While I am open and honest with many topics, this is a rather sensitive topic to discuss, and I am covering the basis of it and not going into many details. The purpose of this is to bring awareness to PCOS in September for PCOS awareness month.
PCOS… The most traumatizing four letters I have ever encountered… at the time. You may be thinking that there are other problems larger than mine and normally I would agree. To me, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Let me take you back to 2013…
An extremely brief summary: After returning from Paris, I noticed my vision was blurry and intense migraines were on rotation. I figured I would probably need a new prescription. After a few tests, I ended up needing to visit a specialist. After my visit with the specialist, he exclaimed that he thought I had a brain tumor. *Insert MASSIVE shock and meltdown here*. What felt like a million lifetimes and tests later, it turned out to be normal; possible pseudo tumor cerebri, but the doctor said nothing to worry about. HAPPIEST. DAY. OF. MY. LIFE. More tests were ordered, etc. Dealing with vision issues has been one heck of a journey, but grateful for the never-ending support.
Moving onto PCOS… An abnormal amount of acne and skin discoloration brought me to the dermatologist for what I expected to be a normal visit. The dermatologist suggested going to see my gynecologist because she was certain I had PCOS. Once again, tears and numbness overcame me. The only thoughts going through my brain were, “Oh my God, here we go again. What the hell is PCOS?!?!?!”
PCOS affects 1 in 10 women, and I was 1 of them. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also referred to as PCOS, is a condition where there is an unusual amount of cysts on a woman’s ovaries. Cysts are typically harmless, however, in the case of PCOS, it impacts hormone levels, appearance, insulin resistance, menstrual cycles and fertility.
The most common symptoms include irregular or missed periods, small cysts in their ovaries, and high levels of androgens.
The cause of PCOS is still unknown; however, many researchers believe it to be related to genetics. The most common factor is a hormonal imbalance. The ovaries produce more androgens that the normal level. High levels of these hormones can affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.
Symptoms of PCOS include but are not limited to: Acanthosis Nigricans, Acne, Anxiety and/or Depression, Cysts on the Ovaries, Excessive Hair Growth, Hirsutism, Infertility, Insulin Resistance, Irregular or Missed Periods, Pelvic Pain, Sleep Apnea, Skin Tags, Thinning Hair, Weigh Gain and Obesity.
PCOS may not be treatable; however, with the proper medical attention from your doctor, nutrition and exercise, PCOS can be controlled. It takes a lot of determination and focus, but it is attainable.
Researching online, I was narrowing down the symptoms… acanthosis nigricans? Check. I had dark patches of skin, but am not diabetic. Acne? Check. I had an insane amount of acne around my face. I literally felt like I was experiencing puberty all over again. Anxiety or depression? Check. Chronic anxiety was playing the lead role in my life. Cysts on the ovaries? Check. I had them on my right side. Hirsutism? Check. Irregular periods? Check. I haven’t had a period for over four years. Pelvic pain? Rarely but it was there; therefore, check. Sleep apnea? No. Skin tags? Check. They randomly appeared around my eyes and my neck. Weight gain? Major check. I gained so much weight, it wasn’t fathomable and I was just in awe. Clearly, my body was going for the win; it has the majority of the symptoms.
On top of everything else, my pap smear came back abnormal, which resulted in additional testing with a colposcopy and endometrial sampling. The pain was unbearable and included lots of profanity. The doctor said there were no visible lesions but the tests were mandatory to rule out cancer. The hardest thing for me to process was that having children would be high risk for me.
I haven’t had a period for four years, even while on birth control. Talk about emotionally and physically taxing! But, the second I got it, I called my PCOS cysters and best friends! It really is the little things in life that keep things together.
Oftentimes, the mental and emotional wellbeing get overlooked. It is exhausting! There will be days where you won’t care and just want to give up. While I am grateful to have great people in my life, not everyone is as understanding. There are so many resources online if you need help or someone to talk to. Your hormones will give you the ride of your life, and it hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely taught me so much. I am grateful to my PCOS cysters for all their support, guidance, and understanding.
How I cope? It is hard; I’m not going to lie. It’s physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. My nutritionist, Shira, helped create a plan that worked with my body, and constantly modifies it. Yoga was a great stress release for me, in addition to weight training and cardio. Music is universal and has always been a place of refuge for me. Movement is life! Not everyone likes talking about their issues, but I promise, there is always someone who is willing to listen. Finding balance is tough, but a complete game changer when you do!
“Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”
PCOS has changed my perspective in life and I am grateful that so many challenges have helped shape me. I live a rather private life and am grateful to the women who have shared their stories with me to help me better understand and know that I am not alone.
*Disclaimer: Please note that all information provided on this blog is my personal opinion and personal situations and should not take the place of advice from your physician.
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