September – PCOS Awareness Month

September – PCOS Awareness Month

I’m a pretty open book when it comes to my life, I’ve reeled in quite a bit during the last year, but this topic hits a little closer to home. I’ve mentioned this once on social media, but I’ve only really talked about it with my close friends and family. If you’ve been reading, even briefly, the news on women’s health, this conversation is important now more than ever. So, here we go!

Since I was a teenager, I’ve always had acne and irregular cycles. I thought it was because I was (still am) overweight, how I handled stress from school, and the hormones that were changing during puberty never settled. There was never a moment during my youth where I didn’t have acne; seriously, a new one showed up every single day. I constantly gained weight, and my periods? I was lucky if I could count on one hand how many I’d get in a given year.

Fast-forward to sophomore year of college, I got my appendix removed. My surgeon, while performing surgery, noticed my ovaries were quite larger than normal. He didn’t know what it meant or if there was anything necessarily wrong, he just knew something wasn’t right. Since it was out of his field of practice, he suggested to my mom we get the pictures he took examined further by my primary or a gynecologist.

Thinking to myself, “What does he know? He’s a man!”

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Needless to say, I was reluctant to talk about my large ovaries. I mean, everything else on my body is large, why should I be surprised of largeness on the inside?!

During my follow-up post surgery, my primary said nothing looked wrong based on the pictures. There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. When I looked at the images, they did look larger. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the beginning of developing PCOS.

Fast-forward to April 2018. As a surprise, like normal, I get my period. I go through my cycle, all is good in the world. Not even a week later while I’m getting ready for work, this pain like no other comes over me. I’m warm, I feel like knifes are twisting inside my uterus. The pain was a solid 12. Come to realize after the pain had past, I was shedding large chunks of my uterine lining. To compare, the pain felt like I was pushing out an egg each time this lining came through.

All this time while I wasn’t getting a period, the lining my uterus was forming didn’t detach and come through with my period, as it normally does in order for a new cycle to begin. The thin uterine lining that forms, produced by hormones, is its way of preparing for a baby. In my case, each time a new cycle started, even when I wasn’t physically getting my period, the lining kept building up until one day it decided it needed to vacate the facility.

For about two months, I bled profusely. I missed countless days of work because the pain became too much. I felt my body contracting just to get the lining out of my system; this was more painful than the agony I felt before I got my appendix removed. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy.

It wasn’t until I went to a gynecologist and described what I was going through, I finally got an answer.

I had a couple exams, ultrasounds and blood work done, some bearable than others, to figure out my mess of a uterus. About two weeks later when I met with my doctor again, she said all the symptoms and tests correlate with PCOS.

My heart dropped and my mind went racing.

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a genetic hormone imbalance disorder caused by cysts that are formed on the ovaries. Common symptoms are: excessive facial and body hair, severe acne, irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain and infertility, its leading factor.

PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women worldwide starting as early as 14 years old. PCOS is not a disease that can be easily diagnosed and doesn’t discriminate; women will go through their whole life not knowing they have PCOS. Women with PCOS have ovaries 1.5-3 times larger than normal ovaries. Women with PCOS are more apt to experience diabetes and heart-related diseases as well as heart attacks. And to top it all off, there is no cure for PCOS.

The entire day after that appointment, I cried, I screamed, I kept blaming myself thinking there was something I could stop this from happening.

I couldn’t prevent my PCOS.

So for the rest of the day, I read other women’s stories. I learned how they cope, how they live with PCOS, medications they take and most importantly, their process of having children.

Surprisingly, that’s the part that got me the most. When my doctor told me I have PCOS, she said that if I tried to have a baby now, I wouldn’t get pregnant.

At this moment in time, I’m infertile… Thinking about it doesn’t get any easier.

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Let me just say this, women who have PCOS can and do get pregnant, sometimes without any fertility treatment. I’m one of those cases where I need to do everything I can to make sure I am in the best physical shape in order to bare a child.

What’s the next step from here?

Well, I took all of my frustration and fear and decided to do something. I can’t have this disorder take control over me or make me believe that I’m not capable of having children myself. To make this happen, I have to change my lifestyle.

There are plenty of women who get pregnant successfully and have no complications during pregnancy or childbirth who are my size. I thought I’d be one of those women myself (because screw societal expectations on what body type is most “suitable” to grow babies, AMIRIGHT?!?!) Unfortunately, my body physically can’t do what I always thought it was capable of doing.

I know that being a mom is someone I want to be. Losing weight is the only way I can better my body, not only for my overall health in order to live with PCOS, but in order to carry a child. The more weight I lose, the greater chance I’ll have to become less infertile.

In the dead of night, I signed up for Weight-Watchers and I haven’t looked back since June when I registered. At first it was hard because all the things I was eating were too many points which made me realize how many calories I was actually putting into my body. I had to compromise significantly. After a few weeks it became much easier incorporating fruits and veggies while also eating food I love in moderation. I’ve lost 30 pounds just by watching my diet. I haven’t conquered my fear of going back to the gym yet, but we’re still working on it.

I started on birth control in June and have seen significant differences in my acne, hair growth and cycles; I’ve never been more thankful to be on medication. If it wasn’t for getting on birth control, I would still be in a lot of effing pain, losing more blood from my body than a healthy amount during a period and I wouldn’t have my PCOS under control if it wasn’t for the pills giving me the hormones my body can’t naturally make. Now, if I could just convince the government the positive health benefits from birth control… Sorry, side thought.

