With my friend Emily and her three month old in tow, I made my way to Canby, OR. The forty-five minute drive from home to the naturopath's office was full of emotion. Some emotions that I could easily name and others that I couldn't even begin to put a name to. Anxiety had welled within me and spilled out of my eyes more times than I could count that morning. The naturopath was my last option. Running through my head were the last several experiences that I had in doctors' offices, the despair I had felt at leaving after hearing, "Are you sure that you're even sick?" The bad news that I was receiving at every turn. The word 'hysterectomy' that had flowed freely from doctors' mouths. Trying to focus on the road, I would force my brain to concentrate on the conversation Emily and I were having, but my thoughts kept returning to the things I feared the most.
We didn't wait long in the waiting room and were suddenly in a room. Shortly thereafter the naturopath comes in and starts peppering me with questions. Within the first two minutes of her being in the room, she stands from her chair and walks toward me, saying, "Lay down, I know what this is." Up to this point, I had felt that she was listening to me. Now, I only feel that she is set on her own agenda. She thinks she knows what this is and won't be swayed. I'm expecting that she will tell me exactly what all the other doctors have told me. My hopes that she is going to help are dashed. I lay back, full of skepticism at what she will say and do. I feel my face twist with my disappointment and disbelief.
She pokes around my belly and abdomen. At one point, she presses down on one spot that is incredibly tender and I feel myself jump off the table. My pain had been localized in this spot for several days, but I had been managing it (read: ignoring it and hoping it would go away) and my pain had been "minimal" (I put this in quotes because I no longer trust myself to accurately measure my pain levels. It is not uncommon for me to tell a doctor that my pain is at a 7 or 8 on a 10 pt scale where 10 is highest. And 7 or 8 is a "minimal" level now because I know that I consider this a good day!). As sit back up, I'm simultaneously skeptical at whatever diagnosis she will deliver and incredibly mad at her for the intense throbbing pain in my abdominal cavity.
She steps back and delivers her diagnosis, "I think you have cysts that are forming on your ovaries and rupturing." I've heard this before. Its been a concern with each doctor I've seen since August. I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) when I was 17, but I have never had problems with cysts. My problems have been mainly hormonal. The numerous expensive imagery testing of late has found no cysts on my ovaries. I voice my discontent with this diagnosis and bring up my nausea and vomiting to remind her that these symptoms are certainly not ones found in PCOS.
The naturopath begins a very detailed explanation of the hormonal changes that should be happening within my body, but because of my PCOS these changes are not occurring. No, seriously! This explanation is so detailed that she is drawing pictures on the paper liner of the bed I'm sitting on. She is waving her hands in the air and you can tell that she knows her stuff or at the very least you think she knows her stuff cause of all the hand waving. Her brain is just spitting out information. While I am still quite skeptical, I am highly impressed with her level of knowledge.
Basically, what she says is that my body is very lopsided hormonally. I have no issue producing and holding onto estrogen and androgen. However, my body is creating little to no progesterone and testosterone (Yes, women create testosterone too. Androgen is also a hormone that is more prominent in men. Don't freak out, guys, but your body produces estrogen! What?!?! Yeah, its true! Just not in the same amounts as women. Chew on that!) She draws a pyramid and puts estrogen and androgen on one side and progesterone and testosterone on the other. She says I'm really heavy on the one side and have almost nothing on the other side. She then charts how and when my body produces the different hormones throughout my monthly cycle with PCOS and how it should be without PCOS. Its all really interesting and quite honestly the best description of PCOS I have ever received! Eleven years with a syndrome and finally someone is actually telling me whats going on inside of me! She tells me that when my body tries to ovulate (release an egg from the ovary), it isn't fully released and turns into a cyst. These can cause a lot of pain, especially when/if they rupture. The details begin to paint a picture in my mind and I tell her that I have recently started ovulating once again for the first time in about three years (anovulation or not ovulating is another symptom of PCOS). I realize that the timeline works out and her theory could very well be correct. I may be experiencing rupturing of cysts.
Her treatment plan includes a cocktail of estrogen lowering supplements to start and then adding in progesterone. First though, she wants to test my progesterone levels. As well, I am no longer allowed to eat corn, dairy, soy and eggs as well as gluten which I've been off of for 2 1/2 years because they can increase estrogen levels. She places me on the Anti-Inflammation diet alongside the O blood-type diet.
For my digestive issues, she gives me a shot of B12, probiotics, and an antibiotic. She tells me that she is a little concerned with these symptoms and that I must eat more than once a day. To that I tell her that she must be crazy! For more than a month eating more than once a day would send me into a tailspin of nausea and vomiting that I had learned to avoid at all costs. She encourages me to give it a try once the B12 helps with the nausea. Later, while taking my blood, it seems that light is shed on my GI issues when I tell her that I was on antibiotics for more than a year and then on IV antibiotics followed by a PICC line (long-term IV). My research at home reveals that extended use of antibiotics and IV antibiotics can result in severe GI problems such as mine a few years after the treatment. So perhaps this is the issue that I am experiencing. Did I mention that when the nurses had issues taking blood from my super tiny, super roll-loving, super prone-to-blowing veins, that she came in and took my blood herself? She earned some serious points with that one! I've never had a doctor be willing to do that!
I leave the office still highly skeptical. In fact, I sit writing this almost a month later and I am still skeptical. However, the only other way that my PCOS has been treated was with birth control to regulate my cycles and that never ended well (I wound up being incorrectly dosed with two years worth of meds in two months at one point! Whoa!). I quit birth control and vowed to never take it again. No thank you! So, my PCOS has gone untreated for about three years. Despite my disbelief at her diagnosis of my current ails, I do feel her treatment plan might help with my PCOS. At my second appointment, she tells me that my progesterone levels (taken on the day of my cycle when they should have been at their highest levels) were at 1.7. Normal levels are 22-25. I was at a one point seven! 1.7!! I am severely deficient in progesterone!!
I have been on the treatment for almost a month now and am still in pain, but my nausea and vomiting are under control. My biggest issue now are being easily exhausted and tired, hot flashes and mood swings (lots of crying - way too much crying!!) as my estrogen levels decrease, sleepiness while I'm taking progesterone and a tendency to contract any illness with which I come in contact. The general feeling of illness in my GI tract is gone and nausea is at a minimum. I am almost eating normally for the first time in months!
Honestly, I am still not comfortable saying that this treatment will resolve all the issues that I have been having for so long. However, I do feel that I can say my outlook is much better simply because I have someone who is willing to fight alongside me and help with some sort of plan to fix my health issues.
So, there is the scoop on my health issues! :0) Thank you to all who have prayed for me, taken me to the doctor or the ER, encouraged me in faith in God and reminded me that He is ever faithful. Please continue with the prayers and encouragement as you feel led. My fight isn't over and I can use all the prayer and encouragement I can get!