I'd learned about periods in school, but no one prepared me for this. I woke up freezing, my 12-year-old fuzzy-haired legs wet with blood. My bed looked like a crime scene, so of course I jumped up and screamed for my mother.
My mother acted like bleeding that much is normal for women.
"Go put a pad on," she said.
Yet, bleeding enough to fill a swimming pool didn't make sense in my young mind. My mother took me to my first OBGYN appointment soon after. The gynecologist diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a endocrine hormonal disorder that impacts over 5 million women, according to The PCOS Foundation.
My body produces too much male hormone, so my eggs turn into cysts instead of leaving my ovaries. This means I have irregular or absent periods that let excess blood out without warning. Cysts burst on my fallopian tubes, which causes me immense pain and cramping.
Cramps land me in bed on prescription pain killers with five layered towels over a bed protector. My limousine-sized pads only last an hour.
PMS psychosis turns me into Medusa. I can be happy one second and verbally ripping someone’s head off the next. I have a hard time conceiving. I even have excess hair growing on my chin, toes, and neck.
I didn't have another menses cycle until I turned 18. The tsunami of blood hit all over again, this time while I stood in the hair products aisle of Walmart. Another time, I felt warm liquid running down both legs as I hung out with my husband and his five guy friends watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match.
I looked down to see streams of crimson coloring my socks and shoes, which of course were white.Of course.
I gasped loud enough to draw everyone's attention. Exclamations ranging from "Dude, take your wife to the ER she’s dying!" to "Ewww, gross, go take care of that!" embarrassed me further as the five male visitors ran outdoors like I had just grown two heads. I dashed to the bathroom with blood trailing behind me.
These experiences are mortifying, but I have no other choice. The doctor told me I'd be suffering with these symptoms for the rest of my life.
Of course there are viable treatment options for women battling PCOS. Alternative options include ablation, the medical burning of the uterus, and a hysterectomy, the removal of the reproductive system. A recent study found that diabetic medications has been highly-beneficial for women suffering from PCOS.
However, these procedures carry risk and little relief for PCOS as the side effects only mimic the disease itself.
A March 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women who have PCOS are also likely to have heart disease, reproductive disorders, cancer in the uterine lining, and diabetes. This can cost hospitals upwards of $4 billion every year. All of this leads to a lot of medical issues and no real relief.
I lost faith in medical remedies in my 20s when doctors told me to have my ovaries removed. Had I followed their advice, I wouldn't have my adorable 14-year-old son. PCOS makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to conceive. I gave up my dream of being a mother at age 18 when the doctor told me I had a slim chance of conceiving a healthy baby.
Life had other plans, though; I conceived my son at 24 and spent the entire pregnancy on bed rest because of continuous bouts of pre-term labor. Despite the odds, I had a black-haired baby boy. Now at 14, he gets to love, understand and run away from Medusa Mom.
I have now, however, exhausted all of my treatment options other than a hysterectomy, but the side effects are similar to those I'm already suffering through with PCOS. My doctors have tried birth control pills, progesterone shots and capsules, insulin-resistance medication and even Chlomid to make me "normal." Nothing has worked.
PCOS has run amok in my life, just as it does in many other women's lives. I am nearing 40, and my flooding periods still arrive whenever they please. Although my menstrual cycle only lasts one day, I am forced to deal with an entire week's worth of PMS in 24 hours. I'm still a volcano ready to erupt if anyone challenges me.
But I do not suffer alone: There are many women seeking a cure. They know what needs to happen. It's those in healthcare who need to be more supportive and understanding of women that battle with PCOS since it affects millions of women, including several celebrities.
Women need better choices to battle this disease. PCOS survivors deserve to have a treatment or cure that won't hurt us. In the meantime, I'll be waiting for the flood.