Woman’s Day PCOS Reader Profiles
(Orig. Pub. March 7, 2000)
Age: 29 – Profession: Pursuing a career in social services
“No diet ever worked”
At age 6, Tracy Pekar-Rogers was an average-sized child; by 8, her body was abruptly flung into early puberty. She gained weight, and developed acne and oily hair. By age 10, her periods had become very painful, and soon she was missing them altogether.
For almost 20 years, doctors told Tracy she just needed to lose weight, but even when she was dieting she put on pounds. “I was also told I might have everything from thyroid disease to HIV to psychiatric problems to chronic fatigue syndrome to congestive heart failure,” she recalls.
“Each doctor treated a little part of the problem, but no one saw the big picture until 1998,” she says. That’s when an endocrinologist pronounced her “a classic case” of PCOS.
Tracy, who lives in Houston, has been steadily losing weight by eating a moderate lowfat/low-carbohydrate diet. She is also taking metformin, which helps control her insulin resistance. She and her husband are considering having children some day. “But right now, I’m concentrating on getting my health back.”
“For the first time in my life, my weight has been going down instead of up.”
“Why can’t I get pregnant?”
Mood-wrecking cycles of Clomid. Repeated physical exams and lab tests. Scheduled lovemaking. Janell and Scott Meyer of Fort Collins, Colorado, did it all, and to no avail. Janell still could not get pregnant.
“I saw three different doctors and had four years of infertility treatments before I was treated for PCOS. They would look at me, tell me that I was fine, and then send me home with pills,” recalls Janell. “I’ve always been overweight and they just passed it off as having to do with my weight.”
She finally diagnosed herself after learning about PCOS from a woman’s health book. Then she had laparoscopic surgery to remove the ovarian cysts, and switched to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. With the help of the surgery and metformin, she was able to bring two pregnancies to term. The happy results? Robert, 3, and Jonathan, 6 months.
“To think we could even look forward to having more children is really exciting!”
Age: 35 – Profession: Computer scientist
“Why am I gaining weight?”
Corrina Smith couldn’t figure out why her clothes were getting so tight. At 30, Corrina, who lives with her husband in Denver, was in great shape: She followed a strict vegetarian diet, worked out at least an hour a day and participated in biathlons. “Then, my weight just ballooned! I had absolutely no control over it,” she recalls. “I was very, very depressed—my emotions were just all over the place.”
Luckily, Corrina’s gynecologist was on the ball. He diagnosed PCOS and put her on birth control pills to force her always-erratic period into a normal cycle. Under the care of her doctor and an herbal specialist, she also began taking dietary supplements and switched to the Zone Diet, a carbohydrate-controlled eating plan.
Her weight has dropped and her depression is gone. Corrina, who is director of media relations for the PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, just finished a 12-week intensive fitness program and is feeling great. “My energy level has gone through the roof!”
“When you get your insulin levels under control, your body starts responding normally to exercise and food.”
(Orig. Pub. March 12, 2002 )
Getting a Diagnosis
Reva Damian, who lives in Houston, began suffering symptoms of PCOS at age 11, when she got her first menstrual period. Over the years, she saw several doctors who failed to diagnose or treat her appropriately, even when her menstrual cycle stopped.
Then a relative saw the Woman’s Day PCOS story and passed it on to Reva’s mother, Nita Buckholz. Excited and hopeful, Nita showed the article to Reva’s gynecologist. “PCOS still is not recognized,” says Nita, frustration evident in her voice. “The doctor said, ‘Yeah, well, take these birth control pills. It’s her weight that’s the problem.’ You start believing them.”
The first two months Reva was on the Pill—a common first-response tactic with PCOS—she had a period. But in the many months since then, nothing.
Reva, who hopes to have children someday, began feeling depressed. “The doctor said two periods was all he could get out of me. I just cried. I was tired of it all,” she says.
She and her mother headed to another doctor, an endocrinologist familiar with the latest PCOS treatments. She administered a three-hour fasting glucose tolerance test and a three-hour fasting insulin test—both can be used to pin down insulin resistance and blood sugar levels. She confirmed the PCOS diagnosis, prescribed metformin, a different birth control pill and a third drug to control facial hair growth. Reva, now 18, has lost weight and is thriving.
“Just Call Me Mom”
It took three home pregnancy tests and an ultrasound before Karie Hoskins dared to believe that her “miracle baby” was finally on the way. Karie, 31, was diagnosed with PCOS years ago, but she didn’t get the right treatment until her mother spotted the Woman’s Day article. Three weeks after a new doctor put her on metformin, she conceived Hannah Rose.
“After four years in the land of infertility, we had given up,” explains Karie, who lives with her husband in Seattle. “I did up to 200 milligrams of Clomid, and intrauterine insemination, and the shots. I got pregnant once, but had a very early miscarriage. So we spent the next year trying to adopt.”
That’s when her mother called and read her the latest findings about PCOS. Karie read the story and figured, “It’s worth a try.”
Her treatment for PCOS worked like a charm. On October 28, 2000, Hannah Rose was born, a healthy, gorgeous baby, says her mom.
Trying for a Second Baby
For years, doctors have been telling Michele Forrest that she’s infertile due to being overweight. Michele, now 40, has a subtle version of PCOS. She has regular menstrual periods, but doesn’t ovulate.
Unlike many women with PCOS, Michele was able to conceive and give birth with the help of fertility drugs. Her daughter, Emily, was born in 1994. Later, Michele and her husband tried to have another child, but this time the fertility drugs didn’t work.
Then the Pacifica, California, homemaker read the Woman’s Day PCOS story. “I was crying. I was relating to the women in the article, thinking, ‘This has to be me’ over and over again,” Michele recalls.
She took the magazine to her first appointment with a new gynecologist. To test for PCOS, the doctor ran blood tests on her hormone levels, then referred her to an endocrinologist, who prescribed metformin. Soon, Michele began losing weight. Unfortunately, help came too late to prevent diabetes; she was diagnosed a month after starting metformin.
Diabetes makes it harder to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. But Michele continues to diet and take the metformin. Her endocrinologist monitors her every six weeks.