My PCOS Journey – Prelude

Disclaimer

This is my personal experience since diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I’m not being paid to endorse any insurance company, hospital, doctor, or medicine. This article is simply about my PCOS journey in a three-part series: diagnosis, treatment, and side effects. I simply would like to share my story with fellow PCOS-diagnosed women and families or friends who care about anyone that has the same hormonal disorder as I do. You may take my suggestions in this whole series/journey, but you should heed advice more from experienced dermatologists, ob-gynecologists, and/or other experts you trust. I welcome any advice and support from fellow PCOS-diagnosed women.

The rest is CYSTory

I was too young to care about my health... I should have taken my doctor's advice seriously.

I was aware of this hereditary trait I had as early as middle school. My mom had it. My older sister had it. My aunts also had it. It was cysts in our bodies. There was a lump in my left breast that was half an inch small. Historically, the ladies in my family found that the cysts were harmless. The lump wasn’t bothersome so I felt that I had nothing to worry about.

Come 4th year in high school, I noticed that the lump got bigger. I visited the doctor for a quick consultation in Makati Medical Center. As expected, it wasn’t anything life threatening. She recommended to have it removed but I was too busy with college applications to make time for surgery. “It’s a harmless cyst”, I told myself. Maybe because I was too young to care about my health, I didn’t notice that the lump was getting bigger every year.

My college conducts a mandatory annual physical examination. When the examining doctor found my cyst, she was a little worried. She felt that it was too big to ignore and requested that I visit my doctor again to secure a medical certificate since my last consultation was 2 years ago. I felt the urgency of the visit since my semester enrollment was dependent on the medical clearance.

“It’s benign for now, but it is growing bigger and bigger and will eventually be a potential risk. This is why we need to have it removed”. My surgery was scheduled within a few days.

It was my first surgery and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, mostly because I was awake. I felt very self-conscious because the operating room smelled like burning flesh and more than 3 interns or residents were watching the surgeon literally yank the mass out of my breast. It was painless despite what it sounds like. I even got to see my cyst. It was a jiggly white and pink blob that was much bigger that I thought. It was big enough to leave me with a 3-inch long and bumpy surgical scar for life.

Me with my chest bandage for a few days post-surgery | Image from Tanuki Kimon
Me with my chest bandage for a few days post-surgery | Image from Tanuki Kimon

Because of pre, during, and post-surgery preparations, I had missed several classes and exams. We were nearing the finals week. I had to juggle course requirements and physical recovery. I should have had the surgery back in the summer of high school or anytime I wasn’t busy. If it hadn’t been for the imposed health exam, I probably would have other serious things to worry about now other than an ugly scar and my studies. I should have taken my doctor’s advice seriously.

Why is story relevant to my PCOS journey? Please read on. 🙂

Running out of excuses

"Why do you have a pimple again?"

Skin care was a favorite topic among my collegemates especially since we had a common problem: acne. We talked about several skin care products that should help address acne. I had also read many online reviews and bought many different brands. I had spent too much money for very little progress. It was time to visit a professional.

I visited Dra. Leynes, my dermatologist in Makati Medical Center and a close friend of my mom, for a consultation. I was having troubles with the incessant acne growing around my face. These acnes weren’t even like small blackheads or whiteheads. It was the cystic kind. They were painful dark bumps that aren’t easily popped during a spa facial because nothing shows on the surface. Dra. Leynes recommended an isotretinoin treatment in the form of a pill (acnetrex). Isotretinoin helps control oil build-up and is only for cases of severe acne. It should be taken cautiously because it affects the liver which is why a prescription from the doctor is needed.

Isotretinoin acne miracle pill

I saw lots of skin improvements on my face after 1 year of acnetrex. The only side effect I encountered was dry lips. The recurrence and lifespan of cystic acne lessened drastically. I got one or two small acnes occasionally and maintained a few acne marks but these were manageable which the right tools. I sourced skin care products from my doctor and had face peeling sessions with Dra. Aquino in The Skin Clinic, Paranaque City.

Despite the progress, I really wanted to figure out how to get rid of my cystic acne completely. My main problem with acne is it leaves a scar. Before I can get rid of the scar, another cystic acne appears. One can imagine how frustrating it is to have so many dark marks that can’t easily be covered by make-up.

“Why do you have a pimple again?”, my mom asked multiple times. “I’m just nearing my period.” “The pollution is intense during my commute”. I would blame any possible reason to help make sense of it. But eventually, I ran out of excuses.

I got cystic acne even when it wasn’t my period, when I wasn’t stressed, or when I cleaned my face well and avoided using make-up. None of the skin care products and routines were sustainable and produced the results I wanted. This only meant that I must be doing something wrong. I must be missing something. I must not be targeting the source.

I went back for another consultation to find out what was really causing the incessant cystic acne. Little did I know that it was more than just the common acne.


Continuation now available. Click here: My PCOS Journey Part 1 – PCOS Diagnosis.

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