Welcome to the second post of the "All About Indie" series. Today, we delve once more into female biology, so my warning stands. You're also going to learn more about me than you ever really wanted to know. We're going to be talking about PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
(If you don't want to read further, click here to go back to my homepage. Or go take a glance at what I've been reading.)
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. The syndrome is named after the characteristic cysts which may form on the ovaries, though it is important to note that this is a sign and not the underlying cause of the disorder, and the name is a bit of a misnomer because not every woman with PCOS has ovarian cysts. A review of the international evidence found that the prevalence of PCOS could be as high as 26% among some populations. Despite its high prevalence, the exact cause of PCOS remains uncertain. The primary characteristics of this syndrome include: hyperandrogenism, anovulation, insulin resistance, and neuroendocrine disruption.
(As with the above, I'm pulling this straight out of Wikipedia.)
Oh the joy of PCOS!
Menstrual disorders - I've had pretty much every version of menstrual disorder. A normal woman, if she doesn't get pregnant, would have around 276 periods by the time she reaches my age (37). If I said that I have had even 1/3 of that, it would be generous. There have been entire years that I've gone without menstruating. I've also had long periods (the longest was 21 days), and heavy periods (where I bled the equivalent of 2 years worth of blood in just days).
Infertility - We went over this in the last post. Suffice it to say: I'm very lucky to have the three kids I have.
High levels of masculinizing hormones: I'd say that this is the bane of my PCOS existence. Some women with PCOS just see an increase in the amount of body hair they have. The only place I don't have male-pattern hair growth is my upper back. That's it. This means that if I want to go out in public, I've gotta shave. My face. Yeah. That's good times for a hetero CIS female.
Metabolic syndrome - according to all my tests, aside from obesity and insulin resistance, it doesn't appear I fit the "metabolic syndrome" test. And as for insulin resistance, I've lucked out to have hypoglycemia. I've yet to test over 5mmoL.
Polycystic ovaries - as I mentioned earlier, a woman can have PCOS and not have cysts on her ovaries. I remember once, after having gone in for an ultrasound (after my 18 day period), the doctor noted on my results "no proof of PCOS" because my ovaries had no cysts at the time. But I've had cysts - OH HOW I HAVE HAD CYSTS. I remember the first time I knew I had cysts. Or at least one.
I was hunting on my own down some random back road and the stupid cyst decided to rupture on me. The pain - oh my word, the PAIN. I couldn't walk. I slung my gun over my back and tried to crawl my way back to my truck. If it wasn't for the random chance of some farmer driving through an old farm road, I am not sure I would have made it. He drove me to my truck, helped me get in and then followed me home, where I then had my partner drive me to the hospital. I've had multiple cysts rupture since then, and each one is different, but they all bring pain.
I think the worst part about the PCOS is the hair. I got my first chin hair when I was 13. A friend of mine unceremoniously plucked it out while we were on the playground at school. The boys in school called me "sideburns" - so, I thought I'd be smart. SHAVE THEM OFF, I thought. Then, they'd laugh at the fact that I'd shaved. "Sideburns shaved!" And now, as an adult female, unless I shave and slather on makeup, I get some pretty weird looks. And males can be just as mean as adults as they are as kids.
I'm not usually the type to let people get to me - if someone has something to say to me in public, I'm usually quick with a retort, or I'll just ignore them and carry on my merry way. Well, I recall one time being in line at the post office. Normally the post office isn't busy, so I didn't bother to shave or put on makeup. Two adult males were standing behind me, and I heard one of them say "She needs to pick between the boobs and the beard, not both" - and it was all I could do to keep myself from crying. I got done with the post office and got in my truck and cried all the way home.
My kids, thankfully, see me quite regularly with facial hair. I'm raising them to not make fun of women with excess body or facial hair. It's not like it's something that we can control. Sure, there's waxing, shaving, depilatory products, laser treatments, electrolysis. But not all of us have the time, energy, or the financial ability to do those things.
Before I got really fat, I used to go get a full body wax every 6 weeks. Unfortunately, the beard is something that can't be waxed. One time I attempted to use my epilator on my face - BAD IDEA. Not only did it peel the top layer of skin off my chin, but it left me with HORRIBLE ingrown hairs later.
Needless to say, my favourite part of the condition is the lack of menstruation. I'm sure it's not the healthiest thing not to bleed every month, but so far, it's been about 6 months since my last period, and I'm not complaining. That is, until I get a heavy one and am cursing at having to wake up every hour on the hour.
So, have you had your fill yet? Have you learned more about me than you'd ever hoped to learn about me? Are you grossed out yet? Well, the rest of the series will be fairly tame, dealing mostly with my mental/neurological conditions. Have any questions? About anything? Feel free to e-mail me.
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