsutism (increase in body hair) mostly on my face and chin. Almost immediately the hormonal shifts post-pregnancy caused cystic acne. I felt less and less like a female every single day.Obesity was another battle. With PCOS it’s very easy to put on weight if you have insulin resistance issues, which I do. On the other hand, it’s also very difficult to lose that weight. Your body is fighting against you. So without the right combination of medication, exercise, proper diet to fit well with PCOS, it can be discouraging. I have suffered from poor body image, frustration, anxiety and depression. PCOS stole my dignity in every way possible. I hated so much about myself and my life. I hated the amount of doctor’s appointments I needed. I loathed the amount of medications I took on a daily basis. I was up in arms about my lack of control over my own body despite my own best efforts.
It took some time but I earned all the dignity back that I lost to PCOS. First, I found a doctor who specialized in PCOS. That was a huge change. I felt supported. I decided to work hand in hand with my doctor. I researched on my own. I learned more about PCOS than I had ever known before. I made sure I had a consistent exercise routine that worked well with PCOS patients, and I stuck to it. I changed my eating habits based on the workings of a few registered dietitians who also specialize in this area. I made a promise to myself that I would not let PCOS overtake me. I was going to fight this sucker with everything I had… and I have for three years. I became so engulfed in my health and well-being that I am now a personal trainer. I work hard to help all people, not just patients with PCOS learn to find the best version of themselves through physical activity. My defining moment came when I became a PCOS advocate not just for myself but for others who were just being diagnosed. I have now known of my diagnosis for over twenty years. It took 6 years after my original diagnosis to find any information about this disorder. Now I work and volunteer my own time to try to help prevent other patients with the emotional and physical pain that I went through for so long.
I will not suffer with PCOS. I will thrive. I will fight. I will win. Dignity and self-respect are mine to keep.