September is PCOS Awareness month. For those of you who don’t know what PCOS is, Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is a hormonal endocrine disorder in women. While it has been diagnosed for over 75 years, there are often many signs and symptoms a woman may experience. These signs and symptoms vary greatly between women as one may suffer from insulin resistance and weight issues, another may have zero weight issues however hair growth concerns and dark skin patches. Many suffer from small cysts lining the ovaries and uterus as well as irregular menstrual cycles. Furthermore, diagnosis cannot be completed with one simple test. Because of this, PCOS is also referred to as “The Silent Killer” at times. This is because if gone undetected, PCOS has been linked to an increased risk for developing several medical risks including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease further leading women to additional severe health issues. In addition to this, fertility issues can become very common for women with PCOS. 5-10% of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS, with less than 50% of women diagnosed. This leaves millions of women undiagnosed. PCOS is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating.
This information above only scratches the surface of this disorder. I oftentimes do not share very personal information with anyone not within my immediate circle. However, as someone who has been living, and will continue to live with PCOS forever, I felt that PCOS National Awareness month was a wonderful time to speak up.
I have struggled with my menstrual cycle since the first cycles when I was younger. I remember reading multiple times that the first couple of years of having a period was very irregular for some and not to worry. I constantly told myself that after a few years if it was as irregular and uncomfortable as I was feeling it was, I would get checked out. Years passed and I finally decided to speak to a doctor. However, I was a young teenager who truly had no idea what to expect, what to even say, and I was truly at a total loss. My doctor recommended birth control and put me on the pill to regulate my hormones. I began taking the Pill and soon I noticed even worse changes in my body. Weight gain occurred at an alarming pace despite no change in my diet and still remaining very active. My periods were coming every month at least, but they were extremely uncomfortable. My hormones raged on and on and honestly, bless my poor mothers heart because I don’t know how she handled my worse than normal mood swings. After a year on the pill I went back for a check up, however I had to find a new doctor as the insurance had changed. I visited a female doctor whom is no longer practicing in the area. I will never forget walking out of her office feeling so lost and confused and hurt and angry. She did not believe me when I told her something was not right. I knew my body, and I knew I shouldn’t feel as horrible as I was feeling. She chalked it up to being my fault, gave me some lousy advice and sent me on my marry way. Well, needless to stay I stopped taking the pill because I didn’t trust her and her opinions. But, instead of reaching out for more help, I let it go and just tried to be normal.
In 3 years I had gotten 2 periods. Both of which were extremely minor. I had dark patches around my skin that I could not understand for the life of me why they were there as I showered and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed daily. I was getting skin tags, could not lose weight no matter what I tried, was suffering from sleep apnea and had bouts with depression and anxiety that were very extreme. I finally did some research and after discussing with my mom, who had become concerned after seeing me struggle for so many years and watched me feel more and more defeated, I sought out a new doctor.
When visiting my doctor for the first time, I had never felt so at least discussing my health before. I truly had not experienced a doctor that cared as she did and was so concerned about my concerns regarding my body. She informed me on the possibilities of what could be going on, however, she truly stressed that it could be PCOS and recommended working towards a solution.Upon multiple visits and discussions with my new doctor, tests were ran and various methods were tried out as she came to the conclusion that I had PCOS. I tried managing it on my own for a year, with her suggestions, and miraculously, I managed to lose weight for the first time in ages. My periods also became a little more regular again. However, after a year of trying to fully manage it on my own with the help and support from her, she sent me to an Endocrinologist earlier this year.
Visiting Dr. Falcone at the South Bend Clinic has been one of the best decisions I have made for myself. She has taken the time to explain things to me, to ensure I fully understand and I am on board with her plans for me, and to continue to assist me in leading a healthy lifestyle. PCOS cannot be cured. It can only be managed. But having a supportive doctor who helps you to understand that you are not crazy in thinking that something in your body is not right, makes all the difference in the world. I still struggle with things. However, the struggle is one I understand more now. I know what to expect and I know why certain things are happening in my body and my body is reacting a certain way.
Of course with all of this said, I have regular concerns for myself still as anyone else would. I question if I will be able to take off more weight. I question if my dark spots on my skin look as bad as I think. I question mostly how this will affect my ability to have children one day. It does affect it. However, I also trust in God that He knows what is right for me and my future and He has a plan that nothing is going to stop. I have quit questioning why me, and leaned on my faith and my family and friends for support when I am having difficulty with it or my worries are getting the best of me.
I have babbled on enough about my story and history with PCOS. I simply wanted to share it in hopes that someone else who may be having issues, considers this a possibility for them and seeks help. Having answers changes everything I have learned. If you would like additional information you can visit the website for the Mayo Clinic, or even pcosfoundation.org. Also, talk to your doctor. And while I am no doctor, feel free to talk to me if you have questions or just would like some support in the matter. And remember, PCOS affects everyone differently.
*To save on space on her, I will not go into very in depth details, however please contact me if you wish to know anything else.
** All facts taken from pcosfoundation.org
*** Thanks to a post my wonderful cousin Amber shared on FB this week, I figured the following link could provide anyone who knows someone with PCOS some advice as well as I know first hand how helpful it can be for some: http://viralfactsfactory.com/10-things-a-woman-with-pcos-would-like-you-to-know/