My experience with PCOS

In 2011 I stopped having my regular periods. It would take about three months for a new cycle, at one point I had even gone up to six months without a drop of blood. I had never been one of those women who expected their periods every 28-30 days, sometimes it came earlier but most of the time up to a week later. Still, it wasn’t until that year that my cycle has changed dramatically.

That time I thought it may not be so bad to miss my period from time to time. I eliminated the chance of pregnancy immediately (for obvious reasons), so I asked myself, what do I need my period for anyway? For one, it saved me money for not having to fill up my tampon stash for months at a time and, honestly? I don’t know of a single woman who enjoys being on her period.

But I also remember that year to be the start of the darkest and most painful time in my life and it went on for up to three more years. I was a mess.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I sought the opinion of a doctor – my first time ever to meet with a gynaecologist. I did not know what to expect. It wasn’t because I was uncomfortable talking about my female problems that I waited this long to go, but another symptom of depression is procrastination and for that reason I never really found the energy to go until that year.

My gynaecologist that time was a sympathetic woman who made sure I was comfortable. She ran some tests, including an ultrasound that gave me the chance to also see what the inside of my uterus and ovaries looked like. When we were done with the ultrasound, we were at her desk again and she grabbed a book to explain to me what was really going on. She showed me a photo of ovaries which resembled what I saw in the ultrasound. Then she showed me another one that suggested what they were supposed to look like. She explained to me that this was the reason for my irregular cycles and gave me a name for it: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

She asked me about all the other changes I’ve noticed in the past three years. I told her that it was the time when I started gaining weight (10kg in a matter of months!), and that I had been depressed – all of which, she explained, are symptoms of but may or may not be caused by PCOS (the weight issue, though, was likely caused by PCOS because of its drastic gain and the inability to lose weight despite of my humble attempts at dieting and exercise).

At this point I was worried about what this really means for me. Will I have to take pills? Change my lifestyle? Can this lead to other, scarier illnesses or diseases? No, yes, yes.

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Forgive me for not finding the real source of this image but I really do think it’s the best visual representation I’ve come across so far.

Because I said right on that my plans for the future do not include bearing a child, she said there was no need to try to correct this with the use of pills and regular monitoring. What I could do, was try to eat less carbohydrates just to help reduce the symptoms because my body can’t handle high levels of sugar. Exercising, she said, is of course always recommended but I should manage my expectations because it will be much harder for me to actually reach a physically fit status than it is for others. The risk of diabetes is very high, also considering the fact that both my parents have it.

She couldn’t give an explanation as to why I have PCOS. She said that about 20% of women have it and there is no actual cause, it just happens. It was frustrating, of course, it still is, because it’s not exactly satisfying to hear from a doctor that there is no cure for what I have. It felt like I had lost total control of my body and and it’s hard when you can’t blame it on anyone or anything, not even yourself.

It’s been years now since that first visit at the doctor’s. Since that time I have had some semi-regular periods for months at a time (about every 30-40 days) but every now and again I still have to wait up to 4 months for the next flow. Exercising, as I have been warned, has been extra exhausting given that I don’t get the results I am aiming for at an average pace but I try not to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to that. Dieting, on the other hand, has been the trickiest part. I was confused by how I was supposed to lessen my carbohydrate/sugar intake when I was pretty sure I was consuming much less than the average person. You will not find sugar in my coffee or tea and I drink soda only on rare occasions. I would only ever use sugar in baking but when do I ever have the time to bake? And unlike most Filipinos, I never felt the need to have rice with my food every time I eat and I can go months without a serving of rice. Same with potatoes, pasta, and other high-carb staples and I’ve always preferred dark bread over white which I believed at that time to be a better alternative. It was so confusing and I did not know what to eliminate from my daily intake when I know most people feel fine eating all this food and more. But I am not like most people. Not anymore after hearing the truth.

Right now I have finally come to a stage where I have accepted my fate and decided to take back control over my body. I understand the risks of PCOS for my health while I age and the best I can do now is to become aware of these and try my hardest to prevent them from happening. My primary goal right now is to get my period every month as a proof that I have been doing all the right things. I am fully focusing on my nutrition now more than ever and I am excited for the results!

