My PCOS Story

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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?

You do?

Great!

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?

*crickets*

Him: That would make you 29 today. So are you married?

Me: No

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..

email me:

chowderpenny@gmail.com if you have questions on my experience with PCOS

No More Silence ….

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Tina Turner, Rihanna, Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Houston, Charlize Theron, Nicole Simpson. What do all these insanely famous women successful in their own right have in common? Its not Gucci bags or Giuseppe shoes, its not millions of fans and social media followers. All these women and many more worldwide were at one point victims of domestic abuse. Hurt and seriously abused by their loved ones.

Its a myth that domestic violence happens only to poor women and to women of color. It happens to all women, even to the most beautiful and not just celebrities. It happens to people like you and me. I recently shocked my co-workers the other day while having a heated discussion over lunch when I confessed that I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship in my mid twenties. A relationship that dragged on beyond its expiry date for years. One of my friends was even like ‘but you are sooo pretty’. I chuckled. Well, simply because the folly of being a young and insecure woman who had struggled with self esteem for years is that you tend to take on crap. Tonnes and tonnes of it. You second guess yourself alot even though you are beautiful, you seek some validation or affirmation from the world and if you are not careful, the very person who affirms and
validates you is most often the most toxic to you. And when abuse happens, you tell yourself that if he hurts you in a way that no one else can, he must really
love you. Its sickening.
The facts on domestic violence are staggering…
– 2 women in the U.K are killed every week by a male partner, 3 in the world every day
– Every 9 seconds a woman is abused somewhere in the world
– 2 in every 4 women think that its their fault, not his, and that if I leave he won’t be loved by anyone else
– 4,774,000 women in the US experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year
– 2 million injuries and 1300 deaths are caused as a result of domestic violence
– 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime

Living legend Tina Turner opened up to Oprah about her very tumultuous marriage to Ike here (http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/oprahs-interview-with-tina-turner). Her abuse was so bad that a biopic was made from it ‘What’s love got to do with it’. Tina finally got out, with nothing but her name, and eventually worked her way up and is now happily married.

29 year old pop icon Rihanna was brutally assaulted in 2009 by her then boyfriend superstar Chris Brown, where Chris beat her up outside an industry award ceremony then left her injured and bleeding at the side of the road before driving off
(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11916887/Rihanna-Chris-Brown-domestic-abuse-Vanity-Fair-interview-is-a-triumph.html)

One of the most beautiful women in the world and a phenomenal actress and Oscar winner Halle Berry confessed that the very ugly violence meted out on her, left her deaf and hard of hearing to date in her left ear.

Additionally, the most sensational spousal murder in the 20th century was that of Nicole Simpson. I recently read Kris Jenner’s memoir ‘Kris Jenner and all things Kardashian’ where she partially blames herself for not doing something about Nicole’s abuse by her husband O.J Simpson who was also a close friend. On the day of her death, Nicole had called up her best friend for several years, Kris, and asked to meet up over lunch as she had something to show and tell her it later turned out that she wanted to hand over a box filled up with photos of her mangled face documented each time that O.J hit her. Kris also confesses in the memoir that at one point, Nicole told her severally that ‘one day O.J will kill me and get away with it’.
(https://www.romper.com/p/photos-of-nicole-browns-alleged-abuse-from-oj-simpson-were-hidden-in-her-safety-deposit-box-48)

In Africa, we woke up this week to a trending topic on social media saddening news that 28 year old Karabo Mokoena was kidnapped and murdered and her body burnt allegedly by her boyfriend. It was saddening, shocking and very upsetting news.

What then would make someone stay put in an abusive relationship or marriage for years you wonder? Perhaps it has largely to do with the fact that most victims regard domestic abuse as a taboo topic. No one wants their business know and put out for all and sundry. There is a certain shame and stigma that has to do with being abused regardless of how beautiful or successful you are. You suffer silently because you secretly feel like no one will believe you, like you are over reacting and that its not that serious. You smile and hold it all in because there are kids involved and bills to be paid. After all, he provides and he has never hurt the kids, and he is very apologetic and loves you still. You have several new and expensive gifts and flowers to show
to show the next day.

