by Chloe Saunders
Ovaries, you can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em – for me this couldn’t be more true. Since puberty kicked in, my ovaries and I haven’t exactly been the best of friends. Why? Five years ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) after years of enduring irregular periods (TMI, I know), acne and weird, grumbling pains down there. It is a condition that isn’t well publicised but is experienced by one in ten women, including celebrities and yummy mummies, Victoria Beckham and Jools Oliver.
The doctor said I was a ‘classic case’ and explained it in lots of medical jargon that I was too scared to question. It sounded awful, like some terrible life threatening disease! Conscious that I needed to reassure my inner hypochondriac, I looked it up on NHS direct. In short – PCOS affects how the ovaries work. The ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid filled sacs (follicles) which surround the eggs. The sacs are unable to release an egg which means ovulation doesn’t take place. Consequently, PCOS sufferers have difficulty trying to conceive. The cause is unknown but health professionals believe it is down to insulin resistance related to abnormal hormone levels in the body.
I was put on the combined contraceptive pill, Yasmin, which you may have heard about in the Daily Mail thanks to its dangerous side effects, notably fatal blood clots. It is given to PCOS patients to help balance hormone levels and kick-start the menstrual cycle. Despite the horror stories, I got on well with Yasmin, but in 2015 I was experiencing migraine-induced auras that were horrible. The nurse made me come off it as the auras now increased my risk of having a stroke. Since then I have tried various progesterone-only pills but I was experiencing periods every other week – a girl can’t afford to add a pack of tampons onto her weekly Lidl shop! So I’ve been pill-free for over a year.
I was fine with this. I didn’t have to remember to take it and I was free from mood swings, yay! That was until one day I made my way to work and I had a horrible searing pain in my side. The pain was so intense that I thought I was going to pass out. I tried to think positively and let it pass but it became so severe that I couldn’t stand up. As I walked home, the pain was excruciating and I wanted to throw up. I made an emergency appointment with my doctor who I hope would give me something for the pain. I was sent off for a blood test and given some strong pain killers but she couldn’t fathom what it might be. She instructed that if the pain got worse, I must go to A&E. Luckily, the pain went away and I was fit for work the next day. I told myself that it must have been a 24 hour bug and thought no more about it.
A month later, the pain came back. This time I was in agony. I spent the whole night tossing and turning trying to relieve the pain but nothing worked. I had to take another day off work and checked myself into A&E. After a two hour wait, I saw a nurse who thought it might be appendicitis. I then waited another hour to see a doctor who laughed off her claims and said it was a stomach bug. Confused and in pain, I came back home annoyed at myself for making such a song and dance about the whole thing. I rested as much as I could over the weekend by staying in bed so I could be fit for work on Monday. As I got up that morning, the pain was still there. I took a paracetamol and went to brush my teeth but after 30 seconds, I was bent over on the floor. I made my way to work but couldn’t make it to the end of the road, it was then I made another emergency appointment with the doctor who instructed I go to A&E.
After lots of scans and tests, I found out my ovary had doubled in size due to it twisting on itself.
I had to have emergency surgery that evening. Brilliant.
The next morning, the surgeon visited me and said the PCOS had caused my right ovary to enlarge and twist around my ovarian ligament. Luckily, they managed to save the ovary. If I had left it any longer, I could have lost it.
So here I am, in my fourth week of sick leave writing this article in bed and steadily on the mend. There’s a chance it could happen to my other ovary but hopefully not in the near future. By writing this article, I hope to help to raise awareness of this little known condition that, as proven by my experience, can easily be dismissed as something more trivial by doctors. However, I urge that if something doesn’t feel right get it checked out. Only you know your body and with persistence it can be sorted out.
For more information about PCOS, click here