I will be creating a separate post soon to elaborate more on my trials and errors in having PCOS focusing on diet and nutrition. As I am writing this, I have been on a low-carb high-fat diet for four weeks which I intend to keep up for a couple of months before reintroducing some good carbohydrates into my body.

Although PCOS is common, I don’t get to talk to a lot of people who also have it so I’d love for you to share your experiences with me and maybe we can get through this together! 🙂

Not a Travel Blog – Here’s my life nowadays

I know… Shocking, right? I just scrolled back through my last five posts and all of them are travel-related. Well, I really don’t want to give out the impression that all that I do (or at least all that is worth mentioning) is travel. It’s really not. And even if I had the money to do just that, I don’t think I would because that will just remove the excitement from it all. Don’t you think?

I was at my sister’s 30th birthday party the other weekend and witnessed a packed pub filled with her guests, all of them are people close to her. I didn’t even know most of them, some I’ve never even heard about. I realised that by the time I turn 30, it will be unlikely that I throw a party like that. By that time, I will have been about just as long here in Germany as she is now but I’m just sure I will not even know that many people let alone be close with them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for her and for her eventful social life and I have long accepted the fact that I am not the outgoing and friendly one in the family – probably also because growing up, I did not have much of my own friends until the time I got to school and I usually just tagged along whenever my sister wanted to go out with her friends because she wasn’t allowed to go unless she brought me with her. Sometimes I still find it easier to befriend her friends than making my own. Trust issues? Probably.

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But first, check out this unicorn fondant cake my cousin and I made for sestra’s birthday.

Now, getting to my point: I am at a time in my life where I am actually truly happy. My marriage is doing well, I have a job that I love, I get to spend time with the few good friends that I have here, and I live in this vibrant city with a lot of opportunities to be a more open and better person. So I guess, for my own standards, my life is pretty exciting as well.

You see, traveling is not the only exciting thing in my life, but rest assured it’s the one thing that inspires me the most to do everything else. In fact, I have just started an A1 language course in Spanish which I am really stoked about! Every Monday and Wednesday evening I go for a couple of hours to the community college downtown for fast-paced lessons in Español. It took little convincing for my employer to give a little more flexibility on my work hours on these particular days (because I work shifts) – I told them I intend to use this foreign language for work as well so I hope I learn fast.

So why Spanish? When I was 12 years old, I’ve found some of my father’s course manuals which he had bought back when he took a language course himself. He’s never finished the course but he was happy when I told him I wanted to pursue it. I had been to Spain myself, and the goal is to go there or to any Spanish speaking country at least once a year. This is something I had kept up since 2015 and this year in December we’re going to Tenerife. It will also be my first time flying with the airline that I work for, finally!

Just the day before my first Spanish class, we were on our way back to Berlin from Bonn and I asked the wife to make a stopover in Kassel for documenta14, an exhibit I had been wanting to go to for months that was about to end. The most significant exhibit on this year’s event is the Parthenon of (Banned) Books, which is a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, covered in thousands of banned books from all over the world.

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And because the exhibit was nearing its end, they started giving away the books on that very day and I picked up one of the many copies of El Príncipe. There were not many options because they only put out a limited amount and most of them were copies of the same book but it felt like a good omen to me because it’s in Spanish and, who knows, maybe about a year from now I will be able to read and fully understand it!

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Coincidence? I think not!!!

Philippines: Just Being Home

I don’t know where to begin. Spending almost two weeks in the Philippines has been more productive than eventful. I wouldn’t even consider this a travel post because it’s not. Most of my activities consisted of catching up with friends and family – nevertheless a holiday well spent.

It started off with the trip to Taal Volcano Crater. This also probably rounds up the whole touristic experience.

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Family

After a day of getting acclimatised to the time zone and catching up with friends, my cousin got married and the whole family was there to celebrate.

