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Andre'a Davis

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We spoke with a few women as part of PCOS Awareness Month to learn more about the disorder and the ways in which they manage it to live their very best lives. Andre’a Davis is one of those women. 

It took years, a false diagnosis and a great deal of confusion and pain before Andre’a Davis found out that she had polycystic ovary syndrome.

The 33-year-old Toledo, Ohio native first started to notice that her body was going through some extreme changes when she was studying in college.

“I started having really bad cycles. I started having like really heavy bleeding,” she said. “During my cycle I would get so sick that I would miss class. I would have like really bad headaches, nausea. That was the first thing that I started to notice was happening.”

From there, polyps began to develop in Andre’a’s uterus and she found herself struggling with ruptured cysts. On top of that, the blood loss she was experiencing during her cycle got so bad that she passed out on campus. After the alarming occurrence landed her in the emergency room, her gynecologist had her undergo a pelvic ultrasound as well as a number of D&C procedures (dilation and cutterage) to help clean out her uterus.

“I ended up having five of those procedures done over a period of six years before I found out I had PCOS,” she said.

Andre’a did her best to treat her pain prior to that diagnosis until about a year ago. She went to the doctor to have some blood work done and found out that her insulin levels were at a startling level. She was told by a medical provider that normally, a woman’s insulin levels are around 17. Andre’a’s number was a whopping 574. They came to the conclusion that she must have been pre-diabetic.

However, a dietitian she was working with at the time who had prior knowledge of Andre’a’s medical history told her to ask her doctor if she may actually have PCOS. When she did, it was then that she finally received the diagnosis she was waiting for, the one that made sense. She said she was somewhat relieved by it.

“Everyone diagnosed me with pre-diabetes because of the high insulin levels. No one in my family on my maternal or paternal side had diabetes and so I was like, what happened? What am I doing wrong to my body that this is happening and I’m having all of these issues?” she said. “Then when I found out that all of those symptoms were related, it was kind of like, okay, now I have something to at least give me an idea of what I’m dealing with. It was a sigh of relief because then I felt I had a plan of action.”

Andre’a wasn’t familiar with the hormonal disorder prior to her diagnosis. However, she got acquainted with it pretty fast because the changes attributed to it came on strong.

“I started to get chest hair and that was the craziest thing in the world to me,” she said. “It was jet black curly chest hair. I noticed one really long one one day and I was like, ‘Oh my God! What’s happening?’ It’s right there in the crease in between my breasts so it’s not a good look [laughs].”

“I didn’t get the acne thankfully. I’ve never really dealt with acne and so I didn’t get that,” she added. “But I did get the skin tags. I started noticing them from the increase of insulin and they showed up on my skin in random places; my back and places where I didn’t even know they were there.”

She also worried about the possibility that her fertility could be impacted by the disorder, which is a common issue. Thankfully though, Andre’a has been able to get a handle on her symptoms and her concerns.

“I do waxing and threading,” she said of dealing with the unwanted hair growth. “When I go and do my other waxing, I have it waxed for sure. I’ve also started Nairing it too. I feel like I do that like once a week because it grows very fast.”

As far as her thoughts about having a child in the future, Andre’a’s doctor told her that there is a high success rate of conception if she follows certain therapies and doesn’t have further challenges in terms of genetics. She’s also been encouraged by the stories that are out there of women who have given birth with PCOS, but is still keeping her options open if she doesn’t have a child.

“Every once in a while when it creeps back up in my head about, ‘Wow, I’m 33, I don’t have kids. My rates are now lower because of the PCOS. What should I do?’ I like to read other people’s success stories about having children with PCOS, just to kind of affirm that nothing is final,” she said. “Plus, the women in my family seem to be pretty fertile so I’m hoping that works in my favor when it comes to this [laughs]. I’ve made peace that if that doesn’t happen, there are a lot of kids in this world that need homes and that’s something that I’ve always been open to, even before my diagnosis. There are other avenues to be a mom besides just having to give birth to a child.”

Speaking of the future,  while Andre’a has been told by her doctor that it is likely that she will need a partial or full hysterectomy in the hopes of decreasing the chances of any cancer developing at some point, which she says is “probably the route I’ll go,” in the meantime, she’s found a great deal of relief by making certain adjustments in her life. Her remedies have come from working out, taking metformin (a diabetes drug to help her decrease her insulin numbers), and through birth control, which has paused her menstrual cycle for now.

“I’ve probably gone through six different birth controls. Nothing ever took care of those symptoms in terms of the terrible cramping,” she said. “So it kind of worked out better for it to just be me not having [my period].”

The changes she’s been able to see in her health due to the modifications she’s made and pills she takes has been pretty amazing considering where she was and how she was feeling prior to her diagnosis.

“It’s a world of difference, which helps to keep me motivated,” she said. “I went to my endocrinologist and my insulin is at 21 now. In a matter of a year it has almost completely reversed the production of insulin in my body with the metformin.”

Knowing that she has been able to find relief through those changes keeps Andre’a positive and able to thrive with PCOS. The disorder certainly isn’t easy to deal with, but she knows what she needs to do to feel the best that she can.

“I can control what I put into my body. I can control how I work out. I can control how well I’m taking care of myself, those kinds of things,” she said. “When you focus on what you can’t control it becomes overwhelming. I try to focus on the things I can control.”

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