Starting at age 14, I struggled with what every teenage girl would want to avoid: acne. Every three to four weeks, I’d go to an aesthetician for a treatment that would consist of her popping pimples for an hour, at least. I was told it would make it go away. It didn’t. It did leave me with scars instead that to this day, I’m 29 now, remind me of how external treatment would not solve an internal problem.
PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome, was not even a word in my dictionary at this point. According to the Office of Women’s Health, it affects one in ten women at a childbearing age.
Little did I know that I exhibited all the symptoms. Besides acne, I started to have more extensive hair growth at places where girls shouldn’t grow hair. If you thought I’d have self-image anxiety due to acne, imagine how I felt with the unwanted hair. Very self-conscious, indeed.
If anything, getting my first period at age 16, should’ve been a strong sign that something wasn’t going well. My parents were worried why I hadn’t have my first period yet, so a few months before that happened, we had gone to get some tests done, including a glucose tolerance test.
Doctors told us everything was fine, except I had a borderline high level of androgens (male hormone) and had to be careful with how much sugar I ate. In other words, I was slightly insulin resistant, which, as I later found out, was also a sign of PCOS.
I was big girl, yaaay, but acne was still a problem and so was putting on weight quicker than before. Still no clue about the possibility of PCOS.
The pill will help, doctors would say
A couple of years later, my gynecologist put me on birth control. Not to mention, I wasn’t even sexually active at that point. He said it’d regulate my periods and solve my acne and hair discomfort. It did regulate my periods, but its “positive” effects ended there.
It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that my new gynecologist informed me that I had small cysts in both of my ovaries. He explained, they were a result of the ovaries developing numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.
I turned to Dr. Google that day and suddenly everything made sense. All my symptoms growing up were because of those cysts. And, when I read that it could lead to infertility, I thought, “no, not me.”
The pill didn’t help, but here’s what did
I was determined to fix my body. Having been already quite health-conscious at that point, I knew if I wanted to heal myself, I had to take things to the next level.
During a gynecologist appointment in December 2017, the vaginal ultrasound confirmed that the cysts were there, so my New Year’s Resolution was to make them go away whatever it would take.
One of the most important steps was dialing in my nutrition and exercise. I began intermittent fasting, lowered the amount of meat I ate, especially chicken and beef, and for an entire 30 days, I cut out refined sugar and even fruits completely.
I exercised what I found worked best for my body type, which was burst and HIIT workouts combined with resistance training. Plus, I also tuned in my sleep, managed stress effectively and started practicing meditation every day with the intention that I’d succeed.
Six months later, I had my next gynecologist appointment. I was so curious what he’d say, that I asked him to turn the monitor so I could see the ultrasound image too. Although I couldn’t quite tell what I was looking at, after a few seconds, he’d go: “They’re gone…I can’t explain how, but the cysts you had in both ovaries hardly six months ago are not there anymore.”
I thought to myself: “Oh, I know exactly how, and it had nothing to do with medications, because I didn’t take any.”
It was a combination of diet, exercise, mindfulness, sleep and my body’s ability to heal itself. It was one of the most powerful lessons in my life. I learned that the best treatment you can give to yourself is to allow healing to come from within. If you provide everything there is for that inner power to kick in, it will not disappoint.
As for the symptoms, they’re gone, too. Knowing that developing PCOS is in my genetics, however, I make sure to maintain my health at a very high-level, so I will never have to deal with cysts ever again. And, I can happily have children one day.