A Hard Thing

Prognosis: Incurable

By Brianna Knighton

When I was eighteen, I went to the dermatologist because of acne in the chin area, but I actually had something much more uncomfortable to discuss. Two years earlier, I had started to develop facial hair, which wasn’t thin, short, and blond. It was thick, dark, and fast-growing. At first I plucked it, but then got to the point of shaving every day. I was involved in choir and acting, and in both of those classes, we went on trips. On choir tour, I locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the water so the other girls in my room couldn’t hear my electric razor. I was ashamed and afraid of what they might think or say, even though they were my friends.

I also was gaining weight and felt that people were staring at me, which made me constantly self-conscious in public. The dermatologist said I might have a medical condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

“There’s no way that’s my problem,” I thought. “I’m healthy and there is no way I have this.”

Even so, I went home and started researching PCOS, which I learned is a hormone imbalance and an incurable illness that affects almost one in ten women. Many women have symptoms their entire lives without being diagnosed. The list of symptoms included mine: facial hair, weight gain, and acne along the chin. The disease lowers estrogen levels in the body, which makes testosterone levels more dominant. The more I read, the more I realized I might have this condition, yet it was a hard truth to get my brain around.

A month after visiting the dermatologist, I went to see my OB/GYN and we talked about PCOS. The discussion confirmed my suspicions and frightened me, especially because my whole life was changing, and there was no cure.

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