See all domestic abusers are masterclass manipulators. Narcissists. They placate you to silence you and call you ‘honey’ and ‘baby’ and tell you that they would be nothing without you. Then physically punch you until you are black and blue bruised all over. You probably don’t know the tell tale signs of a narcissist until you are crying on your bedroom floor hiding in shame. You live in anxiety and in fear, a constant state of panic wondering when the next attack will occur. You wonder what kind of a man needs to crush a woman in order to feel powerful. But what about the scars that people cannot see? He does not have to hit you for it to be abuse (as was my case). He can belittle, humiliate, curse, scorn, ridicule and disrespect and even control you – the true hallmark of emotional abuse. How then do you regain your self worth and terminate and distance yourself from the toxicity?

Speaking up and getting help. Take action to end domestic violence. Learn the signs, the facts and educate yourself and your loved ones. Talk to your loved ones and really listen.
Speaking up against the discrimination and stigma surrounding domestic violence is the only way to end it. Understand that we are all vulnerable. That men too can be abused not just women. Listen to survivors and their stories, encourage them to seek help, reassure them, be not just an encourager but go the extra mile. Empower and donate to organizations that support survivors to seek financial independence for them to be fully free of their abusers.

Do your part. Its time to end the silence.

***In memory of South African beauty Karabo Mokoena,  may you find eternal peace. R.I.P. ***

Why I Read 50 Shades

This past weekend I watched 50 shades darker..the ‘new’ E.L James inspired movie.

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Most of you keep hearing and using the phrase 50 shades but I am sure most of you do not know much about E.L James or her 50 shades franchise. Erika Leonard James is currently the highest paid novelist with Forbes placing her income at $95 million including film rights to her books. She has sold over 125 million copies of the books (they are 4 currently) since they came out in 2012 and even in 2017, she is still raking in millions of pounds.

So, boys and gals, What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase? Do you think whips and chains? Ben wa balls? Clamps? Dominatrix outfits? Or are you part of the population that does not care about a romance like mills and boon on steroids trilogy?

Personally I feel like everyone has a certain jaded perception about the 4 books by E.L James. I say this because I got shot dirty looks whenever I carried any of the books so I opted reading the e-books from my tablet just for the element of mystery and because I got tired of the many questions and comments like ‘yani you are that chic who loves bdsm’. See the not so subtle judgy remarks? I could be reading a book about robotics but that doesn’t mean I am crazy about engineering. Maybe I am just widely read.

I asked three random guys what the 50 shades hulla balloo was all about (what they really thought about the books and/or the movies)

Guy 1 – 50 shades is about porn. Lots of porn (really??)

Guy 2 – Referring to the second movie 50 shades darker said, ‘its not just about sex in a relationship, its about love and baggage, and
finding someone who cares about you long enough to help you sort through your baggage’ (aww)

Guy 3 – Don’t know, Don’t care. (nonchalant much?)

So this is why I read ALL the books of the 50 shades trilogy…and watched the 2 movies. Yes. All. Of. Them. 50 shades of Grey, 50 shades darker, 50 shades freed and Grey.

Curiosity had a lot to do with it I must say. Why curiosity?
Because I am the kind of chic who falls in love with characters in books. I envision their lives, what they have for breakfast, what they do in their spare time, the color of their hair, their personas and such then zone out as I visualize all this. I was curious about Anastasia (that’s the girl who falls in love with the billionaire Christian Grey). I wondered why she did not have an email address in 2011 at the age of 22 (while I had a Yahoo.co.uk email address at 18). I was curious about her introducing her man to her step father and him being so okay and casual with him. Let’s face it, I am African… introducing any man to your folks IS A BIG DEAL!! And African parents never forget who you introduce to them. But then I guess its all parents. No?

I also happened to be curious about this mysterious man who was so messed up he never wanted to be touched (at one point he and Anastasia use a lipstick to draw only the areas that she was allowed to touch on his body – arms, and neck and his hair). My curiosity was also focused on how this man became a billionaire at the age of 26. How and when he ran his empire since all they ever did was explore their sexuality all the time in his ‘red room of torture’. Were all wealthy billionaires 50 shades of messed up? Do they all struggle with sexual desires that are extra ordinary and forbidden? So I read on & each and every single word came alive in my head.

