It's the people who struggle in silence who often struggle the most. It's the people who overcome their own trepidation who fight the hardest, the longest and, in many cases, never stop fighting their own inner war.
Here is the story, of my own war. My secret war with PCOS which also intertwines with the story of how we came to be foster parents:
First, you should know that not every person with an illness can be picked out of a line-up. Some illnesses are secret illnesses. And most of the time, all secrets become known.
This paragraph contains information that is important to the mental aspect of my story and why I waited so long to get things checked out:
[I always had a normal period. About the 23rd of every month, here came my "womanly gift". Discussing menstrual cycles, periods, etc. was not something openly discussed in my family, even between women. I never had "the talk", and no one really explained to me what a period really was. I learned a lot about my body as I was developing via Seventeen magazines. Looking back on that now, I realize how ridiculous that is. My Granny was probably the most open with me, but I think she assumed my step-mom would be having the important conversations with me so she never said much about anything. Unfortunately, my step-mom was very vocal about the fact that she only knew how to raise boys, she didn't know what to do with me, a girl. When I was around 12 or 13, my step-mom and I were in Wal-Mart and she asked me if I had started yet. I told her no and she then told me it was probably going to happen soon and I needed to be ready. So she bought me some tampons. I learned how to use them by reading the instructions in the box.
Having a period was not something we talked about. I never told anyone when I started for the first time, I just went about business as usual and when at Wal-Mart, I picked up more boxes of tampons and put them in the cart.
I say all of that to say this: this whole non-talking about a normal thing, something that happens to every female, this whole secretive, brushed-under-the-rug kind of mentality, it scarred me. Periods, tampons, birthcontrol, these were things that were never discussed around me and that I never grew comfortable with discussing. I'm trying to get comfortable with it. Having to go to a doctor helps, having to talk to your husband about things helps, but knowing that one day, Lord willing, I'll have a daughter(s) of my own, that helps a lot. I want her to know about all of this stuff. I want her to feel safe in talking to me about all of this. I don't want her to hide things and worry about things as I have. Many of my problems would not have lasted so long, would possibly be resolved by now if I hadn't been nervous/afraid to talk about them. To get help for them. No one should feel like that.]
I always had a normal period. Until 2007, after I got married, I went on birth control for a month. After that, things went a little haywire, but then settled down again for the most part. Until 2009. In August of 2008 we moved to Texas and by the middle of 2009 things with my body went NUTS!! I gained about 30 pounds, I would have no period for months at a time and then I would have a period for months at a time. Constant period. For months and months. Yeah, my life was awesome. But Joey and I were trying to conceive so I hadn't been on any kind of birth control since that first month after we got married almost 3 years earlier. So what was going on? The spring of 2009 I enrolled in Texas Tech University as a transfer student. Despite having a lot of allergies, colds and some stints with bronchitis and pneumonia, I did pretty well that semester. Fall 2009, I was back at TTU and doing pretty well in all of my courses. However, I had also started my period in May and it was now September and I was still having a constant period. Then comes October.
The middle of October my period got extremely worse. I wasn't able to go to class anymore because I was literally having to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes. I was going through boxes of tampons in just over a day and pretty much kept the Playtex company's finances in the black. And I was in pain. I was cramping so much, but it was different from normal cramps, it was a very focused, acute pain rather than the dull ache I had previously been accustomed to with my periods. One day in October I doubled over in pain. The blood flow was so heavy and the pain was so acute I thought the worse... Joey and I must have gotten pregnant and didn't know and now I'm miscarrying. I called my friend at the clinic and she made me an appointment immediately. I went in to see Dr. H, who was a male doctor, which didn't thrill me, but I didn't really care at that point. After some tests and an ultrasound I got an answer to what was going on. I was not pregnant, I had Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and endometreosis. Dr. H put me on birth control to regulate my periods again. I had a cyst on one of my ovaries that was 2 inches in diameter, about the size of a racquetball. This was causing the pain, and the acute pain that I had felt when I went in for the appointment was probably due to a cyst rupturing. Dr. H came up with a plan of treatment. Birth control for regulating my periods and then another ultrasound in a few months to see if the cyst shrank any and if not, surgery to rupture or remove the cyst. Also, the ultrasound to see if my endometrial stripe was any thinner and if not, a DNC to remove the build-up. In the mean time, Dr. H also wanted me to do over-the-counter ovulation test kits and to check my temperature with a basal thermometer.
After several months, in 2010, I went back to Dr. H. I had another ultrasound that revealed my cyst had shrank (YAY) and my endometrial stripe had thinned (DOUBLE YAY). But according to all of my ovulation testings, Dr. H couldn't tell if/when I was ovulating. He basically told me that there wasn't much else he could do, except to refer us to an infertility doctor. He told me it's very rare for a woman to not be able to conceive, but that with me, I would most likely need treatments in order to get pregnant.
