I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with a dear friend; we are separated by over two thousand miles so the chance to catch up in person was truly special. We have a lot of history between us and I remember her struggles with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome when we were young adults. Since PCOS has been on our hearts and minds here at Promise I asked her if she minded sharing her story and experiences with all of you. She was more than happy to, and I was so glad because we believe it is important to know that you are not alone in your struggles. While this is not medical advice, and we encourage you to work with your doctor and to always seek professional expertise, we do wish that the following interview provides you with some encouragement and hope.
Q: When were you diagnosed with PCOS?
I was 23 years old, but I probably had it for longer because I remember experiencing symptoms when I was 16 or 17 years old. I have been formally diagnosed now for seventeen years.
Q: What was the catalyst for making an appointment with your doctor and receiving your diagnosis?
I had been experiencing irregular periods or only having one or two periods a year for many years. I was also noticing changes in my physical appearance and other symptoms.
Q: Are you comfortable sharing what some of those symptoms are? I know the common ones but bodies are all so different, and not everyone experiences a disease in the same ways.
Oh sure, of course! My breasts took on a tubular shape (due to increased testosterone levels) and I started carrying a lot of weight around my abdomen for the same reason. I also had a thickening and darkening of the skin under my arms and around my groin and the skin under my arms was always very chaffed. I had dark facial and nipple hair- some women have such high testosterone levels that they grow hair on their chests. I also had thinning of my hair and painful cystic acne especially along my jawline.
Q: How did it feel to be diagnosed?
It was a relief and so good to have a name for what I was experiencing, and to take the next step forward.
Q: What was the next step?
I was initially put on birth control pills and recommended to lose weight.
Q: Once you were on birth control pills what was the outcome?
My periods became regular but some of my other symptoms became more aggressive. I was also prescribed the drugs Metformin and Actose but both made me very sick so I did not stay on them.
Q: What is the hardest part of having PCOS?
Trying to find balance and control it while not letting it control your life.
Q: What has helped you the most in managing your disease and symptoms?
When I stopped taking medication in 2016 I began using supplements to help manage my hormone levels. I took Omega-3, milk thistle, and D-chiro-Inositol. I also added essential oils that balance hormones into my daily repertoire. After two years my testosterone levels had decreased, and I also became pregnant.
Q: Did having PCOS affect your pregnancy in any way?
No, but pregnancy affected my PCOS! It decreased my symptoms and during my second trimester I had never felt so good physically. My doctor said that may have been due to finally having estrogen in my body in addition to the second trimester “glow”. Now I feel that I am almost asymptomatic.
Q: Oh wow, your baby girl is almost five years old and you are still not experiencing PCOS symptoms or undergoing any treatments?
That’s right, I am not taking any medications and I have not been taking any supplements for it since she was born. I’m still diagnosed with PCOS but my cycles remain regular and my lab work (testosterone and estrogen levels) are within normal ranges. My A1c glucose rate has also been normal; I was in the pre-diabetic range for many years beforehand.
Q: That is amazing and so fantastic lady! What are some of the best parts of being a mom?
Knowing that I created this amazing little person and that I get to guide her through life and experience “new” things in life with her.
Q: Any advice you would give to other women with PCOS?
Take control of your health- YOU are the captain and advocate for yourself. If something doesn’t feel right listen to that and figure out what you need or what does work for you. Also, find a doctor who will work with you and be open to non-traditional treatments.
Thank you to my friend for sharing her story with us, we hope you find some help and hope from her experience. Managing PCOS is difficult, and undergoing its effects and symptoms can be frustrating, isolating, and heartbreaking. We see you PCOS warriors and we are here for you! Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions on how we can support you on your journey.
Shannon Sprayberry, Washington- Wellness Blogger