20+ Pounds for 20+ Years – A Letter of Love to Women with PCOS

To the Reader…

Hello! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. I hope it might be of some help to bring some knowledge about PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrom) that you may not have known before.

I want to make sure that all who are reading this know that I am not a medical professional nor am I trying to recommend or convince anyone to make the same decisions I made regarding their health. I know there are many who believe in the care of doctors and many who don’t. Please do not think I am trying to persuade anyone for any type of treatment. I am simply giving you the facts of my story in the hopes that there may be someone out there who can benefit from my personal experience and what I have learned. Thank you and I hope you will continue reading on!

I have always been grateful for my life and for the body that I have. I have never been upset that I wasn’t taller, being short (5′ 3.5″) makes wearing heels more fun! I don’t compare myself to other women. I have not been jealous or intimidated by other women’s sizes or figures, or beauty, nor do I judge other women for their size. In fact, I can enjoy looking at a woman and appreciate her beauty as a creation of God with no qualms or insecurities on my part. I try very hard not to judge a person by their outside “cover” or outward appearance. I keep my focus upon as much of the person’s heart as they will allow and know them by the fruit they produce.

Until I was 30 years old, I never weighed more than 110 pounds. I don’t say this to brag, just to pass along information so you will have a better understanding of my story. When my husband, Josh, and I began trying to start our family with no success for a year, I knew something was wrong. I then began going through the ever humiliating, emotionally draining, mentally exhausting and highly expensive testing of infertility. Through that process, I learned that there were a few things wrong with me, one of them being that I was diagnosed with PCOS or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is actually quite common among women.

After almost four years of treatment with various doctors and having a near death experience, I went to an amazing infertility doctor, Dr. Jay Nemiro, who did more testing and discovered I had even more things wrong with me and was not able to get pregnant at all without extreme medication and surgery. Dr. Nemiro then put me on an extensive–and expensive, treatment plan. During this time, I went up to 120 pounds and really liked the way I looked. I had a bit of shape to me and didn’t look so much like a “stick person”.

After another year of treatment and another near-death experience, (which Dr. Nemiro saved me from and is a story in the infertility blog I’m working on) God richly blessed us with our precious baby girl, Aven Salei. Thank You, Jesus! After that, I was told by my doctor that my body did a “reset” and all which was once wrong with me was wrong no more. Of course, I knew that it was the healing power of Jesus Christ setting me free from infertility and making it possible for me to have more children without the costs and pains of infertility treatments.

After having Aven, I had no trouble getting pregnant–none at all. I got pregnant with MaCaedyn “a-naturelle” and was even using birth control when I got pregnant with Samuel! The Lord had completely healed me of my infertility—again, that is part of my infertility blog, still yet to come.

With each blessed pregnancy, I gained 50 pounds and would lose all but about ten pounds after Samuel was born. (Nursing, good diet and exercise do the trick ladies!)

When I reached 40 years of age, my metabolism came to a screeching halt. Though it was a new challenge for me, it taught me to be more disciplined with what I ate and to work out harder than I used to.

When I turned 43 I had a few other things change within my body. First of all, I turned positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis. From what I was told by my RA, I have no levels of that particular arthritis, but I do have the auto-immune complication and problems with my hands functioning properly. There is pain in my hands, wrists, and toes, and there are days when I hurt from head to toe, but that can improve from day to day depending upon what I do. The biggest challenge I deal with is the tremendous weakness in my hands and wrists. I have learned how to function differently and what to do to help my hands, so all in all–in my opinion, having no levels of RA was God’s way of intervening for me so the situation wasn’t worse.

You will never hear me say, “I have arthritis.” This is a condition that God did not create me to have and therefore I do not claim it. I always state that “I am battling arthritis” and to be honest, I am grateful that is all I have when there are so many people out there battling life-threatening conditions.

In addition to having this new battle for my body, I also became “Perimenopausal”, which means I was in the early stages of menopause. Now, I know you are probably thinking, “Wait, she said she was 43 years old, isn’t that too young for starting menopause?” I would answer that you would be correct, though ages for women beginning that process can vary. For me, I think that my female organs were always so confused and pathetic at functioning they decided to just go ahead and give up.