And my deductions after the fourth and final book, which was the story as narrated by Christian Grey were that:

We are all deeply troubled human beings. Yes we go on about life like we are happy, but deep down, we are troubled souls. We struggle with affirmation, and with rejection and we google quotes on happiness to lift our spirits but, We all struggle with acceptance and the fear of not being good enough (atelophobia). Christian felt like the minute he disclosed his darkest secrets Anna would leave and she did yes, though she came back. This I suppose is because anyone worth being in your life as your life partner will be there through the good, the bad and the downright ugly and scary. This is called love. And according to 1 Cor 13, love is not self seeking or selfish, its forgiving and remembers no wrong doings.

Love is ever evolving. And if you are lucky, you evolve in the right direction and together. Initially, when they started out Grey was too controlling, obsessive and very possessive. Anna remains true to herself. She tries to bend over backwards to really please the guy withe the kinky stuff but eventually, she realizes she can only be herself (this is what wins Grey over). He does marry her when he realizes that she is unlike anyone he had met simply because she was herself. Lover of English tea and all.
Also, the fact that she was dating a 26 year old billionaire buying her an Audi, an i-pad and going for helicopter rides at the drop of a hat never made her feel any different, the material stuff was nice, but she wanted Grey to be himself with her and to communicate! Ladies, be yourself! If and when the money fizzles out character is what sees people through life.

The person who loves you signs up for the most unflattering version of yourself. By unflattering I mean waking up in the morning with no makeup whatsoever and having crusts in your eyes yet they kiss you and still call you beautiful, when you are down with a flu, red itchy eyes and a running nose, they make you chicken noodle soup to warm you up. When you eat bad sushi from the new place that you were dying to try out and your tummy acts up at 4am in the night and you are short of passing out from dehydration on the bathroom floor they hold your weave to make sure it does not get any food remains as you retch. There is a tampon scene in 50 shades darker that got women all antsy. Anna is on her period and Grey reaches…and pulls the blue tampon string..and tosses it into a nearby toilet. Would the person you love be in a gross situation and act like a gentleman all through?

Its important to get rid of baggage in a relationship or a marriage. In the plot, Elena is the elderly lady who happens to be a good friend to Grey’s adopted mom. She introduced Grey to the kink to fulfil her own s&m desires when he was 15. Grey was a minor and did not know any better + he was looking for a mother figure in Elena and she takes advantage; besides he came from a broken home and his biological mother commits suicide by overdosing right in front of him. He was just a 5 year old boy. All through the story line Elena haunts Grey and attempts severally to rekindle what they shared. All the while, Ana makes a lasting impression on Grey and he voices it in the movie when he confronts her and the kinky demons from his past ‘Elena, you taught me how to f***, while Anastasia taught me how to love’. Additional baggage is Jose, her best friend, the guy clearly smitten by Ana but she is blind to all his advances including the showcase for his photography where he had hung huge life size canvases of her. Messy entanglements happen all the time, but the person you love should help you unpack all your baggage one suitcase at a time.

50 shades anyone?

I ‘almost’ got married once

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“Getting married is very much like going to a continental restaurant with friends. You order what you want, then when you see what the other fellow has, you wish you ordered that.” ~ Unknown ~ 


Two nights ago I had a very interesting heart to heart with my mum about relationships and marriage; that conversation inspired this post. I love that I have come of age and I can openly talk with her about anything and ours is not just a typical mother-daughter relationship, she is a very good friend too (anyway I digress). So I blew her mind away by confessing about the time I turned down a marriage proposal without her knowledge…

I almost got married once. I was 21 he was 35. The year was 2008 and I had just joined uni. We met in church. Rather, we met again in church for the second time after a very long while. First time we met I was 10 and he was one of my folk’s tenants then he moved away. First forward 11 years later… We met in church after the Sunday service just shortly after 1pm as the congregants were making small talk after the preaching. So guy X walks up to me looking dapper in a 3piece suit, cravat and all then introduced himself with that confidence that was borderline cocky the kind that is over confident you roll your eyes mentally. He looked familiar but I could not place where I knew him from.  From the way he walked I could tell he was used to chics throwing themselves at him because he was of caramel complexion, but as we Kenyan folk call it – team light skin. I did not care for 2 reasons; one – am also team light skin and that has never mattered to me because I was teased about it all through high school, and two – I believe someone needs to bring more than just good looks to the table.

He complimented me, made me blush until my dimples showed by telling me how I had come to my own from the shy ten year old that he knew to a bubbly young lady and proceeded to invite me to his place the next Sunday for lunch. Now this is where them warning bells should have gone off because who invites a gal he’s just ‘met’ over to his place for just lunch? So young, naïve but bold Penny agreed to take him up on his lunch offer after we exchanged numbers. The deal was to call him once I got to his apartment block and he would come fetch me. All week I got endless texts ‘I hope we are on for Sunday dear’ and ‘I have loved you all my life dear’. Now this is where I should have deleted/ blocked his number but nope…Part of me was so intrigued how this would all pan out and so like a moth to a candle flame I drew nearer and nearer.

Come the material day, we went to church as usual and after turning down my mama’s amazing chapati for lunch because I was hurriedly ‘rushing to campus to complete a due assignment’ I proceeded to Mr. X’s. Now this next part is what blew my mummy’s mind away. Mr.X picked me from the agreed spot, and we got to his house… I should have taken the no tantalizing smells of peppered stew or well done ugali as another sign but anyway, I sat casually on the sofa. So Mr.X turns to me and requests to blind fold me with his tie. I agreed. Now there is something about blindfolds that heighten my senses but that’s a story for another day. I could hear him ruffling plastic bags on the coffee table and a silent door bang. He finally sat right next to me and took off the blind fold.

Right in front of me was a huge cake with pink and white frosting with the words ‘Will you marry me’ and next to the cake, was a gold watch and an engagement ring; a silver ring with a decent rock. I looked at the guy with a very puzzled look. Forget the me knowing him for all of one week aspect. Now if I was to accept the proposal in spite of it not being a proper one with him on a bended knee, his words threw me off. ‘Wambui, I want you to know that I want to marry you. I can afford to pay your university school fees and before you get to fourth year I will have bought you a car.’ My next reaction was a priceless one. I got up to my feet, told him that contrary to what he believed, my parents were more than capable of paying my school fees and that I wanted to buy my first car myself with my own money then I grabbed my back pack and left – never to be heard off from again.

In retrospect, how do you know that you are of age and you need to settle down? When is the right age to settle down and start a family? Is age a factor? Is maturity? How about promises of a brighter future? In light of everyone my age getting married, I came up with 3 things that guide you to know when you are not ready for marriage.

  1. You are not mentally ready to handle the responsibilities of being a wife or a husband and neither are you done exploring. At 21 all I wanted was to club hop between Molly’s in Westlands, Red Tape, Rezorous or Black diamond and finally wind up my night at Changez. We called it electric avenue. I had no business of being someone’s wife or being a home maker and even changing diapers. I wanted my dress short and my heels high (just like my standards) and dance to ‘live your life’ by T.I and sing along to ‘I kissed a girl’ by Katy Perry. If all you want to do is explore the club/night life then get that out of your system unapologetically. We all need to outgrow some stuff – just don’t drag someone along in a dead end relationship.
  2. You do not envision yourself with the person long term. Long term here involves putting the kids to bed at night, attending boring PTA meetings or at your child’s graduation. Granted a wedding is mad fun, but the reality of what lies ahead begins long before the caterers pack up their cutlery and the guests go home. This is the person you will be with during family functions, at special work events, when death strikes and you lose your best friend, or he loses his. Life happens, but if you do not in any way see yourself living your life beside this person, let them go!
  3. You are under pressure – you have attended numerous dowry payment ceremonies, engagement parties, your friends are having bridal showers, going to engagement photo shoots and uploading pictures on Instagram by the minute with #SheSaidyes #HarusiTunayo, your biological clock is ticking by the day and all you feel is pressured by the many hints relatives drop at family functions. I repeat, do not get married if you feel pressured mainly because everyone thinks its time you settled down. Would you rather feel awkward as a third wheel to a friend’s dinner party or feel awkward sitted next to your spouse whose guts you now cannot stand? A marriage is for life. Should be for life and at the very least, take time in selecting a life partner.

Am I ready for marriage you ask? I am readier now than I was at 21 simply because I now know who I am, what my values are, and what I want is someone who complements me not completes me.

 

1 Corinthians 7:1

It is good for a man not to marry; but since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband