Wednesday 28 January 2015

Me & Mrs Beckham – how we share the same delicate condition

Caitlin McBride: Suffers from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Jools Oliver has admitted to having PCOS; with husband Jamie and their daughters Poppy, Daisy, Petal and son Buddy Bear.

With side-effects such as acne and infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a challenge to live with

There is no 'cure' for PCOS as such, but there are medications to help you adjust to the symptoms

IT'S FAIR to say that when it comes to women's problems, I have a very trendy condition – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

I was 14 when I was diagnosed with PCOS, which sounds very scary and serious, but in reality, is common among women. According to statistics, one-in-15 women is affected worldwide – including the uber-fabulous Victoria Beckham and Jools Oliver. They've become unofficial poster girls for us, and also something of an inspiration, having had four children each, naturally – a feat that is virtually unheard of among PCOS sufferers.

The exact cause is still unclear, but genetics are thought to play a huge factor.

I'm a bit of a trailblazer in my family – I'm the first one to be diagnosed with it, and nobody knows quite where it came from.

The reason I decided to write a personal piece such as this is simply to normalise the symptoms. Women shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies and what they're capable of – good or bad – and men shouldn't cower in fear if they hear the word 'ovaries'.

I've never been shy about the intimate topics I should be shy about; in fact, I'm completely fascinated by everyone's bodies. I've never had the ambition to be a doctor or pursue anything science related, so here I am, telling you all about my – very – private life. PCOS essentially means that your ovaries are enlarged and contain several benign cysts. It's also the most common hormonal disorder among women. It affects women whose sex hormones are out of balance.

Normally, the ovaries create a small amount of male sex hormones (androgens). In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens.

The body may also have a problem using insulin, which is referred to as insulin resistance. When the body doesn't use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up and this can increase your chance of getting diabetes.

I have an abnormally high tolerance for pain, so when one of my cysts burst when I was 14, I thought I simply had a bad stomach ache . . . for four days. It was only at my mother's insistence that I went to the doctor.

Fast forward two days and four doctors later, I had an ultrasound that showed that not only did I have those pesky cysts, but one of them had burst, which was the cause of my discomfort.

I've had three cysts burst in 11 years, which might sound intimidating, but it's nothing to complain about for me personally, when a lot of other women who suffer with PCOS are crippled with pain on a regular basis.

I know girls who have fainted, been rushed to hospital by ambulance, or cried their way through the pain of a ruptured ovarian cyst. I, apparently, live a double life as The Hulk.

I reached a stage around the age of 18, where I realised that I would never have perfect skin (even though I really, really wanted it), and I'd have to simply suck it up. Mother Nature finally kicked in and eased off on the skin front. It will never be perfect, and I have a lot of scarring, but there are worse things that could happen.

I've also always battled with weight fluctuation, which is another symptom. It was only as I got older and more mature that I realised that my body wasn't fighting against me – but, rather, that I wasn't working with my body. I wasn't treating it the way it deserved to be treated, and if I'm being honest, I still don't as much as I should. So my body still fights against junk food, lack of exercise, alcohol intake, and being a bit of a fool in general.

There's a specific PCOS diet, one that I never followed, for no reason other than sheer laziness. I've been researching it more lately and I realise how doable it is – I just need to accept that my body simply isn't the same as everyone else's, and I need to grow up and start minding myself.

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