At 43 I began battling RA and started “The Change” as some call it, again, thankful that was all I had to battle. I was determined to handle all of it with the healing help of Jesus Christ, education, good diet, and exercise. I tightened up my regiment and really started studying more about the different foods out there which could assist me with handling both conditions.

It was about this time that I got into juicing. I love the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” with Joe Cross, and I was given the lovely gift of a fantastic juicer. I began juicing fresh fruits and veggies daily, giving it to my family… accept my girl, MaCaedyn, I am still praying for the tastebuds of MaCaedyn, and I was loving every juice I made.

For two years I kept up with my healthy diet and tried to keep my exercise regiment strong. I was able to stop taking meds for the RA and only take an ibuprofen occasionally when needed, which made me very happy, but when I turned 45, I started to gain weight.

At first, I didn’t panic. I knew that I was in the beginning stages of menopause, so I visited my doctor to see if there was anything I could do to help the situation. Tests were done and I learned that my hormones were going pretty crazy and hormone therapy was recommended.

I prayed and thought about it for a period of time and decided to give it a try for a period of time. I began treatment, but after a year I didn’t see any improvement in my weight loss.

I then turned 46 and the battle with the mysterious weight gain continued–only it was getting worse. My husband and I planned a trip to celebrate my daughter MaCaedyn’s birthday at Disneyland and while we were there we would be celebrating our 19th anniversary of married bliss! That day we went to the beach and I remember being so sad because my swimsuit barely fit me and I did everything I could to keep myself covered up. I calculated that I had gained fifteen pounds over the course of the past year but I could not figure out why.

If I was eating poorly or not taking care of myself by exercising then I would have had a better understanding as to what was happening, plus due to the battle with RA, I was very careful about not eating gluten, sugars, starches, nightshade veggies, etc. But my doctor assured me that the hormone therapy was supposed to be helping my weight to balance. If that was the case, why was I constantly gaining weight and not able to shed a pound of it?

The situation was now beginning to affect me mentally and emotionally. I was frustrated, confused, tired, embarrassed and all of it was bringing me into depression. What I was doing was not working for me and I knew that something had to change. I went back to the doctor and after more tests and discussions I decided to stop the hormone therapy as I had read that can sometimes cause weight gain in some women. Even after six months had passed without the hormone therapy, there was no change. The weight did not go away, in fact, it kept coming.

I for one believe that God can heal us instantly (I’ve had that happen several times) and I also believe that God can heal us over a course of time. So, instead of just trying to push this situation away from me, I wanted to see what it was God wanted me to learn from it.

As I said before, weight for me with myself or with other people was not an issue. I never judged anyone for their weight, looked upon them poorly or with disrespect. I like to look at the heart of a person and not keep my focus on the outside. Having said that, I have never experienced what it was like for people who battle their weight. I never understood how hard it was to lose weight. I never knew what it was like to dread opening the closet or the drawer and get dressed. I never knew their private pain or understood their personal struggle.

When I looked at my situation as a lesson from the Lord instead of a problem, my spirit became quiet about it. I turned my eyes from myself and placed them upon others who I knew were going the through the same thing or had been battling their weight for years.
When I did, God filled my heart with great compassion. Although I didn’t know all that they might have gone through with their weight, I felt that I wanted to treat them with some extra special care and love and make sure I let them know that they were beautiful, important and loved.

This brought me great joy and although I didn’t give up trying to lose my weight, I was not angry about it.

Now, if you are anything like me, you know your body very well. I’ve lived with mine for quite some time and I know when there is something not quite right. Although I had come to a more peaceful place with this particular situation, still, I knew I wasn’t done trying to figure it out. I kept praying for help and felt led to go back to the doctor, only this time, I couldn’t see my usual doctor so I chose to see someone different.

