Deuteronomy 33: 25
As your days are, so shall thy strength be.
What do you see when you look at this picture?
Do you see a well put together lady?
Beautiful and glowing skin perhaps?
Makeup in good taste? Or not.
Do you see the very flattering apple bottom jeans and the nice weave?
Now let me tell you about what you don’t see beneath all that.
I took this picture exactly one week before I was diagnosed with PCOS in April this year.
Before I tell you what PCOS is, let me narrate how lethargic I was feeling this day. It had taken me four good hours to get out of bed that morning. I love sleeping in. Everyone who knows me knows I can sleep for a whole week if it was up to me. But on this particular day I woke up feeling very depressed.
Last time I felt that sad I was going through a break up. You know those heart wrenching ones where you want to be in the house and just sleep because that’s the only time that your soul does not ache? So anyway, after the four hours and four missed calls from my cousins I got out of bed. Dragged myself out of it and got ready to go do some bridal shopping. I put on some makeup to cheer me up. Ladies know what am talking about. Your signature lipstick and eyeliner + some foundation is like coffee for the brain. An instant pick me up.
So anyway, PCOS.
The whole month of April was a depressing one for me. So were the months before that. I felt long bouts of sadness and looming depression. I had no reason to be sad. Work was good, family even better. I was however struggling being around people. I felt like people were constantly draining my energy. Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing friends but I found myself preferring to sleep than hang out. I was putting on more weight more so in my mid section. My eczema was back – especially on my eye and my neck. Everyone kept wondering why I was in scarves all the time. Even in the heat. I was getting tired of being asked why I had hickies on my neck. The patches on my neck looked really did look like hickies. So I learnt to laugh it off and tighten the scarves. What accompanied the weight gain was prolonged menses (a month was the longest) in this case. Other months, I had none; for like three months or so. I was busy and pre occupied with work and kept on pro longing a visit to the gynae (ladies, this is where we go wrong! We need to learn to listen to our bodies when we feel something is off) Weekends came and went and I felt more and more sad and moody for no reason. I was not projecting my sadness to anyone. I just felt like being alone all the time. I retreated further and further into my introverted shell.
I still remember the day I was diagnosed with PCOS very vividly. I had just come from an all day meeting at work. The day had been extremely productive and I was in a fantastic mood. I called my mum, told her I was going for a check up to the gynae for routine boring stuff. she wished me well.
So I check into the doctor’s at AAR, second time there, but I somehow feel like am a fresher in uni at the administration block. AAR have very pleasant staff! So friendly you feel like they want to hug you! So I fill in the insurance forms and hand over my medical card, and wait to be called. After like five minutes or so, my name was called. I Head over to the observation room and have my pressure and weight taken. The nurse tells me I have lost 10 kgs since my last visit a month ago. I get excited and so does she. We almost hug but we decide not to and smile really hard instead.
We get out and she asks me to sit outside the gynae’s door. She points to it and tells me I am patient no. 3. Patient 1 is inside already. She smiles and leaves to attend to her next patient. Patient 2 is heavily expectant and has such a wonderful pregnancy glow. She is on call with her hubby. I know because she asks him to pick Jade from day care and that she is in hosi. He sounds worried but she sweetly re-assures him. I half eaves drop and half read Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers on my phone. I get so lost in my ebook that the next time I look up, the doctor is calling out my name.
I think gynecologists are very interesting doctors. Owing to the nature of their work, they have seen it all and heard it all. I was slightly shy. He on the other hand was bold and brazen.
Him: How old are you today?
Me: I turn 30 in a couple of months.
Him: I asked how old you are today (types away on the keyboard)
Me thinking to myself: this guy must have been really good at those weird equations. Tap A fills a tank in 20 minutes, while Tap B fills the same tank in 15 minutes. How long does Tap C take to empty this tank if the water hose is inclined at an angle of 60 degrees?
Him: That would make you 29 today. So are you married?
Him: Trying for a baby?
Me: Not yet.
Him: You are about to clock your 30’s and time is running out. Why don’t you have a baby?
Me: Looking at him like he just bumped his head against a wall. Excuse me?
Him: Yes. Time is running out. A woman is in her reproductive prime when she is in her early and mid twenties
Me: So I was supposed to drop out of uni at 25 and start rearing kids five years ago? I have no apologies to make about not having a baby earlier. I was studying and after graduation, I joined the corporate world.
He looks at me like I don’t know what’s good for me and my eggs are wilting by the day.
I look at him like you really do not want to go there with me.
Him: So it seems here you have gained weight
Me: Does it also show I have lost 10 kilos?
Him: Ignores my catty response. When did you last have your menses and how long did they last for?
I tell him.
Him: Do you have acne? He looks at my face in scrutiny. But I cannot see since you have make up on
Me: I don’t though I have eczema.
Him: Have you noticed any increase of body hair?
Me: Not at all
Him: Does your pubic hair grow upwards or downwards?
I laugh. Heartily! For like a good five minutes to tears. He looks bewildered. I am amused.
Me: No daktari I have never been keen to take note of that. I say smiling as I wipe my laugh tears.
Him: Ok. So I think you have PCOS, but we will rule that out by you having an ultra sound done then we can know for sure. Please take lots of water and have your bladder full for the ultra sound.
I leave his examination room and head to the ultra sound room.
My laughter was short lived during and after the ultra sound. The radiologist was super friendly. She mentioned that my bladder was not full and I had to do the penetrative ultra sound. I was easy. She called the gynae in the room and inserted the speculum. They exchanged some medical mumbo jumbo ‘aaaaahing’ while pointing at the monitor all the while. I stared back at the monitor and all I could see was a pearl necklace like image on the monitor.
So the ob/gyn explained that I had a classic case of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Poly means many. So the cysts were several and they were aligned like a pearl necklace in my ovaries. Since my ovaries were already larger than usual size, he would put me on medication to bring them to normal size, as well as give me the pill to regulate my hormones. In most PCOS cases, the male hormone testosterone is produced at an alarming rate hence giving the patient more body and facial hair (this explained the hilarious pubic hair questions). In some, the skin darkens in some places leaving scars and blotches like one has been burnt. He further explained that PCOS if not diagnosed early leads to infertility, heart problems, diabetes or sleep apnea and depression in some instances such as mine. PCOS is the number one cause of infertility in women. He assured me that we need not worry because my case was not advanced and the medication would take care of all of that.
I am yet to complete my medication and go for my review to know whether the cysts have dis integrated or the ovaries have shrunk in size, but what I know is that this is one of the scariest things any woman could go through. Your body feels like is not yours, you have several hot flushes and night sweats. There are the constant trips to the bathroom especially in the night and the mood swings.
What I have learnt since the diagnosis is to appreciate the love and friendship from my friends, colleagues and my family. They have understood me, encouraged me, cheered me on and loved me even with my unexplained outbursts of sadness. Trust me they have been several.
To all women struggling with PCOS or any other reproduction related ailments, surround yourself with the right energy from the people who love you, always remember you are strong and a fighter.
All women are.
It shall be well..
firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions on my experience with PCOS