I HAVE WHAT? Finding out I have PCOS

Last Thursday, I woke up and stepped out of bed. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I crumpled over - PMS has begun. Instead of going to class, I now am going to be spending my day twisting and turning in different positions, trying to stop from feeling like I'm being stabbed in the gut.


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I have always had weird period and PMS symptoms, a fact that I attributed to my involvement in sports. I figured as soon as I stopped exercising on such an intense schedule after moving into college, my body would calm down, and I would finally stop being plagued by the constant pain and stress of my period. That was definitely not the case. I did, however, make sure to have continuing conversations with my doctor, and I tried my best to be on track to getting things under control.


A few months into my freshman year of college, I was taking a shower and doing my bi-weekly self-breast exam. With my family's health history, I always do self-breast exams just in case of anything out of the ordinary. Feeling around for any lumps can really help to find anything early. Panic, though, struck when I actually felt a lump. Luckily, it was a Friday night, so I immediately called my mom and made plans to head home for the weekend. 


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I was set up for an appointment with my OBGYN. There, my doctor confirmed the lump I felt, and I was set up for an appointment at the Women's Health Clinic to get an ultrasound… of my boob. This was the first I've ever had a breast exam by anyone other than myself, and I got this done at least four times in one weekend. Upside, I think it was the most action I had gotten in months.


There I was, sat topless with a hospital robe wrapped around my body in the waiting room with 50-year-old women. After what felt like an eternity, my name was finally called, and I was lead to a room with a single table and an ultrasound machine. Young breasts, fun fact, are too dense to do a mammogram. So, lucky me, I get to have a woman rub cold lube and an ultrasound wand around my boob. Even luckier, the machine did not scan correctly, so she had to redo the exam three times. Three.


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Traumatized and scared, I had to go into the school week waiting for the results to come back. This was when my doctor realized I am a very cyst-ey person. The lump that my doctor, my mom, my mom's friend, my sister, and I (it was a very eventful weekend) felt was, in fact, a lump, but it was benign. I had several cysts on my breast tissue that I now have to watch just in case they grow or turn malignant. My doctor, though, seeing the cysts that were on my boob, in addition to the constant pain surrounding my periods, suggested an internal ultrasound be done to examine my uterus. This was when I first was introduced to the idea of polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. There is no single test for the condition, but connecting the dots and listening to your body can help to identify if you have it. 


PCOS is a hormonal disorder that consists of enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outside. Don't worry, I know it's pretty glamorous stuff. Thankfully since my diagnosis, I have been put on different birth control that, for the most part, has curbed my symptoms. My cramps, though, will not go away regardless of what I do.


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When I tell people about my journey, most people are surprised I have PCOS. Most people associate the condition with excessive weight gain, facial hair, and tons of acne. I might get pimples, but in general, my doctor wrote off PCOS as a means for my symptoms because I didn't look the part. It was essential to my diagnosis, and my health, that I advocated and checked on myself. If I hadn't given myself exams, I would have never felt the lump. This could have been malignant, and, honestly, PCOS was the best-case scenario. 


Period stigma makes no sense, and turning to fellow people with periods is essential to feeling like you're not isolated. I felt like I was the only person ever to experience PCOS, but as I've made an effort to speak about my life, I've found that a number of people in my life also have PCOS. Even if they don't have the same diagnosis, or just suffer from really bad cramps, it's nice to trade what helps through personal experience.


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