When the doctor arrived, she had with her a nurse practitioner who was shadowing that day. They asked if she could visit with me and of course, I welcomed her to do so. While discussing the situation, the nurse practitioner was looking over my doctor’s shoulder and quietly said, “I see that she has PCOS.”

This caught my attention, “I was diagnosed with that years ago,” I replied.

“Well, that can cause insulin resistance in some women,” the nurse practitioner replied.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means that instead of your sugars being burned, they are being stored as fat,” she explained.

I paused to take this information and process it, then asked, “What can be done for that?”

“If you chose, you can take Metformin, it is the same medication–”

“Taken for diabetes,” I interrupted. I knew this well as many of my extended relatives, including my mother, are diabetic and take Metformin.

It was not a hard decision for me to take the medication as I knew I had prayed for so long, asking God for help with my weight and to figure out what was wrong. As I said before, I believe God can heal us without any help from anyone, as I have had it happen many times, and I also believe that God gives us help through doctors who He has given the knowledge to help us.

I began taking the Metformin that week and the weight started coming off! The next week I set a goal for myself. My twentieth anniversary was ahead of me on May 13th and my husband had planned an incredible beach vacation for our family in Oceanside to celebrate our beautiful love and marriage and I was going to lose twenty pounds by that time.

Long story shorter (too late), I did lose those twenty pounds and so I pressed on with the weight loss, deciding that I was going to be happily married for as many years as the Lord blessed me with and so I would keep working to lose weight and get myself strong in body, mind, and spirit so that I can be with my husband, children and someday grandchildren for as long as possible. Twenty plus pounds for twenty plus years is what I decided to do and I am happily still walking that healthy road.

I am grateful for this experience for several reasons. It taught me so much more compassion for others who struggle with their weight. It taught me to never think that I have all of the answers for people and their weight loss–not that I ever thought I did, but I have had experiences with people like that and though I’m sure they mean well, their words can sometimes bring shame or embarrassment to the situation instead of support. A person who is struggling to find help for themselves should not feel shamed but encouraged. It also taught me more about the PCOS condition that I battle, and that it can cause unwanted weight gain– but there is hope!

Before closing, I would like to say—and I say this with much respect and kindness, please, if you are a person who does not believe in doctors or taking medication, please do not send me your anti-doctor or anti-medication comments. Everyone is different and people must make the choices for themselves that they feel are best. I am not trying to influence anyone to make any choices for themselves. I simply wanted to write this blog to share what I experienced and learned because I thought it might help someone else who might be experiencing the same thing and is also searching for answers. I just want to help anyone who is out there living with the same confusion and frustration that I had to know they are not alone.

I also want to encourage women out there to never quit trying to find answers if you think there is something wrong with your body. You know yourself best, so listen to your body! It also doesn’t hurt to get that second opinion. Sometimes having a fresh set of eyes upon your records and a different mind of ideas can be a good thing! And always know, above everything else, God looks at your heart, (1 Samuel 16:7) not the physical heart, (which is also important to take care of for your life and family!) but the spiritual heart. In time, the outside beauty will fade away and grow old, but the beauty of the heart can last forever!

God bless you and thank you for reading!

 

Heartbreak and Perspective – A Reflection of Aven’s Gymnastics Career

When my oldest child, Aven Salei, was 4 years old she wanted to take ballet classes. We found a great local school and she happily began. She danced beautifully for 4 years until we began to notice her tumbling every day in the backyard and flipping around the bars of the swing set. I remember my mother watching her one day and confirming what we already thought by saying, “Honey, you’ve got to get that little thing in gymnastics. She is a gymnast.”  So just before she turned 9 we enrolled her in the beginning class at the Arizona Sunray’s gym and discovered we were right, Aven was a natural born gymnast, with no fear to try anything the coaches taught her.

I remember the coaches coming and talking to Josh or myself at different times, before the class seasons were over, “Aven needs to move up. Aven has already learned all of the skills for this level and needs to go on.” This happened until the only place she could go was to a team. We attended an orientation and decided that the best fit for our family financially was to have her go into the Excel program. This program gave students the ability to choreograph their own routines, choose their own music and advance at their pace.

