I’ve debated  for a long while about writing about this because the last thing I want is to look like I want sympathy or attention, but I’m mainly doing this for myself and for those who can relate to my story. PCOS can be isolating, and I don’t want anyone to feel as though they are alone.

Let’s dive right in shall we?
At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) but all my life I always suspected I had it because it ran in my family.

What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition in which certain hormones are out of balance caused by a number of cysts or fluid filled sacs on their ovaries.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?
PCOS signs and symptoms vary but can include: Irregular periods, or no periods at all, difficulty conceiving, hair loss, excess male hormones, weight gain, bloating etc.

I have always exhibited signs of PCOS since adolescence and once puberty kicked in, the changes started manifesting themselves.
The first thing that was visible was my horrific acne. Most people especially in the teen years, experience acne but my experience wasn’t a pimple here or there. My acne was primarily on my face but also my chest and back. My horrific acne was the beginning of my self-esteem tanking and every time I looked at the mirror I never felt beautiful. There was a time in my life I never looked at myself in the mirror because I was afraid to see the ugly reflection of my face.

I not only had self-esteem because of my acne but I was constantly reminded by the people around me of how ugly I looked. As a young teenager girl, it felt horrible and I remember crying almost every now and then. My parents took me to several dermatologists, I tried every product and portion under the sun but nothing seemed to work. You know how people will advise you to take 8 glasses of water and every pimple that’s on your body will magically disappear, that wasn’t my case. I was left with a full bladder I had to empty every 5 minutes and still an ugly face.

As the years progressed, so did the acne. It became cystic and just plain painful. The doctors would always try to treat it, but never looked more in-depth as to why I had this issue in the first place. I often heard the words “you’ll outgrow it” (guess who’s still waiting for that day? Me)

The other common sign that really affected me was hirsutism. Lord how I wanted to bury myself in the ground every time someone made fun of the little moustache that grew on my upper lip. I remember a time when boys used to call me “mubaba” meaning man and I would run to the staffroom crying because of that. But over the years, I’ve brushed the insults under the rug because I cannot let people bring me down because of that.

The years went by and I just concluded to myself that I was a normal teenager experiencing puberty and this phase will soon be over once I become a young adult but I was wrong.

There was a time around winter when I suspected something was wrong. When I was walking home after school I would get a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen about where you’d expect your appendix to be. The pain was sudden and it was excruciating and would go away after about 5-10 minutes of inactivity. Walking back home was a difficult task that day because it was too painful to walk. When I got home I called a friend who agreed to go with me to the hospital the following day.

At the gynecologist’s office, I was freaked out I actually cried because what I’d been suspecting would actually be confirmed. The doctor did a pap smear and concluded I had flu in my ovaries. Flu in my ovaries?!! That had been the most absurd thing I ever heard in my life. But he was the doctor and I had to believe him right? So he gave me an antibiotics prescription and told me it would be fine and I should cover up since the pain was as a result of the cold. After I completed my prescription, I felt fine and I didn’t bother going back to the doctor.

Because ovarian cysts have the potential of being cancerous, it is important to see your doctor right away if you experience any of the symptoms associated with it.
This included:
  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Distended or full abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Changes in bowl movement
  • Low energy
  • Urinary urgency
  • Changes in menstruation

Most ovarian cysts are not cancerous, especially during a woman’s reproductive years. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to your body and seek medical advice if you suspect something is wrong.

During winter I experienced the pain a lot but told myself it’ll be over soon since the doctor had said it’s ‘flu in the ovaries’. After winter I would be fine I reminded myself.

After a few months, the pain subsided and it was a relief but I spoke too soon because the pain came back 10 times worse during summer. It was too painful to walk because the pain on my lower pelvic region was unbearable. I immediately scheduled an appointment with a gynecologist. 

The doctor I saw was better than the last one and despite our language barrier we were able to communicate and explained to her all my signs and symptoms. She did a Pap smear test, a pelvic ultrasound and a blood test and after a week I came back for my results and she confirmed my fears.  

She told me I had cysts in both my ovaries but assured me that it would be fine but I had to make certain changes in my life. I saw her for a couple of weeks and even though my health was improving according to her I didn’t feel the same way. Ever since my confirmed diagnosis, my mental health had drastically declined and I was really depressed. I cried myself to sleep every night because I was stuck with this for the rest of my life and this syndrome posed other potential threats such as diabetes if it isn’t treated.

So I went online did my research, watched other women talk about their PCOS stories and how they encouraged people to visit a couple of other doctors before concluding you’ve PCOS since you might be misdiagnosed in some situations.

I made another appointment with another gynecologist because I didn’t want to have the opinion of only one doctor. So she carried out the same tests the previous doctor did and the syndrome was still there. My biggest challenge was my mental health because I was still in denial and I felt alone during the entire period. It’s not easy being sick in a foreign country.

My story is just one of millions. PCOS affects everyone differently and there isn’t enough research and professional knowledge around it for us all to receive proper treatment. If you are diagnosed with PCOS I urge you to reach out and connect with other women going through the same thing. There are so many support groups on Facebook. It’s scary and you feel alone but you are not.

Thank you for taking time to read my story and please feel free to tell me about your journey with PCOS in the comments below.