September is Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) awareness month, and to do our part in raising awareness for this very common illness, we asked ten Nigerian women, to tell us what it is like living with PCOS.
One day in Secondary school, I stained all my underwear and dresses. We had to go out for some activity and I was just crying. I couldn’t sit down, and I was bleeding down my thighs while standing. I kept running to and from the hostel while dodging seniors, so I wouldn’t get beaten. The matron was annoyed with me. I ran out of pads and dry panties, because they all got stained. I was changing pads and pants every hour and a half. My dresses were also wet because I washed them. I just had to stay in the hostel and get ready for my punishment. The seniors increased my punishment, even after I tried explaining to them. It was apparently my fault for not knowing how to take care of myself during my period.
I was first diagnosed at 16 and one of my symptoms is amenorrhea, absence of periods. The year I turned 18, I did not see my period for nine months. My mother finally dragged me to the hospital after that. I was put on Combination 3 for about three months, and my period was like clockwork for five months or so. I just had to deal with the side effects of the drug; nausea, mood swings, weight gain, fatigue, stretch marks. After three months, I refused to take the pills anymore. These days, all I do is research to try to make my life easier.
My grandma died of cancer, so I already have genetics to worry about, but finding out that PCOS increases those chances even more rocked me to my core. I cried for days. It has been a year since my diagnosis, and I have my will planned out, and a bucket list I am crossing. People are telling me it is not a death wish, but I do not want to be caught unawares.
I was 15 around the time I got pregnant. I did not see my period for a few months, and I though it was just like the previous times. Nine months later, and I have a child. PCOS usually means there is a rare chance you get pregnant. Rare. That was why when I did not see my period again for three months, I went to the hospital. It consisted of a lot of fake details, seeing as I was still a minor. At some point, one of the doctors I saw congratulated me on my pregnancy. I almost spat in her face. Four doctors later, and I finally had a diagnosis.
Travelling, visitations, events, all of those things terrify me, because what if my period just starts? Then what? I once travelled to Lagos to visit a friend. I was to spend a week there. My first night, my period came. It was hell. I bled for a month at that time.
I used to be a size zero, but now I am currently a size twelve. Rumours started spreading that I was pregnant, that I got a butt job, others said I used Apetamine. People would see me and spend the entire conversation talking about my body. The growth was gradual, so I had to change my entire wardrobe more than once. Now, I just buy bigger clothes and adjust.
When I first missed my period in late 2018, I had this boyfriend then. We never had sex. The guy and I only dry humped. I just wanted to remove what was inside of me. So, I got a pill from the black market and voila, I saw my period. It continued for the next two days and that was it. I cannot ovulate. I do not know why I am terrified of being pregnant. Some women with PCOS can, but I do not. With PCOS, it is not a one size fits all manual.
Last year was the worst year of my life. I bled from June till November. Nonstop. When I tell people, they think I’m some ridiculous liar. I probably wouldn’t have believed it myself if it didn’t happen to me. I just noticed my period wasn’t stopping, I was cramping terribly in the beginning and I was in a very bad place physically and mentally. The strange thing is that I went to the hospital so many times, and saw so many doctors. They all misdiagnosed me. I took so many drugs, injections and diets, nothing worked. I tried praying and fasting, nothing. They ran tests on me, and they wouldn’t find anything wrong with me. My life was just buying pads and drugs. I passed the thickest blood clots of my life at the time. I read things on the Internet I did not understand (before then, I was told that it was an inherited thing and that was just how it was for some women in our family). If I could afford it at the time, I’m fairly certain I would have had a hysterectomy. I jokingly called myself the woman with the issue of blood. I was living alone in a rural town, with no finances for better health. This was a battle I was fighting by myself and I didn’t know what to do. Then it suddenly stopped. 20th November last year, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to feel. It just stopped.
Every night before I go to bed, I check my chin for hairs to pluck. I feel very insecure about it, the chin and chest hair. I wax my chest hair. When I cannot, I do not wear clothes that have a lot of cleavage showing. The place I work in relies on appearance a lot. It stresses me out because my normal hair is thinning out, but this hair on my chest and chin are thriving.
Regular painkillers don’t work for me, so I’ve always had to ride my pain out. Some also mess with my ulcer, so the amount of affordable drugs I have is limited. Nobody takes me seriously once I present myself and my weight. During the consultation, instead of focusing on fixing the current pain, they were telling me to exercise. Please how? If I can’t stand or sit, how do I exercise? I was forced to go on a lot of diets, because the doctors said weight loss was the key to solving it, but it did not work. Honestly, I just take my drugs and wait. I’ve been dreading going back to the hospital because I have to do other tests, but I can’t even find the time or the mental strength to start searching for affordable hospitals, and teaching hospitals irritate me because they have zero tact.
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