Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting healthy on the inside

I have to get blood work done tomorrow and I'm less than psyched about it.  I so hate needles.  HATE them. 


But this is a necessary evil because this blood work is going to help my work doctor help me with some health issues.  (I say work doctor because he's based out of the Health Centre here at work; I have a separate GP I see for the regular stuff a girl needs.)

The health issue at hand?  Well, I'm finally - finally - getting around to getting some answers about PCOS, which I was diagnosed with waaaay back when I was 18.

PCOS is polycystic ovarian syndrome or, as I like to call it, "wonky ovaries".  It's one of those things that can't be cured outright but can be managed; it's just that finding the right/best way to manage it can be a struggle. 

Among the symptoms are infertility; amenorrhea (not menstruating); weight gain; depression; excess testosterone; hair loss on the head but excess hair growth where excess hair should not grow; and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, endometriosis and ovarian/uterine cancer.  Fun, eh?

The main thing I've discovered about PCOS, since being diagnosed, is that doctors only really care about the fertility part.  When I was 18, my doctor told me that I'd need help to get pregnant but otherwise live my life and have fun.  And really, telling an 18-year-old that she wasn't going to menstruate and that she'd need help when she wanted babies in 15 years...well, that was just fine with me. 

Over the years, as I changed doctors and sought more information, it always came down to babies and when I was going to have them and what we would do then.  When I informed my GP that I didn't think we'd be having babies, it kind of became a moot point.  She had also done blood work and it showed my insulin and glucose levels were normal and an ultrasound showed my uterus was normal (which is good and means I don't need to worry about endometriosis) so it was left as status quo.

But that wasn't good enough for me. 

I actually got help from my work doctor because I needed him to write me a prescription for my orthotics and, while I was seeing him, asked if the health centre did ultrasounds (which I needed to have to check out my ovaries and other inner lady bits).  This led to a conversation about why I needed it and I told him about my PCOS and he offered to talk to me about it and get me the help I needed. 

Just.  Like.  That.

After near on 14 years of doctors telling me it only mattered if I wanted kids and to just eat right and exercise and all would be okay, it was have a doctor actually care enough to help me out.  Of course, to be properly helped out, I need to have blood taken.  And he ordered A LOT of blood to be taken; while filling out the requisition he just kept checking off boxes


But I'll suck it up and get it done and he and I will chat and we'll figure out what I need to do to help myself.  Diet and exercise are big ones, of course (and that is partly what prompted my year of healthiness), but there are other issues that my PCOS exacerbates that I want to deal with.  One thing is the excessive testosterone, which makes a person sweat more.  And I'm a sweaty, sweaty woman.  It may sound superficial, but that's the kind of thing that can really affect a person's quality of life.  It would be wonderful to not have to wear black all summer in an attempt to hide my sweatiness. 

But there is something else, something I'm trying to not get too excited about: assisting in weight loss.  As I mentioned, one symptom is weight gain, particularly around the middle (which, lucky me, I got).  One way to help combat this is with Metformin, which is generally prescribed to diabetics but can also help women with PCOS.  One thing Metformin does is help you lose weight.  But I don't know if it's what I need yet, but there is a part of me that wants it, a part of me that already sees it as a magic weight loss pill, even though I know that's not the case at all.  I mean, my blood work could show that I don't need it or that it won't help and then I'll be back to doing 700 crunches a day.  (I wish I could do that.)

Regardless how it all plays out, the important thing is that it will play out.  I am getting myself healthy.  I am targeting the things that are wrong with me and working on making them less wrong. 

For this, I will even endure needles.  *gulp*

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