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We need to talk about women’s health way more than we do now. With our current administration threatening safe abortions, access and coverage of birth control, not knowing the basics of childbirth, not knowing how periods work and lack of proper sex education in America, it’s so important we lead the discussion. Women have PCOS, endometriosis, other disorders that prevent them from getting pregnant. We have to talk and not be uncomfortable doing so. Our dialogue has to change and not feel like we’re alone going through all this BS that happens. Maybe I shared too much, but it’s the only way to start the conversation. It’s a step to start some serious change in our views on women’s health.

I have PCOS. I’ve blamed myself almost every single day thinking there was something I could have done to stop this. I think maybe there was a way I could have known sooner when I was younger. Maybe if I took my health more seriously or noticed different patterns in my mood, or took those photos more seriously. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

But then I remember that there’s nothing I could have done to stop this. I’m healthy, I’m taking all the right steps to improve my health and well-being for the future. And that’s all I can do.

My body is none of your business

My body is none of your business

I’m fat. I have a lot of fat on my body. I’ve had all this fat since I six years old. I have always had bigger arms, bigger legs, a rounder stomach that most people growing up in elementary school, middle school and high school didn’t have. I’ve heard every negative word to my face, online and behind my back at least five times a day in school growing up. I’ve heard I need to go on this diet, that diet, lose this much weight, I will be better off when I am thinner or a man will desire me if I am thinner. I could fill an entire novel based on every single negative comment someone – a stranger, bully or family member – has said about my body and weight.

I’m going to be 24 in December and it’s taken me the last five to six years to start learning to unlearn all the negative bullshit I’ve been told about my body and self-image in order to accept my space, literal and figurative, in this world.

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There is this stigma in society that if you’re fat, have a lot fat or are not in the ideal body weight of your age and height, then you’re unhealthy. I’m going to debunk that right here, right now.

Body weight is not a sole factor in determining whether you are healthy or not. Body weight does not determine your happiness or worth.

There are plenty of people on this Earth who exercise regularly (or not) and eat healthy who are not a size two or four,  There are also people who have never exercised in their life, eat like garbage, who have a thinner set and are absolutely unhealthy.

So here I am, I am going to tell you what it’s like being a woman with a lot of fat on her body. We’re going to talk about that exercise life first.

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I love working out. I love the atmosphere of a good gym and getting a killer workout in during my day. I love doing some mean cardio and spending most of my times in front of the mirror working on free-weights or on the various machines. I have recently increased my weights in the 50-80 on various arm machines, 100-140 on leg machines and free weights I am around 15-20 lbs. I get stupidly happy when I realize a lower weight is too easy for me. I love sweating because it makes me know that my body is working hard.

Some people don’t like working out and that’s okay. Not everyone has to like it but I am someone who does. Second point I’m going to move onto is eating.

I eat absolutely horrible. I do, I eat like garbage. But I don’t drink soda and to be quite honest, I don’t eat sweets all the time. I do enjoy a mean spinach-based salad, fruit and not processed food, truly, but greens are definitely not my choice.

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When I first moved to Ithaca I went to this one dentist in town and asked me point blank, “How much soda do you drink per day?” with a nice sexist gesture towards my body. *Cue Jim Halpert camera stare* Because if you’re fat, you automatically like soda, right? Wrong.

I politely told him that I didn’t drink soda. My main form of beverage is that ice cold H20; ask any of my close friends. He couldn’t believe me and for over three years when I went to that specific practice, the hygienists and dentist asked me repeatedly about my soda consumption.

And my answer every single time was, “I don’t drink soda. Please stop asking me that.”

I have a lot of fat because I eat like garbage, not because I drink soda. I have a lot of fat on my body because my body craves sugar and starch like a smoker craves nicotine. My body is so used to those substances that it will literally go into some sort of withdrawal if I don’t give it the sugar and starch it wants. It’s hard to resist temptation, it’s more than just saying, “I’m not going to eat that.”

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I can lose weight, I’ve done it before. My freshman year of college I lost 42 pounds; since then I gained that and then some back. When I gained all that weight back I was going through a really hard time emotionally where I ate most of my feelings away. Now, I’m not in that emotional state and I am finally out of college so it’s just a matter of time to fully commit to a better lifestyle in my head.

I’m still going to work out, I’m going to watch what I eat the best I can and I’m going to make small changes in order to be better. 30% is working out, 20% is what you eat and 50% is all about mentality. If you get through that 50% worth of mentality the other 50% falls into place. I need to figure out how to successfully have that 50% positive mental state in losing weight.

I am beautiful at the weight I am now. I am happy. I am healthy. I am fine just the way I am now. My worth is not in what other people think of me but of what I think of myself. My body size is not to please or be desirable to a man but to please me. The only person who has to accept the choices made over my body is me; not you who is reading, not the boys and girls who picked on me when I was younger, not my family, not my friends, not my doctor, not my dentist. I’m not going to apologize for the space I take up because someone else is uncomfortable in it.

As I wrap this up, I will leave you with this advice: don’t comment on someone else’s appearance. Don’t assume that a person is unhealthy by the way they look. Don’t comment on what someone eats. Don’t comment on their weight. Keep your negative comments to yourself; they are not welcomed. If you do decide to comment on someone’s weight or eating choices, I promise they will call you out on it. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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