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Polycystic ovarian syndrome:One woman reveals her struggles
Curled up in a ball, with heat pads that are never enough, I force myself to “stick through it”; sound familiar, ladies? Every woman has a monthly struggle where we have to act like nothing is going on when in reality we are dealing with everything that is menstruation. The symptoms we each experience differ from a walk in the park to going to the hospital for the pain and unfortunately, I was the latter.
At 15-years-old, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)- safe to say, I was confused and in pain. PCOS is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones-specifically when women produce higher-than-normal (whatever normal may be) amounts of male hormones. This imbalance can cause women to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant. When a person has PCOS, the egg that 'should' be released monthly might not have developed properly or because of a fluid build up, it may not be released at all. This explanation alongside confusing doctor jargon went in one ear and out the next. It was scary to be so young and be told that I “might be okay”, or I “might be infertile”. There was no middle ground and I was worried.
Part of my treatment included taking birth control pills to regulate my period. This helped with the agonizing cramps; kept my periods regular and had my hormones under control. For the first time ever, I was able to track my period and not have it be a surprise. I never knew that regularity and normality was something that I would have wanted with my reproductive organs. When the birth control began working, the pain subsided and I learnt to appreciate my periods, which was liberating to feel in my teens.
Finding out I had PCOS made me discover more about my family. Studies show that the syndrome is hereditary and after opening up about my struggles with PCOS to all of the women in my family; I found out that my sister also had it. I was ecstatic to know that someone so close to me could relate to everything I had experienced. But I was also angry that it took 15 years and me being diagnosed for this discussion to happen. This made me question, “Why did I not know about PCOS before? Why didn't anyone tell me about my sister? Why didn't I know everything about women's bodies-and, more importantly, my own body?”
Little over a year later, I returned to the gynecologist for a checkup and discovered a cyst in my right ovary. This was the most worrisome experience. The cyst was 4 cm wide by 6 cm long- cue the anxiety. My doctor was so calm and collected that I almost thought it was good news. I should have gone to surgery right then and there to remove it; thankfully, there was another way to deal with my kind of cyst. I was advised to take birth control with no breaks and be period-free for seven months (YAY!). This treatment somehow broke down the cyst, causing it to go away on its own.
My experience with PCOS has been mild compared to so many other women where the treatments, pain and stories don't stop. I am grateful to have had the support I had in my teens when I did not know what was normal and what was not. Health class in secondary school did not teach me (thank you, Google) the importance of taking care of my reproductive system-a part of me that is essential, important and delicate. PCOS is just one of the many syndromes a woman can develop and have and only after being diagnosed I understood that.
Ten years later, I am stable and healthy. It has been a roller coaster experience-one that has taken many trials of birth control and treatments-to get to know myself best.
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