Learning about myself

My struggle with PCOS

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So the last few days I have been over emotional and going through bouts of pain in different areas. If we do not know what that means I will tell you. It is that time of month that most women dread and hate. And from what I hear men are not fans of it either, though they really do not have a say in anything that happens during that week. But for me whenever I get to this point I have mixed feelings. I hate it for the pain, discomfort, and emotional roller-coaster it, but on the other hand it is a bittersweet feeling of relief and joy.

You see I have a condition known as PCOS (Poly cystic Ovarian syndrome), big words I know. I was officially diagnosed a year ago, and since then quite a few things has changed. Before I get into more about the diagnosis, let me tell you what lead up to being diagnosed.

So I have been struggling with my weight ever since I hit puberty. I kept putting on more and more weight, and my mother (with the doctors encouragement) started to talk to be about losing weight and eating less when I was fifteen. Of course at the same time she would tell me that you do not need to be skinny to be beautiful and I would not look pretty if I was skinny because I was big-boned. This was all very confusing for the young teen who was going though a lot of changes. Of course as a teen I did not really listen. So I went through a lot of yo-yo dieting. The losing weight, than gaining it back plus some more. Before I graduated high school I was in a size 18-20 and could no longer find clothes that fit in “normal” clothing stores.

With all this, I was having irregular periods. I never thought much about it. I was told that the women in my family always had irregular periods and it was nothing to really worry about. So I did not. It was not until I was in my early to mid twenties, and I realized that going Nine months without having a period that something was not right. I know that as much as I did not want to have my period that it was important to being healthy. So off to the doctor I went.

The first thing they told me was that I can go on birth control, that it would help to regulate my menstrual cycle. I was hesitant to do so. Firstly, because of my religious beliefs, and secondly was I had a cousin who had been on birth control and when she did want to have children it took her five years before she was able to do so. I want to have children and did not want to have to wait longer than I needed to do so. So I went home to think about and talk to my parents and what they thought about it.  When I went back to the doctors ( or Nurse practitioner I should say) I told her my reservation and that I would try the birth control at the lowest dose possible. I had decided that since I would be taking it for purely medical reasons that I would not be conflicted with my religious beliefs. At this point she decided not to put me on birth control after all. She took blood samples and ran some test. She then told me that she thought I may have a condition known as PCOS. This was the first time I had ever heard of it. She said that it was fairly common, and can run in the family. I was sent home with the order to do some personal research about it, and when I came back to go over my blood tests we would discuss it more.

So a few weeks went by and I was back at the doctor’s office. Again. I had done my research and had found out that PCOS was a chemical imbalance that affects women. It is caused by Cysts on the ovaries that interfere with your hormones. It causes irregular periods, sever acne, miscarriages, and infertility. Mind you I got all this from WebMD and Mayo Clinic, while this information may be right but not entirely accurate. I will try to add a link if you want to look up more information about it for yourself. When I got to the office the Nurse gave a quiz about what I had learned. As she went over my tests, she said that my testosterone levels were high and my estrogen was low. Yes, women have testosterone too. It was a kind of relief to finally know what was wrong with me. Why I was not having periods, why I had horrible acne that never went away not matter what product I used (over the counter or prescribed). She informed me of all the ways that we could combat this. First was just to lose weight and eat right. As soon I started to lose weight than my body would start to regulate it-self. Then was to go on birth control that may help with my periods, but would most likely gain weight, which is what I did not want! I could also be put on this dangerous medication and could potentially cause me to become diabetic. Finally, was to go for weight-loss surgery. I opted to with the diet. It was the least evasive, and the one I was afraid of the least.

I tried to lose weight for over a year. I succeeded in losing 5-10 pounds. I was getting my periods around ever four to five months. A huge improvement to what it was before. But I still was not seeing the results I know I should have been. So after a few months of deliberation I went back to the Nurse practitioner. ( I know I could just say doctor but I will explain why soon why I am not.)  I had decided to start talking about going though weight-loss surgery.  As soon as I mentioned this, the nurse said that before we go down that road, she wanted to send me to a specialist to be diagnosed with PCOS. This confused me, because I thought that she had already diagnosed me with it. Than I realized that she was not a doctor and must not be able to diagnose someone with a disease/condition, This was frustrating, because I had spent all this time trying to combat something that I may not even had.

So we set up an appointment with an endocrinologist. It took a few months to get in, but finally I did. So in I went. I was actually really, really nervous. My doctor was very nice, when asked why I was in to see him. I said that my Nurse had said I had PCOS and that I was thinking about going for weight-loss surgery, but she had me go to him first. He then informed me that it takes a lot of different tests to be diagnosed with PCOS, and even then there would be other factors that need to be crossed off before that. He also said that it was quite rare to have PCOS and it was just now coming into the light more and being talked about. While he did say that it mostly genetic and that if I had it, other members of my family most likely had it as well.

So than came the process. First, the physical traits had to be determined. PCOS physically shows with weight gain √, sever acne √, Hair loss √ (this was nice to know as I shed more than my dogs. My sister now cannot complain!), excessive hair growth on face, legs, and neck √, predisposed to diabetes √ (It runs in my family on both sides). So I past all of the Physical  tests. On to the blood tests. Now there is not a test that can 100% say that you have PCOS. It is a syndrome that they do not really know what or how it is caused. All they know is that the cysts on the ovaries somehow negatively interact with the hormones produced in the rest of your body. The closest they have come to “diagnosing” it, was to test for things that it might be. If the tests came back negative than I most likely had PCOS. I have never had to pass a test negatively to prove that I had something. But it made sense. He also wanted to test me for diabetes, as it ran in my family and I had signs of being pre-diabetic.

So after another bout of tests I was back at the doctors for the results. In the mean time I started to go for walks and lose some weight. When I did get back to the doctors, he said that I passed all of the tests negatively! My first thought was “Thank God I do not have diabetes” then “Oh my God, I do have this unknown, seemingly un-treatable disease”.  So then the talk of treatments started. The first was to lose weight, which was followed by PCOS hinders the ability to lose weight. Also it ads in the ability to gain weight. So I have to work harder that an average person to lose the same amount of weight as them. I was also put on Metformine, which is a blood sugar medication. The doctor said that they do not know why it helps regulates the hormones, but it does. Once I was on it for a few months the dose was upped and I started to lose weight (slowly), and I was getting my period every three months! I was so happy! I would call my mother up every time I started, and we would both be excited!

Towards the end of last year my doctor added a blood pressure medication to my regimen, while it would help with my slightly high blood pressure, one side effect was that it lowered the amount of testosterone in my body. He also wanted me to exercise at Least 5 times a week for no less than 45 minutes! This has been seemingly impossible to do! With my two jobs, and the gym being in the next town over. I never get there nearly as much as I should , and I hate going into the doctors with the same excuses over and over again. It is very discouraging. On the other had what has been very encouraging is that I have had my period every month for the past six months! I was also looking back at old photos of myself and I could not believe how bad my skin was. I have no acne! (until the week I do get my period that is). While the process has been very slow. I do feel better, and know that if I keep working hard I will one day reach my goals!

 

WebMD : http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-topic-overview#1

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/basics/definition/con-20028841

 

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