‘Your Stories’ is a place for women to share their health stories with us, to help support and encourage other women to make their health a priority too. Here is Elicia’s story.
At age 23, Elicia has just been told she has the hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). “I have lived with this silently for six years,” she explains. “It was so awful being in the dark.”
PCOS can affect as many as one in 10 women of reproductive age. Symptoms include irregular periods, excess facial and body hair, scalp hair loss, acne, weight gain, and difficulty getting pregnant. Elicia experienced some, but not all of these symptoms (each person’s symptoms can vary greatly). Yet it took some time for the professionals to join the dots.
At the age of 14, Elicia was put on the contraceptive pill to control her acne. An abnormal cervical screening test two years later made her stop taking it.
She also had a history of irregular and painful periods.
“I got my period once every five or six months,” she recalls.
“I decided to see another doctor who told me I had post-pill amenorrhoea.” (Amenorrhoea is the absence of periods which can occur in some women after they stop taking the contraceptive pill.)
Elicia, who works as a haul truckdriver in the mines, has always wanted to become a mum. Despite not using protection during sex, pregnancy hadn’t happened, so she was worried. Since PCOS can affect ovulation, conceiving a baby without medical assistance can sometimes be difficult for women with PCOS.
Aware of her concern, her partner encouraged Elicia to have a complete medical check.
It had always been hard to find a doctor who would take me seriously. I was not trying to have a baby, but I really wanted to know what was happening with my body.Elicia, VIC
“I wanted someone to explain to me why I was not having a period but had symptoms.
“And I always had hair on my chin and chest which really embarrassed me.”
Elicia’s new doctor sent her for blood and urine tests as well as an ultrasound.
The news of her PCOS diagnosis hit her hard.
I honestly hoped he would say, ‘you haven’t got it’. But in one way it was a relief because I finally had a name and I could say, ‘I have this’.Elicia, VIC
Nevertheless, the diagnosis still “crushed” Elicia.
“I went into a deep and dark depression,” she recalls. “I lay in bed and bawled my eyes out. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat.”
Thankfully, time has been healing. As she began learning about PCOS, Elicia was directed to the Jean Hailes website. She was surprised to learn how common PCOS is, and it made her feel less alone. She now makes a monthly donation to Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
“I am beginning to come to terms with this,” she says. “I cannot change it and there is no cure. I know I will have to get past some hurdles to have a baby, but I know too it will be well worth it.”
*All images are stock images
If you’d like to share your story with Jean Hailes and inspire other women to make positive changes, get in touch with us at [email protected].