By Michelle Cleary
What is PCOS, you may ask? I’ll tell you the medical meaning, but then I’m going to tell you my story and how I live with it every day. You’ll see how different the two really are.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS, is one of the most common female endocrine disorders, affecting approximately 5%-10% of women in the reproductive ages 12-45 years.
All of the signs and symptoms of this disorder are pretty common everyday symptoms most women have. Menstrual disorders, acne, obesity, skin tags, oily skin, dandruff, hair growth. Now if you look at that list, to me you just described a healthy Italian girl. No disrespect, but that is me in a nut shell. All the things you just read would probably right off as a part of life and a part of going through puberty. Then the time comes when you want to start a family and you just can’t. This is when you learn all the other signs and symptoms of the disorder, like cysts in a pearl necklace-like shape wrapped around your ovaries, lack of ovulation, infertility, and even diabetes. And this is where I come in.
I tried for six and a half years on and off to get pregnant, but nothing! I believed that when it was meant to happen it would, but deep down inside I knew something was wrong. I was afraid to face it. I remember one summer day when I was out with my sister and her family, my brother-in-law told me to go see my sister’s OBGYN. I just kept putting it off and going back to my doctor that I had been going to for years.
At my last visit I asked him, “Why can’t I get pregnant?” He examined me by doing an internal sonogram to look at my ovaries and said, “Okay. Everything is great. There are some cysts on your ovaries, but that is common.” He told me to go buy an ovulation machine and try it that way. He also asked if I was under any kind of stress, and I said yes, I had just moved into a new apartment and wasn’t very happy. He said that could be why we weren’t getting pregnant and told me to relax.
I went home and talked to my husband, and he said that we would look into the ovulation machine, but in the meantime we would just keep on trying the old-fashioned way. At this time in our lives we were not doing well financially, so we really couldn’t afford to buy the machine. A co-worker had told me that she saw a commercial for a watch that you wear to bed and it told you when you were ovulating. The cost of it was much more affordable for us, so we tried that. I look back now and I think, “What a jerk, and what a waste of money.” More time down the drain because we didn’t want to face reality.
Finally my husband Chris and I decided that it was time to go see my sister’s doctor. We made an appointment and she did the same the internal sonogram and saw the cysts all over my ovaries that the other doctor said were fine — but in fact, they weren’t. It was PCOS! I never cried so hard in my life. Not because of what I had just heard, but because I finally had an answer and that meant I could finally move forward. My new OB told me that there was no reason to cry, that it’s pretty common, and that she would work with my husband and I to hopefully have the family we always wanted. Just when we thought our journey of trying to have a family was going to end, it turned into a whole new adventure.
I was put on fertility medicine to try to help me ovulate better. That was not easy for me because it still was not working. As badly as I wanted to get pregnant, I needed to focus more on controlling the PCOS. My OB put me on metformin (which is a medicine commonly used for diabetics); she also said that going back on the “pill” would really help regulate my cycle, but that was not what I wanted to hear because that meant no baby anytime soon for sure. She explained to me that it would be the best thing for my body before we would start trying again. I stayed on the two medicines for about four months, and I was starting to feel better and get my period on time and regularly. I went back for a checkup and she did the internal sonogram again and said that the cysts and gotten much smaller so that meant the medicine was working. We really wanted kids, so she said to start trying again after my cycle ended. Unfortunately it was back to the same problem again with no luck, so now she had me taking the metformin to control the PCOS as well clomid (infertility medicine). Still no luck. We tried everything until there was nothing else to try.
The finally visit was the worst because we were told there was just nothing else the doctor could do for us; she recommended that we look into IUI, IVF or adoption. We were devastated because we knew in our hearts that that just wasn’t in the cards for us financially. We cried a lot and talked about it a lot and we when made our decision we went to talk to the doctor.
On our way, we were walking down the block and my husband looked down and saw what looked a dollar on the sidewalk. He jokingly bent down to pick it up and said, “Maybe our luck is changing.” When he opened the bill it was in fact a rare two dollar bill. I said, “Oh wow, twins! One for me and one for you.”
We never thought anything else about it and we just went for our appointment. My doctor told us that she understood that we really couldn’t do the IUI or the IVF but she wanted me to have the names of the doctors just in case I changed my mind.
A few months had gone by and Chris and I were in a good place, I had started working at a new job and we were planning a vacation. Things were great, I was back on the pill and the metformin and was feeling good. We had finally accepted the fact that we were not going to be parents. I decided to tell my dad what Chris and I had decided one day when I was driving him home. Completely out of left field, he told me that even though he and my mother had recently divorced, they had spoken and had decided to give Chris and I the money to go through with IVF if we still wanted to. I almost crashed the car!
After going home and talking to Chris about it we decided that we would take the plunge and go for it. It was another year of stress but in the end, I gave birth to healthy twins! Joshua Joseph & Riley Collette! A boy and a girl! I guess that two dollar bill did mean that our luck was changing.
The twins are now 4 years old and are starting pre-k in September. I am still struggling with PCOS every day. I feel like it’s worse than ever. I still read every book I can possibly find on the disease so that I hope to finally be rid of it, or at least learn to live with it. My goal is to just be aware and pray that my daughter does not get it and suffer the way I did to have a family.
September is PCOS Awareness Month. Wear teal to support the cause.