Sharan had experienced bloating in her lower abdomen as long as she could remember. It was so much more than the feeling of eating too much. She would swell to the point that she looked 7 months pregnant, without warning. Eight years ago, she started going to doctors, naturopaths, having blood tests, stool tests, allergy tests… all in an attempt to get answers.
Her experience varied from practitioner to practitioner. But most did the basic tests, and told her everything was “normal.” The more she probed for answers, the more she felt that she wasn’t being taken seriously. She had always been a fit, healthy woman. She could feel her doctors looking at her, and assuming she was only concerned about her image.
She was completely defeated with the lack of adequate care she was receiving. She took matters into her own hands. She wanted more testing. She paid out of pocket for every test she could think of. She eliminated every food allergy or sensitivity. She underwent frequent acupuncture. She adjusted her diet and training. There was nowhere she didn’t look for answers.
Four years into her journey, she was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and prescribed Hormonal Birth Control to manage the symptoms. Four years into this battle for answers, she took the prescription without even questioning her doctor’s order. She was just so grateful to finally have some answers. She later learned, PCOS was something she had been dealing with her whole life.
But the birth control wasn’t going to fix it. It was just a band aid solution. So after years of staying on the pill with no improvement, she decided to take matters into her own hands… again.
The birth control was suppressing her body’s natural hormone production. Combined with the PCOS, her hormone levels were that of a perimenopausal woman. She also had elevated cortisol levels, directly linked to the PCOS… but also likely compounded by the stress of starting a business at age 25.
She spent four years working on repairing her hormone health. She was slowly starting to see the changes she had worked so hard to achieve. “I finally thought I was healed.” So she later decided to book an appointment at a fertility clinic. She wasn’t even sure she wanted kids. But she wanted to know how PCOS might affect a pregnancy… if, or when, she made that decision.
The fertility doctor did a physical examination, and asked Sharan if she wanted to see an ultrasound of her ovaries. None of the doctors she had seen before had ever offered this. The doctor immediately asked if she knew she had cysts growing in her ovaries. Sharan replied no, but she wasn’t surprised. But these cysts weren’t related to her PCOS. And they were 10-12cm in length. An average ovary is 2cm in length.
But the doctor assured her it wasn’t a major concern, and a minor laparoscopic surgery would remove the tissue. She remembers mostly feeling grateful the doctor even took the time to touch her stomach, something no other doctor had even attempted.
But upon further testing, Sharan learned that the cysts were too large to safely extract using a laparoscopic camera. She ran the risk of losing an ovary, especially if they were cancerous. This changed her minor surgery into a major C-section. The cysts had been growing for too long.
“I was so happy to finally have found an answer after 8 years of fighting this battle… but still so scared of the cancer and surgery.”
But before her scheduled surgery date, she was rushed to Emergency because the cysts had cause her ovaries to twist. She ran the risk of having blood supply cut off. The ovary would die. But they performed the surgery immediately, and her ovaries were kept in tact.
Today, Sharan pays it forward as a health coach. She knows she wouldn’t be able to give the same level of advice without having battled these issues, learned as much as she could, researched every day, tested every possibility she could think of.
“My only hope in sharing my story is that: if there is anyone out there fighting their own battle, know that you know your body better than anyone else. Do not give up when someone tells you that nothing is wrong. Fight for your answers. Find someone who is willing to respect your issues enough to work in your corner. You deserve that.”
Disclaimer: BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared on our website or social media is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition.