Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slimmer Me, but Same Ovaries- My Hopefully Helpful Overshare

Well, I finally did it. Or undid it, as the case may be. In my last post, I may have mentioned how I've been home from the mission for a year (I think I should start getting points for any post that doesn't mention my mission). Well, in that year, I managed to gain weight. A lot of it. I like food. A lot. Anyway, I just finished doing the HCG diet again, round two, and from September until now, there are forty-two pounds less of me. Which is quite an accomplishment. But the fact that I managed to gain that much weight so quickly is disturbing, to say the least. Not solely because I felt less attractive; actually, I don't feel like I was that bad-looking.


BEFORE


But I definitely feel better now, and I can't help but give myself the occasional wink in the mirror, whenever I chance by one.

AFTER

 (In both photos, there's food. Not coincidental).

 And on top of everything, the real reason I decided to do the dirty word, a.k.a. DIET (I always love to say that dieting is for quitters), was for health reasons. Because in my condition and with my condition, I really shouldn't just let myself go... crazy. Ha ha, that was funny.

Wait, what? Condition? What condition? Well, it can be embarrassing to talk about. Scratch that, it IS embarrassing. Because just like being overweight, this condition is the catalyst for every taboo of what is traditionally considered culturally attractive. And it can be hard when your body is in open rebellion, and seems to be mocking your every effort to feel confident. I know this doesn't make sense, yet. Allow me to elaborate.

The condition that I have affects either one-out-of-every-eight women or one-out-of-every-fifteen, depending on what source you're consulting. If not treated, it can lead to diabetes and heart disease. It definitely can cause infertility. It's known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Here's a more succinct description taken from Web M.D. :
 Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a group of health problems caused by out-of-balance hormones.It often involves irregular menstrual periods beginning in puberty or difficulty getting pregnant.PCOS may also cause unwanted changes in the way you look.
I'll never forget my first year of high school for many reasons, but the most notorious one that comes to mind is when I started to freak out because anytime I'd wash/brush my hair, it would come out. Not a few strands here or there, but large clumps. I went from having long, enviable locks, to thin, straggly hair. But to make up for this, my body graciously provided the lost hair in other places- chest, neck, stomach. My acne was volcanic; the type that forms an impenetrable red surface that even pliers wouldn't have been able to break. My hormones were severely out of wack, and apparently, as the name implies, I had cysts hanging out, having tea parties on my ovaries. I mean, that's what I would do. If I were a cyst. They may or may not still be there; I really don't know.

The best part of all of this? I had no idea what the hell was going on. I went to the doctor and blabbered on and on about all my symptoms. Nothing. The only time I came close to figuring out what was wrong with me was when I was in the waiting room, right before I was about to get my wisdom teeth out during my Junior year. I read an article about a girl who was describing happenings with her body that mirrored exactly what I was experiencing. I was thrilled to realize my body wasn't some anomaly and that I wasn't going to have early on-set Crypt Keeper-itis. Unfortunately, before I could really finish the article, I was whisked away to be anaesthetised. It wasn't until after my first official semester of college that I was diagnosed with PCOS. So about four-and-a-half years after I started experiencing symptoms.

Even after being diagnosed, I don't think I really accepted it. I distinctly remember waking up some mornings during my Sophomore and Junior years of college with my hands in my hair. It was like a subconscious thing, like having phantom limb syndrome. I think I just couldn't make myself get used to the loss of it. I guess knowing about the beast you're dealing with doesn't make it easier to, well, deal with. Mostly because I didn't ever really care to disturb it. I figured if I left it alone, didn't poke it with a stick or look it in the eye, then we could mostly leave each other in peace.

Once again, food. Uncanny, no?
But that's not how it really works. My lack of research about PCOS hasn't really been a detriment, but it probably would have been a smarter way to handle things if I'd educated myself more. I know the symptoms and side-effects of PCOS, mostly from personal experience, but every now and then, something new will rear its head. For example, about a month ago, I went in for a check-up. Some med student was in the room with the doctor, shadowing her. He got to hear her describe all about how PCOS causes weird hair growth and irregular periods. Lucky guy.  As my doctor was listing the symptoms I was already familiar with, she mentioned one with which I wasn't- anxiety. What?! Well, that explained a lot. Something I probably would have know if I had done a little more research. But what I've learned first-hand from all this is that ignorance truly isn't bliss. It's just ignorance, and it doesn't change facts.

So, the question may very well be, "why are you talking about this?" Well, I'm writing this for all the teenage girls and women who are going through changes they can't explain. I'm writing this for all the candid blogs and articles that may or may not yet exist on the subject. I'm writing because, once again, I have very personal, raw experience with the subject, and can offer and insider's opinion. And I'm also writing this for my fourteen year-old self. Because even though since I found out about my condition I haven't, until recently, been a rigorous researcher, I would have loved to have had more resources and info available to me when I was trying to figure out what I was going on with my body so I wouldn't have felt so upset and alone. Nothing beats a case of isolophobia like knowing that there are other people who know what you're going through. Obviously, I wouldn't wish this on anybody. But since it will inevitably continue to effect other women and their ovaries, I might as well lend my voice to let them know that it's gonna be okay.

Not the sunshine and burritos type of okay, but the manageable, you-can-go-on-with-your-life kind. Because PCOS is a syndrome, it's not curable. The best treatment is weight management because one of the biggest indicators of PCOS is significant weight gain and difficulty losing it. This is usually due to the the fact the PCOS bodies often are also insulin resistant (cells in the body produce too much insulin in order to for the blood glucose to stabilize within the cell). Blood sugar goes up, energy often goes down, and hunger increases. Being insulin resistant means that avoiding high carb and sugary foods is the best way to keep from the weight getting out-of-control and leading to Type II Diabetes. I myself am Prediabetic, but I take a drug called  Metformin that helps control my blood sugar and  insulin levels. There is debate about whether or not Metformin is the best way to treat PCOS. But there's debate over everything these days. I also use a Progesterone cream (it comes in drops and pills as well) that helps with hormone imbalance and controls some of the less-than-pleasing physical foibles PCOS presents. And back in the day, when my periods were off-the-charts irregular, I was on birth control. Consulting with your doctor, usually an endocrinologist, on a case-by-case basis is key, as well as getting blood work done to check your  blood sugar and hormone levels.

And really, although I may take a few pills and spend some extra time with my tweezers and razor (and, my new B.F.F. the No No!), life ain't so bad. I no longer feel controlled by my syndrome; I am more than my condition- I am above it. And I sure as hell ain't defined by it. I still have days where I'm bummed by the several inconveniences, but at the end of the day I'm still me, one sassy Sweeney. And as the guy  I sorta dated who had Tourette's once told me in regard to his own condition, "really, I can either be upset about it, or I can laugh and make fun of myself. I chose the latter." And I choose to agree with him. Which is why from here on out, if you ever here me say that my eggs are bad/rotten, well, you're in on the joke now.

Oh, and happy beginning of March. Just beware when we reach mid-month; those ides are a killer.

Hormonally yours,

Sweeney

Some additional links on PCOS for those who are extra interested:

* http://progesteronemenopause.com/progesterone_cream_faq.htm
*http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-treatment-overview
*http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737989/
*http://www.babymed.com/fertility-news/clomiphene-metformin-or-both-infertility-pcos-polycystic-ovary-syndrome
*http://www.babymed.com/fertility-news/clomiphene-metformin-or-both-infertility-pcos-polycystic-ovary-syndrome