I still remember that day when I heard my gynecologist proclaim that I needed a surgery to fix my twisted ovary. My ovaries were bulky due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS), and one of them had gotten accidentally twisted.
The doctor had warned that the ovary might need to be removed, if medically necessary. I was just 17 years old, a simple teenager, uninitiated to sex and hearing about the intricacies of my sexual well-being for the first time. I did not understand, fully, what the doctor’s verdict meant. But my mother’s tears indicated that I would possibly lose my ability to bear children.
This incident was my rude introduction to PCOS, a condition I would have to live with for a lifetime. Many doctors’ appointments and a surgery later, my ovaries were saved, but PCOS remained.For a few years, I stopped getting periods without hormone medication. My whole life changed.
Most of my family members were worried about getting a suitable husband who would “accept me with my problems”.
My ovaries became a topic of discussion in all family gatherings, the size, the latest ultrasound, the number of cysts. In fact, these were discussed more frequently than my grades. Even the doctors I visited were patronizing me, giving their medical opinion that I get married as soon as I complete graduation, and start trying for a baby immediately after. Through my condition, I came to be exposed to the inherent sexism of our society, for the very first time. The purpose of my life was summed as baby-making, the rest of my existence being an insignificant prelude.
It was overwhelming as a teenager to process all of it.
I always felt a twitch of envy for girls my age who worried about their hair styles, actual or imaginary boyfriends or the next exam, while I struggled with my diet, my nausea (a side effect of hormone medicines), bloating, and weight gain. Like all other patients with life altering diseases, I asked this question, why me! I tried thinking over and over again, what I could have done differently to prevent this. I blamed myself, my parents, the Almighty, the society.
I found an unlikely savior in the Internet.
Life became much easier once I found out more about PCOS and about thousands of women like me across the world. In fact, apparently, almost 20% Indian women are affected by this. I read the various discussions in the support forums and it felt good to have others to share the pain with. As medicine and awareness on PCOS improved over the years, I found the doctors to be more confident at handling my problems. I met a very good doctor, who worked with me and made me realize that like thyroid, or diabetes, PCOS is not curable, but manageable. With healthier life choices, one can lead a normal life.
Slowly, my body adjusted to hormone pills, and I focused on the important things in life; career, friendships, and love ( Thankfully my concerned extended family did not have to find me a suitable match, I was lucky to have found him myself).
My second episode of despair came when I started planning for a baby a few years after my marriage.
Although, I had known for years that having a baby will not be easy, the repeated negative pregnancy tests did affect me emotionally. I consulted with a specialist, who reassured me that I came to her at the right time.(I was 27 years old then). She chalked out a plan for the next few months, in which time I was treated with ovulation medicines, and monitored with Ultrasounds. As morose as it sounds, thanks to her confidence, and my husband’s optimism, I did not find the situation very difficult. And one fine morning, I discovered that extra red line on my pee stick! My daughter is a healthy two- and-a-half year old toddler!
I still have PCOS, but I have made my peace with it.
I no longer stress over it. I know my body bloats- one day my jeans don’t fit me and the next day they are loose. I know I am overweight, and as I age, I need to be on a stricter diet, in order to remain healthy. I also don’t have enough motivation to undergo months of treatment for a second baby.
But I kicked ass and I am super proud of myself. My PCOS is just another disease – it has stopped defining me!
Few things for those who are feeling blue:
- PCOS is very common and manageable. With proper diet and exercise, most women will not even notice adverse effects.
- PCOS does not mean you are infertile. It just means the earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can plan your future. Even if you have a whiff of a doubt regarding your menstrual health, get yourself checked.
- Install some fertility tracker apps: Because you never know! Here are some apps that might be helpful for you.
- Talk to people. Talk to experts. Talk to your family. Do not feel it is the end of the world. Medical science is now super advanced to help you lead a normal life.
- Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. You will notice a difference in the way your body reacts.
- And if things don’t turn out completely favorable, no matter what the society throws at you, just know that you are much larger than the sum of your reproductive organs!
** This article presents the personal experience of the author and is not a medical opinion on PCOS.
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