PCOS Story: Aime Durber explains how lifestyle changes helped to reduce her PCOS symptoms

Fitness

Hi, I’m Aime Durber, I’ve just turned 30 and spent this milestone birthday in lockdown! I work full time for Next and I have recently qualified as a fitness instructor so next year will be an exciting time for me when I will be able to start my new venture. Let’s hope that ‘normal life’ can resume early next year! 

I’m here to share my PCOS experiences with you as I recently posted my story on my personal Facebook page and for a lot of my friends and family this was the first time they had heard about my diagnosis. I have gained a lot of support from opening up about my story so I would urge you to do the same if you can. You may need the support more than you realise and it will be useful for those close to you to understand what you go through whilst living with PCOS, especially after this year being as tough as it has been for a lot of us; we need to talk more openly to each other. 

I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was around 20 years old. In my head, I’d ‘known’ for several years that I had PCOS as I had read a lot of the real-life stories in magazines and was aware of the signs and symptoms, of which I had experienced most of them, and I knew that there is no cure.

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Prior to being diagnosed, I’d always had irregular periods, at least every other month, but one day in conversation at university I mentioned not having had a period for six months and that I knew I wasn’t pregnant. My friends turned to google and found that having absent periods can lead to an increased risk of endometrial cancer. This scared me into going to see my doctor to see what was really going on with my body. I consider myself to be very lucky with my diagnosis as many women can battle for years to get diagnosed and I’d had tests and referrals within six months.

At my GP appointment, I started by saying “I think I have PCOS” and got a judgemental look as though to say “ok, then Dr google!”. I explained my symptoms and got booked in for blood tests and an ultrasound. At my ultrasound, I had to wait with a bursting bladder in a department where I was surrounded by pregnant women and as PCOS is one of the biggest causes of fertility issues this made me feel very uncomfortable. The radiographer did the scan and the only time she spoke was to ask if I was happy to have an internal scan for a better view. The silence made time seem to go very slowly.

At the end, I was given a sealed envelope to take back to my GP who later confirmed it was PCOS and from memory my testosterone and LH levels were high and my oestrogen levels were low. I was then referred to gynaecology specialists. My referral letter mentioned ovarian drilling and I got myself worked up so much that I broke down in tears in the consultants’ office because I’d been thinking I’d be facing surgery by myself. The only thing I gained from that consultation was a prescription for a hormonal contraceptive which would regulate my bleeding. I really struggled to get my head around this diagnosis, even though I’d highly expected it. I got home and drank a LOT just to try and blank the day out.

When I tried to get my repeat prescription a few months later after moving to Watford it was declined. I’d gained weight by this point so was over the “safe” limit, I was advised to book an appointment with a GP to discuss my options, something I never did because the main advice I took away from this was to try to lose weight as it really can help with my PCOS symptoms.

I tried to lose weight but found it really tough so I rationed what pills I had left and tried to gain a prescription online. I knew the threshold for what my weight needed to be so whilst I tried to lose weight I also lied about my weight loss but unfortunately, it did not work.

Two years went by without any periods and I put the risks to the back of my mind hoping that losing weight would either start them or I’d be eligible for my prescription but soon I started to experience light bleeding which lasted 10 days; abnormal bleeding can be a sign of cancer and while I felt everything was fine the only way I could silence that niggling voice was to book a GP appointment. By this point, I’d started the process of moving house again and didn’t want to rush finding a new GP so commuted back down to Watford for an appointment. My GP was lovely and again reiterated that I needed to be having at least 3 periods per year and to try to lose weight. She booked blood tests and another ultrasound, unfortunately, I could only get an early morning Monday appointment which meant me sleeping a night on a deflated air bed as luckily I still had my flat in Watford. On this occasion, my bloods came back as normal, which can be quite common. Symptoms of PCOS can come and go which can result in tests sometimes coming back as ‘normal’ and not revealing the true picture.  

At the end of the day, the diagnosis doesn’t make much difference to me as the symptoms are treatable. I have progesterone tablets which, if needed, will induce a bleed. So far in over 18 months, I’ve only had to use these pills once, but that once was a reminder of what my body should naturally be doing and wasn’t. 

In just under 3 years I’ve lost 4 stone and still have another 3 stone to lose to be a healthy weight. I’ve realised that persistence and accepting the number on the scale is much better for my confidence and mental health than obsessing over it. For a lot of people, scales can be very much feared and any gained weight can be very disheartening. I know now that I fluctuate and yes at times it can be soul destroying when you’ve worked really hard and that number just doesn’t move but I’ve learned I just need to keep going. Outside of lockdown, I was doing a mixture of weight and cardio classes at my local leisure centre and I’ve lost 1.5 stone so far this year. I’ve attached a progress shot to show you me at my heaviest and me now. In between the two photos, my weight has fluctuated which is why it’s taken time to lose weight, I haven’t rushed the process as I know that would be unhealthy for me.

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The 1st lockdown at the beginning of this year was a lot harder for me in regards to my mood and mental health as my mood can drop at times just from a lazy weekend but thankfully when Monday comes around and I have work and I’m around people, it’s like a big reset button. When the lockdown was initially announced the thought of not seeing anyone for an indefinite amount of time was so tough for me to face, but I am so proud of myself for getting through it and sticking to my fitness training. Luckily the 2nd lockdown wasn’t as tough as I felt mentally prepared and when the gyms closed I was training and learning choreography in the hope of getting signed off as a fitness instructor so that kept me busy and active and also this time around I wasn’t furloughed which helped me financially as well as mentally.

I feel in control of my symptoms now and manage my excess hair with a lot of plucking. Luckily my periods have kept coming since I lost my weight so there is no need for Provera other than once at the beginning of this year.

Losing weight has given me a new lease of life, helped me manage my symptoms, and given my mental health a boost so I would recommend an active lifestyle to anyone who will listen. It really could help change your life too. And also please talk openly about anything and everything, talking can be the best therapy for you and those around you.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy Christmas, love Aime. x