My PCOS story is probably a typical story for most women with this disease. Looking back it started when I was very young, since I was about ten I had really bad acne on my face, arms, chest and back. I had my first period when I was eleven and I didn’t have one again for another year and a half. And yes, this is normal, it is normal for girls to have their first period and not have another for a really long time. My mom described it as mother nature testing the water, making sure you’re ready for it, but eighteen months is along time to not have a period. My mom and I have always had a very candid relationship about all things female, from personal health and hygiene and mental health to just a good old gossip over coffee.
When my period started for real, they were agony. And I don’t just mean a couple of cramps, a bit of a cry, eat some chocolate and be done. My periods made me so poorly I would have to have time off school, I would be sick, I would cry all the time, I would bleed through my pads within hours, and the pain was so bad it made the rest of my body feel numb. I literally couldn’t feel anything.
From the age of fifteen I was back and forth at the doctors most months about the pain from my period and I was always told the same things…
“It’s just means you’re a woman now”,
“This is why women are stronger, they get used to it”
And my personal favourite…
“It’ll get better when you have a baby” (Yes! A doctor actually said this to me, a fifteen year old girl!)
Anyway, cut a long story short, I finally managed to convince a doctor that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal and they agreed to put me on the contraceptive pill and what a game changer that was! I’m not telling anyone how to live their life, or how to treat their PCOS, but this helped like a million percent. With the periods anyway.
So I finished school and went to College and this is where things got difficult. College is a lot more stressful than school, and it was further away from me. When I was school I was able to walk there and back so I was relatively fit. College was a lot further away than school which meant I wasn’t able to walk there and back, I’d have to get a bus. I wasn’t walking home from school, and while I still ate the same, because I wasn’t as active, I started to gain weight, and with the weight came the other symptoms. Which prompted another visit to the doctors.
This doctor was not helpful in the slightest. Imagine, I’m now seventeen, I’ve taken myself to the doctor because I seem to be growing hair where I shouldn’t be.
“It just really worries me, its really noticeable on my face, but its also on my chest and tummy too. Is it normal?”
“I can see that you’re on the pill for irregular and painful periods. It sounds as if you’ve got Polycystic Ovaries, but the test is quite brutal and if you did have it, we’d likely just give you the pill, which you’re already on, so there isn’t much else we can do.”
So I left the doctors feeling confused and let down. I’d gone to them for support and I wasn’t given any.
More health problems cropped up, mainly due to stress from college, and the unwanted hair on my face wasn’t helping matters. I’d now developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome from the stress of everything (which incidentally can be confused with PCOS), so I took another trip to the doctor, but low and behold I had a new doctor.
“Can you hop on the couch for me, and I’ll have a feel of your tummy.”
I unbutton my jeans and hopped onto the table and she began the standard examination.
“I can see you’ve got a bit of hair on your tummy,” she said. “Do you have Polycystic ovaries?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I was told I might have it, but they were already doing everything they would suggest anyway.”
“Well Polycystic Ovarian syndrome can show similar symptoms to IBS, so it might be that its all the same problem. What I’ll do I’ll organise a blood test for you now and I’ll refer to another practise for an ultrasound and come and see when the results are in and we’ll have a look.”
So a few weeks after that, I had an appointment at another doctors surgery, where I had my ultrasound. I don’t know if any of you have ever had an ultrasound, but they are the weirdest things ever! You’re told to drink at least a pint of water, preferably two, before you go so that you have a full bladder.
So I’m sat in the waiting room with my Mom, desperate for the loo, when the receptionist comes out to tell everyone the doctors are running fifteen minutes behind! When I finally do get in, I’m almost in pain from the fullness of bladder which this doctor then proceeds to press a camera onto and move it around in all different directions, then presses really hard right on to my bladder.
A little bit of wee came out, people! A bit of wee came out.
I was mortified. But at least I hadn’t full blown wet myself! It was only a tiny bit, the doctor probably didn’t even notice! (I keep telling myself that everyday to this very day) The whole examination lasts around fifteen minutes with five minutes at the end where he tried to dig out my kidneys, I still don’t know why he had to press so hard on them! Surely they can’t be that hard to see!
The test came back and my doctor called me, she sat down with me and told me for certain I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and then told me most of what it means. The best way to manage it is by losing weight, but it makes losing weight harder than the average woman without PCOS, it also means that it can be difficult to have a baby, and while I am not there yet, I might be one day. She told me that when I decide that I want to have a baby I should go and see a doctor and they will monitor me and may be able to offer some support, either medicinally or other depending on what’s needed.
And I left the doctors practise that day and I didn’t go back for a while. I tried to process it in my own mind, but I ended up just pretending it wasn’t happening, there wasn’t anything wrong with me, when my next course of the pill ran out, I didn’t renew it, I was in denial.
Then last year when I realised it had nearly been a year since I last had a period, I realised that I needed to go back. I went back to the doctor and told her that I’d had a break from the pill but I wanted to go back on it. She gave me another pill and I’ve been on it ever since. I tried losing weight, and I’ve bought cook books which I’m working my way through, but before that the weight just wasn’t shifting.
For the past two years, I’ve been working towards a HNC in Business, which the equivalent to the first year of a degree, and I graduate in September. I want to be thinner by then.
I will never be as thin as Victoria Beckham, because I just don’t have the time to work out as much as she does, but I just want to healthy, and happy, and I’m hoping that my journey will take me there.
I’m looking forward to the future.