I have a disease and it scares me to death. I've come to the realization that I'm not perfect and it's possible that I will be incapable of fulfilling my childhood dream of being a mother. But that's not what scares me the most.
An estimated 10 percent of females have the same disease. Most of them won't find out until they try to have children and it's too late.
My mission is to shed light on this disease to break the silence, even if it means exposing my health condition to our thousands of readers. I hope the readers of this issue will truly take it to heart. The theme of this issue is "Underneath it All." That's what I had to do – uncover layers of band-aids I had been putting on all my warning signs – and it's the only reason I still have a possibility of being a biological mother one day.
I noticed my first symptoms in high school. But being the typical pubescent teen, those signs were overlooked because I just wanted to be "normal." I had excessive facial hair. We're not just talking a random dark hair here and there. It was black, thick, curly hair on my chin and sides of my face. So, I bleached. Problem solved, or so I thought.
I also had a weight issue. But I managed it with excessive exercise, a very strict diet and a myriad of appetite suppressants. Oh, and I had extremely irregular periods too, but what sane woman would complain about having fewer of those, right?
But these band-aids on the exterior weren't inhibiting the activity of the interior. In retrospect, I learned that with every missed period, my ovaries would grow another cyst. Because I ignored my body's signs, my ovaries are now covered in these cysts. The medical term for "many cysts" is polycystic. So, when my doctor discovered my polycystic ovaries, he diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is the leading cause of infertility and it indiscriminately strikes women between the ages of puberty and menopause. Left untreated, it can lead to diabetes, heart disease and endometrial cancer.
The symptoms of PCOS frequently rob a woman of her self-esteem and femininity. They can include irregular menstrual cycles, male hair growth patterns, acne, obesity/weight gain, depression and infertility.
The cysts vary in size. My largest one was the size of a golf ball, and doctors considered me lucky. the longer the symptoms are ignored, the larger the cysts grow. The cysts cause many problems and imbalances, and those irregularities lead to other problems and imbalances, creating a vicious cycle.
Believe it or not, insulin resistance is the root of most PCOS problems. Doctors still have not discovered why, but PCOS sufferers' bodies do not read insulin levels correctly. This causes two big problems: low blood sugar levels and high androgen levels. The low blood sugar causes constant cravings (maybe K.D. Lang has PCOS!) for sweets and carbohydrates. Those are of course stored as fat int he body. The high androgen levels cause the unsightly acne and excessive hair growth.
If you have symptoms of PCOS, or relate to my experiences with it, contact an endocrinologist immediately. They specialize in glandular disorders. They will run several tests, such as glucose tolerance, cholesterol, testosterone and ultrasound to determine a definite PCOS diagnosis.
New discoveries are being made all the time. For more is known now, than 80 years ago when the syndrome was discovered. Yes, there is still no cure. This is a condition to be managed and closely monitored, rather than cured. Treatment of the PCOS symptoms can reduce the side effects as well as your risks of future health problems.
I can remember the endless tests and the numerous doctor consultations. I had a tough time accepting and dealing with it all at first. I would sit there and think, "Why me? Why can't I just be normal like all of my friends?" I realize now, my friends might also be part of this large percentage of women hiding behind the same band-aids I was using to appear "normal."
So, take off the band-aids, shed light on the disease and stop the silence. Your health, happiness and future family depend on it.