The Excel program works upon levels of bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond. When Aven started her bronze season we were so excited. We didn’t know anything about the sport except what we heard being spoken when watching it on tv. Aven loved every minute of it and we loved watching her. We were learning a lot about the sport and enjoyed seeing her so happy, so strong, and so beautiful. She had many dreams of what she wanted to do with her gymnastics.

At the end of that year we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the coaches wanted to move Aven from bronze to gold and skip the silver level altogether. She was so excited and so were we, but after her very first day of training for the gold level, my husband, Josh, got laid off from his job. This was the third time this had happened to Josh over the course of the past ten years so we knew how to handle this situation: by claiming the promises made in God’s Word, the power of prayer, strong faith, and constant trust. We immediately went to prayer for Josh to find a new job and for God to provide for our family. I remember the prayer I prayed about Aven’s gymnastics. It was short, direct and full of trust.

“Heavenly Father, You know the current situation that our family is in financially. You also know how hard Aven has worked to get to where she is with her gymnastics. Right now, there is no possible way for us to pay for her to continue, so if this is Your will, you will make a way for her and provide all of the funds for her gold season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Now, keep in mind, paying for a gymnastics season is not like investing in your average sport. It is a serious financial commitment, but we knew that if God wanted her to continue, He would make a way.

The very next day I received word from an extremely generous person who loves our family very much. We learned that they wanted to not only pay for Aven’s classes so she could press on with her gymnastics dreams while Josh hunted for a job, but they were also going to pay for our other two children, Samuel and MaCaedyn, who were working diligently on becoming black belts in Tae Kwon Do and were not too far away from their goal.

We were overwhelmed. The joy of knowing our children didn’t have to quit pursuing their dreams, the gratitude we felt for such incredible generosity which was given for our children and the compassion this person had for our situation was amazing. The blessing that God gave us of providing for the children was wonderful enough, but we also were blessed to know that God had answered us directly to confirm that it was His will for Aven to continue in her gymnastics. And so she did. Because of the loving generosity of this individual which was extended to our children for almost an entire year while Josh desperately looked for a job. It is a debt I hope that someday we can repay, if not back to the person directly, through giving to others in situations of need.

Aven went on to have a wonderful gold season, placing in several events in various meets. But before she was to compete in the state meet, I noticed her hiding her hand from me. I learned that she had broken her middle finger in a practice and didn’t tell me because she was afraid that I wouldn’t let her compete. She did compete and went on to place 2nd on floor and 4th on vault. Proving that her love for the sport and her tolerance for pain were both very great.

When Aven began her platinum season she started with some new challenges. She had a growth spurt and had grown 5 inches in less than a year. She went from being 5′ to 5’5″, with 39″ of that being in her legs. She began having some serious lower back pain and could no longer perform some of the skills which she had easily done before, such as standing back handsprings, and back walkovers. We began physical therapy for her back troubles and learned from the doctor that because of her height and leg length, her center of gravity had shifted greatly. He told her that she needed to try and stay away from the skills where she had no momentum to flip her legs over. That would help take away the stress from her lower back. Aven listened, pressed on and persevered.

Next, she began having feet woe. Her father, Josh, suffers terribly from Plantar’s Fasciitis and Aven was diagnosed with the same problem. She began experiencing pain while performing on the beam and her landings on the floor event were becoming more and more painful. But, again, she pressed on and persevered. Her platinum season didn’t bring as many places in events as in previous years, but she learned that winning didn’t always involve receiving medals or trophies. If you read my other blog titled “The Dignity and Grace of Aven Salei on Her 14th Birthday” you will understand what I mean.

Each summer, Aven would get up 4 days a week and train from 7:30am to 11:30am, then in the fall, her schedule would shift to 4 evenings a week. Not as much as some train, but still, a commitment which demanded hard work and determination. During these days, Josh and I had our reflections upon those who went on to compete on college levels or the Olympics. We caught a glimpse of the kinds of sacrifices these athletes and their families make, both in time, finances and determination. It gave us a great respect for these families and their dedication to their dreams.

