One contraceptive injection. Three brands of contraceptive pills. Two inconclusive blood tests. One failed ultrasound scan. One successful ultrasound scan. One invasive vaginal examination. Two months of continuous bleeding (and counting). Six occasions of waking up drenched in my own blood (and counting). Eight pairs of knickers ruined (and counting). A year and a half of removing hair from my face every morning (and counting). And on Wednesday afternoon, one diagnosis.
“Yes, your ovaries are polycystic.” she said, so nonchalantly, despite the fact there was just one degree of separation between her hand and the inside of my womb.
She pressed the probe against the left ovary, and then against the right. What a peculiar, unfamiliar, uncomfortable feeling. Yet it was still better than the ultrasound scan. Cold jelly and a full bladder do not make a good pair.
I blinked. It had taken over two years to get to this point. Two whole years for someone to just tell me what the fuck was wrong with me. Why I would either be period free for six months or be bleeding for six months continuously. Why I had to shave my face everyday. Why I showed all the symptoms of PCOS, yet no one had given me a diagnosis.
She removed the probe and allowed me to clean up and get dressed. I wondered how many vaginas she saw everyday, and if she’d thought mine was weird. She was over 50, I suspected she’d probably seen all sorts. Imagine being totally numbed to seeing another woman’s vagina.
I felt numb, but in a different way. I left swiftly, eager to leave the company of the albeit very comforting women who had just examined my insides to the familiar company of my Mother-in-Law, who had been sitting in the waiting room outside. We headed towards the exit, and I was numb. I told her what they told me, my voice steady and calm. Why wouldn’t I be calm? I already knew what they’d say. I knew I had PCOS, and I didn’t need a grainy black and white real-time representation of my uterus to tell me so.
But now it was real. I now had a condition that affects one in ten women, that gives them a bunch of unsightly symptoms and can make it really difficult for them to have kids. I was now a statistic, part of a community of sufferers. I was now to begin my journey of treatment; managing symptoms of a condition that has no cure. It felt so surreal to finally know it for sure.
I hugged my Mother-in-Law goodbye and began my journey home. I was so fucking numb. It’s that feeling when you know you should cry but you can’t, like when someone you once knew really closely dies, and you’re more consumed by the guilt you feel for not feeling anything than the fact that they’re gone. I called my mum on the drive home.
‘Oh, Jess, it’s so common,’ she said. ‘At least now you know.’
At least now I knew. I don’t know why knowing made it better, but for some reason it was meant to. Knowing meant that I had control; knowing the condition means knowing what treatment is available. Knowing the problem means knowing the solution, right?
The phone call was brief, and unemotional. I didn’t know what emotion I should have felt. I just felt sick.
I stopped off at the doctor’s on the journey towards home to make an appointment to discuss my results. Two weeks, they said. They couldn’t fit me in for another two weeks. I had a fortnight to sit and think about what this all meant, without consulting with a professional about what the best course of action would be. I accepted the appointment, smiling. The lady on reception was fucking miserable. She was ‘in training’, a sign said. Maybe she was having a tough day.
I walked out to the car park and sat in my car. Put the key in the ignition and started it up. Now, drive. But I didn’t. I just sat there, in the car park of my local GP, and I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I wasn’t numb anymore. I felt the wetness on my face as my makeup ran into pools on my bottom lip, and then again on my collar bones. I felt the hot sting at the back of my throat that you get from sobbing for a long time. I felt the relief from letting my shoulders slump finally, and in my lungs from the inhaling deep and hard. I felt devastation. I felt my spirit crack and break into fragments as I collapsed against my steering wheel, crying hysterically, swallowed so totally whole by my own despair that I was completely blank to the cars entering and exiting the car park around me.
Harvey called me.
‘I’m so proud of you.’ he began, referring of course to the fact that I let a complete stranger probe my insides without having a panic attack. I sniffed. ‘You know it’s good news that you know,’ he continued, ‘it means you can start doing something about it.’
I mmhmm’ed and yeah’ed through the phone call, trying not to break down into tears while he was at work and totally helpless to comfort me in any way. He knew. He knew that I was terrified, and that I was distraught. He always knew; sometimes even before I did.
‘We’ll talk about it later, okay?’ he said.
I didn’t want to talk about it.
I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that this diagnosis made one of my biggest fears a possible reality. I didn’t want him to have to reassure me that even if we struggled to have a baby, we would try and try and try and he would stick by me through it all. I didn’t want to discuss the fact that I was a barrier between him and his future children. I didn’t want for him to tell me not to say sorry for fucking everything up even though apologising wouldn’t even begin to explain how fucking sorry I was that this was happening. I didn’t want to have to think about whether he would wish that he’d left me every time we would try in the future to conceive and fail. I didn’t want any of this.
I cried the rest of the way home, and then I cried the entire way to my mum’s house when she told me to come over and see the dog.
‘Why are you crying?!’ my mum asked, in her pyjamas with a towel wrapped around her head. She’s so pretty, my mum. With no makeup on, she’s even prettier. It was almost funny, looking at her while I looked like God-knows-what, with makeup smeared down my face and my hair frizzy from blow drying without a hairbrush in hand and neglecting to straighten it after. ‘Is it because you think you won’t be able to have kids?’ I nodded through tears.
