What do PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and a phobia for needles have in common? Amber.
Amber is a health practitioner in her twenties who has been living with PCOS for the past six years. She shared her journey to getting a diagnosis, and how it has impacted her social life and mental health.
1 in 10 women in their reproductive years has PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). It is a hormonal disorder that affects how the ovaries work. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.
If you have PCOS, your periods may be infrequent or prolonged. You may also have excess male hormone (androgen) levels.
Let’s meet Amber
In one word, describe your year
A rollercoaster year!
That’s more than one word...
Chuckles. It has been a rollercoaster year. So many highs and lows.
Hmmm, a roller coaster in what sense? Share with us.
Well, on the good side, I made great strides in my career, and I’ve got a wedding to plan – Yaay!!
So…you said yes?
Yes, I did!
On the other hand, though, I lost two loved ones in the space of a month and that really weighed me down.
Through it all, God has been faithful, so I’m thankful.
Accept my deepest condolences…
Thank you so much.
You mentioned highs and lows, does this include you realizing you had PCOS?
No, not at all. I knew I had it about 6 years ago, in my third year of medical school.
Wow! How did you know you had it?
For the longest time, my menstrual cycle was irregular. I bled once in 2,3 or even 4 months, so I complained to my Dad (who is a doctor by the way) and he took me to see a gynaecologist.
After some blood tests, as well as an ultrasound scan of the abdomen – I found out that I had some cysts in my ovaries.
How did you feel when you heard about it?
Well, I remember thinking ‘‘Hey God! I hope this won’t affect my ability to have children’’.
I asked my Dad about it and went on to read more. My mind was filled with many questions that needed to be answered.
In the course of my research, I was surprised to find out it was more common than I imagined.
Did you ever tell your friends about it?.
Of course, I did, and they were so supportive. Initially, I was anxious about talking about it because I didn’t want to be seen as odd in any way, but I was pleasantly shocked by how understanding they were. Now, whenever I hear them talk about the turmoil of their periods, I remind them that regular periods can also be a blessing. Laughs
You have such amazing friends!
Yes! My friends are the best!
Apart from the irregular menstrual cycle you mentioned, what other symptoms did you have?
That’s the main symptom I have. However, about 2 years ago, I had this sudden flare of acne. It was sooo baddd! And all the facial products didn’t seem to be working. I honestly thought I’ll never have a smooth face again, but thankfully I was wrong.
I don’t have a lot of hair but occasionally, I find a stray hair strand or two on my jaw (which I quickly pluck away).
Also, I try to be very conscious of what I eat, so I don’t put on too much weight, since PCOS predisposes me to significant weight gain.
How has this been affecting your mental health?
Well, I talk about PCOS often, that alone has helped me with accepting it. I also found out that my mom had it when she was younger and had to undergo surgery for it back then. The fact that drugs are now available to help manage the symptoms is also quite comforting.
There’s a chance my daughter could have it, and I’ll want or be able to hold her hand through all of it and let her know it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The condition comes with some degree of subfertility and even though I’m an optimistic person, it worries me sometimes.
I’m also glad I have a very supportive partner who reassures me and helps me shake it off. In the end, I know that regardless of what life throws our way, we’ll be fine by the Grace of God.
What are your fears?
I mentioned the subfertility part being very concerning for me. I love kids and wouldn’t want to experience any difficulty with conceiving. Knowing there’s a chance that could happen worries me. But I guess when/if we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it lol.
Earlier, you mentioned that you talk about it often, do you know others or belong to a support group?
I talk about it randomly, with people I know. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any support groups. And yes, I know about 3 people so far that have the same condition.
The theme for this year’s challenge is #breakthesilence, as a medical doctor and a Cyster, how do you think this can be achieved?
By speaking more about it. Apart from Medical professionals, the average woman is likely unaware of PCOS, except she’s been diagnosed, or knows someone that has it. A lot of people need to be sensitized about it, including men. Social media platforms, radio stations, etc can be utilized to bring awareness to the public.
Women with PCOS should be encouraged to share their struggles, anxieties and journey thus far. This will encourage more women with the condition to speak up, and hopefully remove the fear of stigmatization some may be experiencing.
What are the popular misconceptions people have of PCOS?
People with PCOS must be chubby and hairy. A lot of people forget it’s a spectrum, and symptoms differ.
Some also believe people with PCOS won’t be able to give birth (not true either as the chances are only reduced, not absent). Those are the 2 misconceptions I can think of now.
One more question…
Drugs or Injections? Which would you prefer?
Drugs pls. I have a fear of needles.
Ehn… I can dish it out, but I cannot take it o…
Thank you for the conversation…
Thank you too.
Half of all women with PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, have diabetes or pre-diabetes and all women with PCOS are at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, stroke, heart attacks etc. Do a Healthy Woman / PCOS screening check today.