I went home in shock. But I still held on to hope. I got online and looked up my health insurance through my work to see about infertility treatments. They weren't covered. Abortions are covered. Infertility treatments are not. That was it. There was no way Joey and I could afford infertility treatments on our own. Especially when they cost anywhere from $5,000-7,000 for each treatment. How could this be? I'd ALWAYS wanted to be a mother, how could it be that I, very possibly, wouldn't be? So it was in 2010, that Joey and I decided there would be other ways to have a family. Joey was adopted, his aunt has fostered over 100 newborns, fostering and adopting is prevalent on his side and it's always been something he wanted to do. I do not come from a family of fostering or adopting, but I do come from a family where my grandparents took people in. Many times my cousins were kicked out of their house, or removed for one reason or another, only to be taken in by my grandparents every time. I had always wanted to adopt one day, so this seemed like as good of a time as any.
We weren't sure what to do or how to go about adopting but we just kept praying and thinking about things. We decided we would contact the Children's Home of Lubbock and see what happened. But we were still worried about how to finance an adoption. In some crazy stroke of luck (or divine intervention) one of our favorite Christian artists, Andrew Peterson, was going to do a concert at a church near us. We went only to find out, it wasn't just a concert, it was an adoption conference. In between sets, they played a video of.... "How to Finance Adoption". Is that not interesting??? After the concert was over, we knew what to do. We set up a dinner with our preacher and his wife and told him what we wanted to do, but that we were worried about the financing. We told him some of our ideas for fundraising, and discussed various options. He told us to proceed with contacting the Children's Home. He said he would get the church to pay for anything, help raise any money we needed or if it came down to it, he would give us his motorcycle to sell for the money. We couldn't believe it. So we contacted the Children's Home and got the ball rolling.
We got licensed as foster parents, got kiddos in our home and came to term with this is how our life would be and how we would get a family. In November 2010, I had another ultrasound and check up. Everything looked better so Dr. H decided to take me off the birth control to see what happened. In April 2011 we had a couples retreat and I had some intense healing done via Splankna. Afterwords, Dr. H called me in for another ultrasound. A week later, while on vacation, Dr. H's nurse called me and said Dr. H wanted to see me immediately when I came back home. I scheduled an appointment and nervously set in the exam room waiting for Dr. H. He walked in, looked at my ultrasound and then said, "What did you do?" I had no idea what he was talking about. He said that my ultrasound looked completely normal. No cysts. Normal stripe. Everything looked perfect. He said he could see no reason why we wouldn't be able to get pregnant on our own!!! HALLELUJAH! So May 2010, told we couldn't have kids without treatments. May 2011, told we could have kids. What a roller-coaster!! Things seemed like they were completely normal... until September 2011.
We moved to Plains in August 2011 and I got my period in September. It didn't go away. A couple weeks ago I went to the ER early one morning because I couldn't stop vomiting. The doctor that happened to be working the ER that morning was an OB/GYN. He asked about my illness, but was more interested in discussing my menstrual problems. He asked me to come see him in the clinic soon. I went to see him last week and got some encouraging news. He did an ultrasound and said that he believes I, indeed, have PCOS. But he thinks he can treat me. He put me on this new medication that's supposed to regulate my hormones and metabolism (PCOS is such a mystery that doctors aren't sure what really causes it. Does PCOS cause the change in hormones and metabolism, weight gain and irregular periods? Or does a change in hormones and metabolism, weight gain and irregular periods cause PCOS?), help prevent me from becoming a diabetic (HUGE thing on both sides of my family), help me lose weight, and hopefully help me to start spontaneously ovulating again. It's like the wonder-pill! Plus, I'm also taking prenatal vitamins now as he thinks that's wise and I'm also slightly anemic.
So there you have it. The long story of my every-day battle with PCOS. No one can tell by looking at me that I have this. It's a secret war that I fight. Well, not so secret anymore. But I still believe that one day we are going to have children of our own. I still believe that one day I'll have that little girl with red hair just like mine. This war that I'm fighting, it's not over. And PCOS is not going to be a determining factor in my life. One day, I'll take a pregnancy test and it will be positive, and everything will change. One day, I'll win this war. Maybe it will happen this year. Maybe not. But I believe it will happen. I will have faith like Sarah and Hannah and believe that one day, it will happen. Until it does though, I'll keep waging this war with PCOS. And I'll talk about it. Because talking about it is therapeutic for me, but it also helps others to talk about it. I learned recently that I'm not the only person I know with PCOS. In fact, the more I talk about it, the more people I find out not only have it, but also have children now. I also know other women who aren't talking about things because they're scared. And I hope, that one day, they might read this, or hear something that encourages them to break their own cycle of silence.
And in closing, I guess I just want to say, that this post is for anyone who is fighting their own secret war of PCOS, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, anything that you're fighting, but that can't be seen easily on the outside. May you keep fighting your own war, but that you no longer do so in secret. And also for my future daughter, may you always use your voice to ask the questions that you want. And know that your mom will always be here to talk. Openly and honestly.