As Aven began her last year as a diamond competitor she had several different thoughts and emotions. She was excited to have made it to the highest level in the Xcel program and she was so happy to have made all the friends she had through the years. This was another blessing to our family. The coaches Aven has had and the girls on her teams have been incredible. We never saw any kind of jealousy or unhealthy competition among any of the girls at the gym. They all sincerely express love for each other and support one another, displaying what true teammates are supposed to be. They have built strong and happy, healthy friendships that I’m sure will last into the years to come. The friends Aven has won are the real prizes of gold.

Aven started training for the diamond season in May and she trained diligently until January for it. We couldn’t wait to see what all she had learned and how she had grown as every day she excelled more and more. Her season began with an Intrasquad meet, which is held by her own gym for her coaches to judge and review her skills and make sure she was set for the season. That was followed by another judges critique meet that did not have recorded scores. There was another meet in California that we couldn’t make, but on February 11, 2018, she had her favorite meet of the season, The Classic Rock, one of the largest meets in the country and the one which was hosted by her gym Arizona Sunrays.  Josh and I couldn’t wait to watch her. She had a beautiful warm up and then her team moved to the vault. She did three beautiful practice vaults (which I sadly did not video) and then the team began competing.

A few girls on the team had vaulted and we were cheering them on when Josh said, “Aven’s hurt.” What? How? She just ran by us and was fine, how did she get hurt?

Apparently, while waiting her turn to vault, she was doing a drill and somehow she rolled her ankle. She said she felt it pop and it began to swell immediately. Yet, she was trying to walk it off so she could still vault. Her coach took one look at it and upon seeing the swelling, immediately made her scratch and sent her to the medic. The medic told me to go get it x-rayed, which we immediately did. I took her to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Urgent Care on Shea Road. They told me that it wasn’t fractured, only sprained and full of fluid which would absorb back into her system, but that she could not resume her activities until she had seen an orthopedic doctor. We were extremely sad that she missed her favorite meet and also would miss her Winterfest meet in Flagstaff that next weekend. Still, we tried to be positive and were so thankful that it wasn’t broken and she would still have two meets left that season where she could compete for her last year so we could see her.

Josh made the appointment with the orthopedic doctor for February 14, 2018.

I woke up on that morning full of excitement for the day. Throughout my life I have always loved Valentine’s Day, even when I was single, I enjoyed having an excuse to enjoy some dark chocolate and watch romantic movies.

I had planned all kinds of fun things for my children and husband, starting with heart shaped biscuits for breakfast and enjoying a special Valentine’s show of The Price is Right with my kids. I had planned a special lesson for homeschool on St. Valentine with a some French, the language of love, then we did a study on our state of Arizona whose birthday is on Valentine’s Day. Josh was going to help me out by taking Aven to the doctor so I could keep working with our two youngest children, Samuel and MaCaedyn, on their school studies.

It was a rainy day in Phoenix and I was curious how long it would last… because rain in Phoenix is a rarity. I flipped on the news to catch the weather report but instead, I caught the breaking news: another shooting was taking place, this time in a high school in Parkland, Florida. I held my breath as I listened and watched the scene unfold for the world. The shooter was still at large and there was no information on how many kids or teachers had been shot.

After watching and praying for several minutes, I turned the tv off and went back to working with Samuel and MaCaedyn, but my mind was very distracted by what was taking place for so many terrified families in Florida. I couldn’t imagine what they were going through and was so thankful that I had the blessing of being able to homeschool my children.

When we heard Josh pull up in the driveway later that afternoon, I immediately got out his Valentine’s Day gift to surprise him. Josh loves cheese, rare and foreign. He calls them “cheeses of the world”, so I bought him a couple for his Valentine gift. I heard them come in the door followed by a shriek from MaCaedyn. I turned around and saw Aven was wearing a bright blue cast from her knee down.

