Each week, we will be asking people who get their periods to talk about their relationship with their menstrual cycle. Feel free to get in touch with us via email in order to submit your own Period Piece. Thank you to all menstruators who choose to share their stories. By doing so, you are helping to break the taboo and normalise the topic of menstruation.
I got my first period at age 12, and the first two years of menstruation were pure hell. My periods were so heavy that I would bleed through the most heavy pads, and at night I would sleep on towels because I could never make it through the night without bleeding through. I would kneel on my bedroom floor, hunched forward in fetal position and cry from the pain of my cramps, accompanied soon by back, upper leg, and pelvic pain. I was put on a low-dose birth control to try to ease the pain and other symptoms, but it helped minimally.
I was 13 when I realized that I had bigger concerns than heavy periods. I was in class when I felt a sharp pain in my pelvic area and doubled over in pain. Within an hour, my mom had picked me up and we were in the emergency room. An ultrasound and a few questions led to the conclusion that I had an ovarian cyst rupture, and I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
I began seeing a gynecologist regularly, who suggested I have laparoscopic surgery at age 15, which concluded that I had endometriosis. Endometriosis is when the tissue that typically lines the uterus grows in other places where it shouldn’t. The symptoms I experienced from it were painful periods (cramps, back, pelvic, upper legs), nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea.
At my first visit after surgery, the only word I can remember was the word INCURABLE. You mean I’m going to have to live like this forever?! We began to talk about options. I was put on the Nuva-Ring for a while. Next was Lupron, which they explained would stop my periods as though I was in menopause. While my symptoms subsided, I also had mood-swings and hot-flashes and felt like I was losing my sixteen-year-old mind. Luckily we could only use this one for 3 months, so I switched after that.
I found a new gynecologist, as my old one was very dismissive of my my issues. My new doctor put me on a different birth control pill, but I skipped the sugar pills most months so I only had a cycle every few months. This worked for a while, but I decided to seek a specialist, or at least someone more well-versed in endo and PCOS.
A friend of my mom’s called me one afternoon and informed me that her doctor was taking new patients. I had been trying to get in to see this doctor for months, as she was recommended to me by someone else with endo, but she was now accepting new patients. SHE!!! A female! How exciting!
I cried happy tears at my first appointment. I rambled my long history with my period problems and endo and PCOS. I remember when I told her about my PCOS, she said, “Yeah, you are a little fuzzy.” This was in reference to the light blonde peachfuzz that grew over most of my face, a symptom of PCOS that my other doctors had never mentioned.
She got me started on a DepoSub-QProvera104 shot, which was basically the normal depo shot, but geared for women with endo and PCOS. Instead of being given in the hip or arm, it was given subcutaneously (under the skin) just above the bikini line. I was thrilled that it was only once every 3 months, because this meant I could go to my study-abroad in England that summer without pills or anything to worry about. This was my favorite treatment thus far before the one I’m currently on.
I stayed on the shot until I graduated university. At this point I decided to move to Thailand to teach english, but I knew I would have a hard time with treatment here. So before I left the States, I met with a new gynecologist in my new town who I explained my situation too. We opted for the Nexplanon implant in my arm. It would be good for 3 years, and effected everyone’s cycles differently.
I read so much online before my implant procedure, mostly bad reviews, but I reminded myself that everything affects everyone differently. The procedure was not bad at all, and I was able to exercise the same day. It’s been in for 8 months and I haven’t had a proper period. I’ve spotted a few times, and only had cramps once. I still have a cyst rupture every now and then, but I know how to handle it now. I LOVE this implant.
As I’m reaching an age when many of my friends are getting married and having children, I am beginning to think about the possibility of my own infertility. One of my doctors told me that if I wanted to have kids, I should do it before I’m 25. Since I don’t see that happening (as I’ll be 24 next month and have no desire to reproduce now), I’m hoping that I’ll be a rare exception in the future if I decide I want children and I will be able to have my own. For now, I’m just rejoicing in the fact that after ten years I have finally found a treatment to control my symptoms and meets my unique needs.