Health: Living with PCOS (part one)

One in ten women suffers from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). With figures this high, you would expect it to be spoken about more than it is and accepted in today’s modern day society. Yet is isn’t. Before I was diagnosed, I had never even heard of it, which maybe is one of the reasons people generally don’t understand what it’s about. It’s also the reason why I have never spoken about it before – obviously it isn’t something you just casually bring up in conversation, but I’ve never told my friends or boyfriends. My parents and the doctors are the only ones to know. I guess this is just me telling my story and saying sufferers should be more open – because it isn’t something you can go through on your own.
For those of you that aren’t aware, there a number of symptoms and sufferers will have one or more of them. Cases vary from person to person: in the mildest cases one or two symptoms will be present and in the worst case scenario, someone could suffer with all of them. Some of the symptoms can be seen just by looking at someone, but others aren’t so obvious – the condition can also affect you mentally and emotionally. I was 17 when I was diagnosed and the last five years have been a rollercoaster.
The fact that the syndrome is so common should be the reason it is spoken about more. Obviously some of the symptoms are embarrassing to sufferers and want to make them hide away and not talk about it but I’ve come to the conclusion, I’m not ashamed of having the condition. Why should we suffer in silence? Yes, it does make me feel different and there are days I think “why me?” and I feel miserable, but there is no real cause of the condition and as it is a life-long thing with no cure at present, I feel like I just have to get on with life the best I can, and pretend, I suppose, I don’t have it. I’ve also had my fair share of abuse from people, which makes it more difficult, but the best thing to do is ignore it – those people that think it’s right to mock or belittle are ignorant and obviously not mature enough to cope with or understand the effects of the condition on someone.
I think about it a lot. 1/10 is a lot when you come to think about it. One day when I was at University, I was sat in my lecture hall. The majority of people on my course were girls, I’d hazard a guess at 30-odd. This would mean at least two others would suffer with PCOS. Obviously I wouldn’t know looking at them, the same way I guess they’d not know I have it. At football, too, there must be at least one other woman with the condition. And just think about being at a big venue for a concert, like the O2 – the amount of women there who also suffer. It’s pretty staggering really.
I will always remember they day in which I first thought I must have PCOS. I’d watched one of those awful programmes on TV in which members of the public talk about their aches, pains and complaints. It turned out a girl on there had a really bad case of PCOS – by which, I mean a million times worse than me. I then did the bad thing and Googled the condition. Never a good idea. I went to bed that night wondering what I was going to do – do I tell someone? Do I pretend I never saw the programme or read what I had on the internet? The fact there was no cure wasn’t going to change anything either, it wasn’t like I’d wake up the next morning and be fine, or cured after a dose of tablets. The following day I was only at Sixth Form in the morning, when my dad picked me up before lunchtime, I was really quiet. The more I thought about it at home, the worse it got and eventually I cried loads. When my dad asked what was wrong, I didn’t want to say anything – it was a really hard thing to bring up. Eventually I did explain and although he said I was being silly and probably overreacting, I made an appointment with my GP. I guess looking back I’m glad I said something – having PCOS is not really something you can go through on your own, and having support from those nearest you will make it that little bit more bearable.
After an appointment with my GP a number of blood tests later (which still haven’t helped me overcome my fear of needles – I don’t think anything ever will!), I was referred to an endocrinologist. It wasn’t until an ultrasound that I was properly diagnosed. That wasn’t a very fun experience, either. It wasn’t one of those ones they do for pregnancy, which I was quite looking forward to – they rammed a camera on a stick in me (even thinking about it makes me feel a bit ill) and rummaged around for a good couple of minutes to get a clearer picture. Yep, I had PCOS, on my right ovary. Wonderful. It was the summer of 2007 and if the following year wasn’t stressful enough: A Levels and University applications coming up, the ups and downs of friendships and relationships, it was about to get a million times worse...

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Love, Lucy xx

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