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And after the wedding, we celebrated our dear grandma’s 80th birthday in the afternoon. She has seven children and each of her children’s family was assigned to a colour of the rainbow, making a truly colourful party.

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This is me with all of my female cousins and our dearest Inay. I haven’t been able to score a photo of the boys yet, so this has to do for now.

The next day, while the rest of the family continued celebrating by all going out together for a swim at a private pool, I decided to pass and stay in my city and enjoy the best view:

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And, really, it was exactly what I needed after a whole day of family affairs and smiling at your own flesh and blood who just have no limits whatsoever. You know, after not seeing each other for 3-6 years, none of them ever minded to ask how you’re doing. Instead, all they greet you with is a comment on your physique, and asking about when I am finally getting married. It’s not like it’s a secret that I already am but my wife wasn’t with me so that’s barely proof.

Time with Friends

I found it quite hard to meet up with my favourite friends because they usually aren’t available all at the same time, so I actually had to spend days just catching up with each of them.

At the beginning of my second week, I went on my solo trip to Hong Kong, which had been an adventure in its own right. When I got back, I only had a few days left of my vacation. Those were spent with more catching up, and with a supposed trip to the beach that had gone terribly wrong. In other words, it never happened and we all went to a swimming pool instead where I ended up getting sick and not able to swim. Need I say more?

Nothing against my dearest friends or the relaxed nature of Filipinos in general that often clashes with the punctuality and sometimes even, uptightness, of the Germans, it just takes some getting used to. They even were apologetic and suggested that next time we should go on a big trip further away that requires some heavy planning and booking in advance because, then, everyone who agreed to come will have arranged their leave days already. Not to mention, none of us would want to let our hard-earned money go to waste by cancelling on a trip on short notice. Sounds like a bullet-proof plan to me!

The Folk Healer

Back to my getting sick on our swimming day, at that point it was noticeable that a few other members of our family have been getting sick (although all differently) all at around the same time. Just a week before, my nephew who is a toddler just happened to have gotten chicken pox the second time around (I know, in really rare cases it is possible). Everyone got suspicious after that visit to the doctor so they decided to consult a magtatawas, a kind of folk healer. By just simply writing down the patient’s name and birthday on a piece of paper and handing our errand girl a small amount for the doctor and her own bus money, we got our answers in a few hours’ time. The magtatawas will do his reading off candle wax dripped in a bowl of water. She came back with the results and some incense and instructions on what to do. Apparently, the child must have stepped on some corners in their garden where spirits of elders live and it somehow offended them. As a result, he was punished with the itchy spots all over his body. Poor kid, I know.

This has gone on with other members of our family. My uncle had a fever for a few days and the explanation was that he had been accompanied by the spirit of a girl in his lodge when he went on a trip to Palawan a week prior (and this has been said by two different magtatawas).

My experience was this: on our swimming day, I had a tummy ache in the morning, like a really bad case of gas and it was, as you can imagine, uncomfortable to say the least. It lasted for the most part of the day but, when we got to the resort at around 4 PM, the pain was gone and instead I felt really tired so I slept for a few hours and woke up feeling like I can’t hold my head up. That, too, lasted for the rest of the day and I lost my appetite and could barely eat. My friends drove me home at night time and I told mum what happened. First thing in the morning, and because I just didn’t want to miss out on all the fun, she sent our girl to the magtatawas to find out what happened to me.

 

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I’m not really a believer of these practises but it was fun to have experienced it.

And to finally end this post, here are some random images of the simple pleasures of being home.

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Ube flavoured dirty ice cream in a bun sold by a street vendor who passed by our borough
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Twin Latundan bananas brought over by my cousin who picked them personally from his farm
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Me picking mangoes off our own tree with an improvised sigpaw (landing-net used for fishing or, in this case, picking fruit)
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Kesong Puti (white cheese made with carabao milkand pan de sal for breakfast
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Taho (tofu pudding with tapioca pearls and brown sugar syrup)

 

Pitahaya cacti that will soon bear fruit also known as dragonfruit

I had fun with everyone nonetheless and I am surely going back in a few years even when it means having to go through it all over again.