Monday, July 16, 2007

Getting Personal About PCOS

I guess this is going to be one of those rare and sporadic “personal posts”. I feel it’s gotten to the point that this aspect of my personal life can explain a lot about some of my views that some deem contrary to conservatism. I’ll try to be succinct.

From a very early age (maybe 12 or so) I used to ask my mom if it was possible that I was exposed to too much testosterone in the womb. She remembers this too. I am not sure how to explain why I needed to know. I never “felt like a boy”, but I certainly never fit in fully with the girls. They were so petty, catty and learning to pull that whole ’damsel in distress routine” that men respond to so predictably. I always felt so removed from that. I wanted to hang with the boys, but not so they could be my knight in shining armor--but so I could play stick ball or go fishing.

My inability to get pregnant after The Man and I got married prompted testing that revealed I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). The doctors had been resistant to testing for it because they kept insisting “I didn’t look like a woman with PCOS”. PCOS has little to do with ovarian cysts and much more to do with an imbalance in your endocrine system. Basically a woman that has too much testosterone and is then at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and ovarian cancer. Other lovely side effects aside from all the increased risks of mortality can include (but are not limited to) huge weight gains, acne, excessive hair, irregular periods, and sporadic no ovulation. I had had widely irregular periods my entire life and then the fertility problems, but since I was thin with clear skin they never considered this possibility. My reproductive endocrinologist would later say. “Because regular doctors know nothing of these things."

The diagnosis felt good. Like an explanation I had needed since puberty.

The side effects and ramifications of this “syndrome” are horrid and effect so many different body systems. The worst thing is that so little is known about it and I don’t see that changing very soon. We don’t even have our own drug, they piggy back us on Glucophage (a drug for diabetics and I won’t even get in to the side effects of that one)…

The upside of the syndrome is it creates (IMO) the perfect girl. A woman devoid of many undesirable ‘girlie” traits and empowered with more testosterone than most of her nagging sisters. But a girl that isn’t sure where she truly fits in. ("Suffered by celebs including Victoria Beckham, Emma Thompson and Jools Oliver, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as one in four women." -source)

I feel this has influenced certain areas of my politics.

First I find it ridiculous that people still believe that being gay is a choice (I’m not talking about the high school girls making out with their friends to get free beers). I have to wonder if those people actually know anyone that is gay. Who would willingly pick a life of discrimination and disgust from the majority? Who would tempt the fate of Matthew Sheppard and many like him?
I have too much testosterone and that has been medically proven. I have never felt like I fit in with other woman who normally make me cringe (except now that I have many friends that also have PCOS). It’s a hormone imbalance that I had no control over. Who are we to say that gay men don’t have too much estrogen and maybe lesbians have really bad PCOS? Why is it so hard to believe that an endocrine problem could be the cause? So those of you that insist they haven’t found a “gay gene” --consider that it’s not a gene, but an imbalance somewhere else that happens in utereo the same way PCOS, cleft palette, deafness, ankyloglossia or any other things happens. It may not have been the biological grand design, but it also wasn’t the choice of the child.

Now, the paradox is that though the PCOS sometimes makes me think/act more like a man would, it has also been the root cause of my sometimes vicious feminist streak.

Do you think for 2 seconds that if men got a “syndrome” that caused them to get really heavy and grow man-boobs, to loose all their body hair, to have smaller wangs, cause acne, heart disease, impotence, diabetes and prostate cancer (all stemming from the ONE syndrome) there wouldn’t be studies, tests, drug trials, and pills galore. We don’t even have one drug. The fact that there is a little blue pill so guys can keep it up longer when there isn’t a pill so we can, say LIVE longer makes me want to break things. Even my endocrinologist (a male) and my gynecologist (a male) agree wholeheartedly that is there was a male version of this it would have been studied in every major university in the country. So yeah, that causes a bit if resentment.

The Man says that this argument doesn’t make sense because there are plenty of women in the medical and research fields. To be fair, in the past five years there has been more talk and attention to the syndrome (also called Stein-Leventhal). I just can’t think of any reason that the most common hormonal disorder among women has the least known about it...

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