She set out on an endeavour to calm my fears, reassuring me that women without a condition still struggle to have kids, and people with a condition like mine managed to have babies all the time. Which, of course, was true. Every time I cited a statistic about the increased risks of miscarriage, of having babies born with problems that I’d never even heard of until that afternoon, she brushed it off. She said it could happen to anyone, not just me. Don’t worry. Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.
‘I had a cyst on my ovary the size of an orange,’ my mum proclaimed, ‘and they told me I might have trouble getting pregnant. But I didn’t; I fell pregnant with you and Alfie, both straight away.’ I couldn’t help but smile. My brother was born at a whopping 10 pounds, 11 ounces. He’s got to be about 6 ft 4 now, as well.
My mum made me a coffee and the dog consoled me by lapping up the salty remnants of tears from my face. It wasn’t long before my dad got home, and began the same method of logical reasoning that my mum always had. He said keep losing weight and you’ll be fine. The Doctors will put you on something and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.
My mum let me stay for dinner and we watched a short series on the telly, and for a few hours it took my mind off of what had happened that afternoon. At around 10pm I left to go and pick Harvey up from work, and apart from some small talk on the journey home I remained silent. The impending doom of an inevitable conversation that I didn’t want to have hung over my head like a thick, heavy storm cloud.
We got in and flopped down onto the sofa, but instead of saying anything, Harv pulled me towards him and just held me tight. Which, of course, made me cry (because everything makes me cry). I cried tears I didn’t know I even had left in me.
The next day I didn’t go to work. I couldn’t face it. And part of it felt so ridiculous. I’d had this condition for however long, but somehow knowing that I had it was enough to completely break me. I could barely get out of bed. Harvey cancelled his plans and cared for me, making me cups of tea and running me a bath and washing my hair. Why does he care so much? How is he not sick of me crying out of nowhere?
We went for brief walks outside because he says being outside always makes me feel better. The fresh air clears my mind, he says.
Yesterday, I went back to work. I didn’t feel ready for it, but I went anyway. I only cried in the office toilet twice (and once in a public toilet when we went out for lunch). By the time I left, I felt completely empty. I thought I was empty of tears, but they seem to spout from a never-ending source of water in my chest somewhere.
Generally, I like to consider myself a strong person. I cry a lot, that’s a given, but to my core I feel like I am strong. I was raised to be by my parents, and I am encouraged to continue being strong everyday by Harvey. But somehow, this diagnosis reduced me to the lowest version of myself. It is the slow and terrifying realisation that my number one dream and goal in life of being a mother is at risk. Not necessarily completely impossible, but it is at a considerably higher risk than it was two days ago before I really, officially knew what was wrong. And that fucking scares me, on a primal level. Despite sounding like a cliché, I was meant to be a mother. I am meant to be a mother, someday. It is something I internally crave, and would give everything I have to be.
And that’s why I cannot let this keep me down.
This morning, I woke up to a message from Harvey, who had left at just gone six o’ clock this morning to go to work. It read:
Morning Jessie. Look, I know you’re struggling with this whole kid thing and I can’t imagine what’s running through your head, so I thought I’d tell you what’s running through mine. You’re going to make the best mother in the world and the best wife to me WHEN they both happen, not if. I will stand by you through thick and thin no matter what, and this doesn’t make you any less of a woman or a person – it makes you more of a beacon of hope and inspiration to women everywhere for continuing to put out positive messages and encouragement to be you no matter what. You’re the strongest, most loving person I know and I’ll do everything I can to make you happy and keep you relaxed I swear x
I don’t need to tell you that that is a completely out of the ordinary, overwhelmingly heartfelt message to receive out of the blue. Which is why his following message came as no surprise:
Have a wonderful morning – mine’s shit so far, forgot breakfast and lunch so I’m grouchy lol *hinting*
If he’s being nice, he wants food. How could I have almost been fooled like that?!
I’m kidding; of course I appreciated the sentiment and I knew he meant every word. There is nothing like the encouragement of someone you love to be strong when you’re feeling at your lowest, and this morning I feel like I know what I need to do.
I need to keep losing the fucking weight, and I need to kick PCOS’ ass. And then I need to blog about it every step of the way so you can all read about my misfortune and laugh about it. Because that’s what I’m fucking good at, and I’m not going to be defeated.
Truthfully, I haven’t weighed myself since my last blog post which was almost a whole month ago. I’ve had Harvey’s Birthday and my Birthday between then and now, and honestly I’ve been living it large. Because if you can’t throw your diet out of the window on your Birthday, when can you?
I know I’ve been letting things slip through my fingers, and the thought is always at the front of my mind. Almost three whole stone, I lost. No fucking way am I letting that all go. I need to kick start this thing up again now more than ever.
This post has been a complete downer, and for that I’m sorry. But know this; to the 10% of women out there who are suffering the same condition as me, you are not alone. I am going to fight this with every ounce of strength I have. You just watch this space.
Come back next week, when I have that long-awaited weigh in and can hopefully tell you all I haven’t completely undone everything I worked so hard for over the past year.
And to close, I cannot express to you how much getting this diagnosis has affected me. I completely crumpled as a human being. Returning to the girl I was a few months ago when I’d lost 20lbs in my first month of trying and I felt like I could conquer the entire planet, will not be an immediate process. But it will happen. I will not be held down by something that I can get control over if I try hard enough. That part of me is gone.
Until next week, thanks for reading.