Life has a funny way of turning everyday events into a circus. Whether you’re doing the tightrope balancing act between a career and social life, or you have to be the lion tamer in a circle of catty girlfriends, the one place you never want to picture yourself is behind a curtain being called the bearded lady.
It was a regular Tuesday morning; I was getting ready for work when in the mirror I spotted it, one thick black hair emerging from the depths of my chin. I immediately grabbed a pair of tweezers and ripped it out. I vowed to never speak of this to anyone, but alas its existence would play a role in a bigger issue.
Later that week, I was scheduled for my yearly gynecological exam. I have always been diligent about going to this most unpleasant doctor’s visit because I have struggled the majority of my life (15 years to be exact) with ovarian cysts. Upon arrival, I stepped on the scale. It spoke a painful truth, although I was still very physically active and watching what I eat, I was gaining weight at an alarming rate. She noted some things in her file and told me to get up in the stirrups. I sat there silently counting the ceiling tiles just waiting for things to be over.
Finally, the doctor said she wanted to do an ultrasound to check my ovaries because I told her I had occasional lower abdominal pain and after having a history of erupting cysts, I was quite familiar with the signs from my body that things may be headed south again.
When the ultrasound began, my ovaries lit up like a Christmas tree, there were cysts all over. She asked me if I was having problems with depression or anxiety or if my stress levels seemed to have increased lately. I told her I suffered from the trifecta and that I have also noticed some irregularity recently in my monthly period, I assumed this was a result of the stress. She made a face and then the sideshow curtain flew open.
“Melissa, have you noticed any excess hair growth on your face?”
So I told her about my rogue hair. The secret was out.
The doctor told me that the hair growth was a condition called Hirsutism. She said this is the appearance of hair where it shouldn’t normally grow, specifically, in the “beard area” or on the chest for females. It can be caused by a hormone imbalance and is a red flag for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
I had heard of this before. It is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women and can lead to infertility. The doctor said that if left untreated, it’s possible this can lead to other medical risks such as insulin resistant diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Well this put a damper on my day. I love being a mother; I want another child more than anything. The doctor is telling me that because my condition is fairly advanced, my chances of successfully conceiving is low. It’s going to be a long and difficult road ahead, but I am confident that everything is going to work out for the best.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome affects so many women without them even realizing it could ever be an issue. Doctors call it a silent assassin. If you notice yourself having any of the above listed symptoms, see a doctor as soon as you can. There are treatments and lifestyle changes that can be made to help manage the disease. Don’t lose hope.
For me, and my struggle to conceive, it ain’t over until the bearded lady sings.
Keep plucking my friends.
Melissa Hughes is a 30-year-old single mother of one. Girl Talk started as a telltale horror story of the city’s most epic dating disasters and evolved into a column about love, life experiences and growing up. Melissa has a weekly TV segment on PA Live, WBRE, discussing activities in Weekender and a Girl Talk radio segment every Wednesday on 98.5 KRZ.