This I Believe

Entered on August 6, 2007

The Unpreventable Truth

Dealing With POF

Dealing with an emotionally traumatic problem is hard, but I don’t believe I should wallow in self pity, or take it out on my husband or the world. I was 21 when I realized I had a problem. Thinking it was related to the stress and abandonment I felt after losing my mother, I ignored it. Then at 23, I met with a specialist to find out why my menstrual cycle was almost nonexistent and to find out why I would sometimes feel like hell in an ice box (hot flashes.) After an abundance of tests and getting blood drawn weekly for months, I began to feel like a human pin cushion.

It took three different doctors three years to diagnose me with Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), also known as Premature Menopause. Women diagnosed with POF will experience symptoms such as hot flashes and light or absent menstrual bleeding before the age of 40. POF affects approximately 1 out of 1000 women between 15-29 years of age; sadly, there is no way to prevent, predict, slow down, or cure this enigma.

Dr. Holman at Center for Applied Reproductive Science informed me of my diagnosis; In-Vitro Fertilization and adoption are my only choices, if I want to have children. My head whirled with questions I couldn’t put into words and I sat there listening to this ghastly man predict my future. Shocked, I got up from his desk, grabbed the piece of paper with all his little scribbled notes and poorly drawn pictures, shook his hand, then headed down the hall.

I walked out of the appointment with a list of medications I shouldn’t be taking till I’m 40 and wondered how many women have this disorder and don’t even realize it, or how many teenage girls had the choice to have children already made up for them. Young girls with light menstruation usually don’t know that the duration of a period and heaviness of the blood flow indicates how fertile a woman is. This is not something that’s taught in Health Education and could put you at risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, glaucoma, Addison’s disease and if diagnosed with POF, infertility.

I got in my car, vigorously yanked my visor mirror down, and burst into tears. Unaware of how long I sat there and cried before being jolted back into reality by my phone ranging. A sound I knew well, “Summer of 69,” by Bryan Adams. My husband, Tim. Unsure of what to say once asked how my appointment went, I took a deep breath and simply told him our upsetting news. Supportive by nature, he took it rather well.

Pulling into my driveway and leaving my car outside the garage was symbolic for me, to not to hide behind the walls of my fortress and grieve; instead, get out into the open and confront my future.

I refuse to get distraught and blame myself or anyone that is a part of my life. I won’t hide behind a smile when life gets tough; I will express, not repress normal emotions I feel and deal with them. I now believe that even though my life has suddenly changed, I will strive to execute courage and take on these challenges directly, while spreading awareness to others faced with Premature Ovarian Failure. You are not alone.