By Alisa Morse – Kansas City, MO

My first gynecologist appointment at 23 (yes, I avoided it for that long) was pretty much an Oscar-worthy cry fest. I had just started dating the man who would become my husband and I went hoping for an easy birth control talk. Deep down I expected something more.

I got my first period around the sixth grade like many girls. Unlike many girls I needed to explain to my new doctor that I’ve never had a regular menstrual cycle. The next 10 minutes was spent answering questions that didn’t make sense to me: Does your weight fluctuate? Do you have extra hair growth? Do you have trouble sleeping? We sat quietly in the exam room for too long.

She said to me, “I believe you have PCOS.” I had no idea what that meant, but my stomach dropped. I was asked to come back for blood testing and an ultrasound. When we saw the images from my ultrasound, the results were undeniably conclusive: I am the poster child for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The doctor politely and very quietly began to explain what that meant. All I heard was “your ovaries don’t work,” and “you’ll struggle to get pregnant.”

ovaries with PCOS
Example ultrasound of an ovary with PCOS.

Cue major internal meltdown. Even at the age of 23, I knew in my core I was meant to be a mother. Yes, I’d be a mom with a career, friends and “a life,” but I would be a caregiver. I panicked and clamed-up until finally breaking down one night.

While visiting my boyfriend I sobbed into his t-shirt and told him about the diagnosis. He handled it well, although I’m sure he was ready to run for North Dakota. Over the course of the next two years I only told four more people: my mom, my two best friends and my roommate. I refused to tell anyone else. I was so embarrassed and oddly ashamed of my body.

After moving to Kansas City, my then fiancé encouraged me to find a doctor who could help. I did my research and chose a nurse practitioner. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide. She was knowledgeable about PCOS and knew exactly the course of action to take. I learned 5-10 percent of women worldwide have PCOS, but almost 50 percent will never be diagnosed. The NP educated me; she encouraged me to ask questions.

Click for larger image.

I’m thankful my health condition isn’t life threatening, but it is life altering. I’ve made many changes to my diet, I’ll be on some medications until menopause and the way I treat my body has changed too.

What I have realized is the less I tried to hide the PCOS the more proactive I was. The more people I told, the freer from shame I felt. I’m still scared sometimes, but I don’t feel like my dreams of motherhood are dead. I am now stronger and more proactive about my health. My NP says I’m a self-advocating boss bitch. Now that’s a reason to smile.

So, here I am telling you. This post is the first in a series I’ll be sharing with the Moxie family. I’ll be writing about my journey from emotional wellness, diet and fitness to the ongoing learning and research about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Moxie is giving me the opportunity to share with you my PCOS journey with hopes that it will make all you fierce women aware of this common disorder.  

There are many resources on the internet and in medical journals about PCOS, however surprisingly few health care providers know about the condition. Some symptoms of PCOS include hormonal acne, extra facial and body hair growth, sudden weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles and insulin resistance. If these symptoms describe you, please find a reputable women’s health care provider. Be pro-active and fight for your body.