My heart broke. I couldn’t believe it. I knew in that moment, her competitive season was over. I hugged her and began to cry. I thought about all of the hours, all of the pain she endured and fought thro was frustrated. Three different times I have taken my children to an urgent care facility for x-rays and three times I was told there was no break when in fact, they were broken. Once for Aven’s finger, once for MaCaedyn’s thumb and now this. Word to the wise, in my opinion, if you are in an emergency situation and need x-rays go to a hospital over an urgent care.

Aven immediately sat down and tried to do something positive with her situation, so she began painting her cast. Since Tom Holland, aka Spiderman, is her dream of a true love, she made herself a Spiderman cast. We were all very sad, but I told Josh, “Since we knew her doing gymnastics was God’s will, and He allowed this to happen, there has to be a reason. We have to keep our trust in Him. I hate this for her, but I have to trust in Him.”

Learning to trust God has not been an easy lesson for me to learn. For years through Josh’s layoffs, illnesses or other trials, I always had great faith that God could change the circumstance, but I did not always trust Him. I learned that having faith that God could do something was easy, but to trust Him was much harder because it meant you have to completely leave the situation at the feet of the Lord and keep your hands off. Sometimes trusting requires waiting, and sometimes, like in this case, you are just left with no clear answer as to why the trial happened and you just have to accept it. Thank God, we finally learned to trust Him or else this would have been much harder for us.

My mind then went back to the families in Parkland, FL. I turned the news back on and sank into the chair behind me when I read the words across the bottom of the screen: “17 dead, 14 injured”. In that moment, my perspective changed. Yes, Aven’s injury was real and her situation was something to be grieved, but her leg would heal and this time would pass. Aven was alive.

My heart broke for all of the families who had sent their children to school that day as they had for so many years and learned they would never be coming home. My mind went even farther, to parents who were still grieving the loss of their children due to other shootings, and even my mind went beyond the deaths that made the news to all of the parents in the world who had lost their children that day from illness, or accidents or something other unforeseen tragedy. Suddenly, I was thankful for our situation. Aven was injured, but Aven was alive. I was thankful for all of the days that I got to see her compete when so many parents never get the chance to see their child play a sport due to illness or handicaps. I was thankful that a fractured ankle was all she had and while her dreams of competitive gymnastics had ended, there were still many other dreams she had left to fulfill.

Instead of giving their children Valentine’s hearts that day, the Parkland parents were trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts. Instead of planning out their children’s college days, they were going to be planning funerals. Instead of living their lives as they had with their children, they were faced with the horrifying truth that they would never see them smile again, be able to hug them, hear their voice, their laugh, their ideas, their dreams. Their time together was over.

I dried my eyes and went in to hug and kiss Aven and my other two children. I was so thankful. I knew that Aven’s dreams of gymnastics were not over, just the competing part. She still has big dreams of going on to learn more skills, becoming a coach and teaching children in need who cannot afford such a luxury. She is so wonderful with other children and loves to spend time teaching them. I know she will make a wonderful coach someday.

I joked with Aven telling her that we knew the door was closing this year to her competitive gymnastics career, it just got slammed shut more quickly… and on her ankle. She laughed.

Aven’s attitude and courage have helped us all. She has her moments with it from time to time, but those who have reached out to us during this time have brought her tremendous support and joy and the girls, coaches and staff members of Arizona sunrays have been wonderful. They have already offered her a part-time job teaching little children which she will be happy to accept when she is well. Her cast comes off on March 14th and she is determined to still try and compete in the state meet on March 22nd. We’ll have to see what the doctor says, but are inspired by her determination to never give up.

I wanted to write this story so that others can see how good God has been to our family and hopefully, if there is anyone out there who is in the same situation, if you haven’t tried Jesus to help you in your trial, I would highly recommend Him to you. I hope that other kids will also see that just because one door closes where your dreams are concerned, if you keep your head up high, trust in God and keep believing in your dreams, other great things can still happen for you.

We are so thankful to the Lord for blessing us with the strong, beautiful, courageous girl and we are more than thankful that she is alive, well and with us. Our thoughts and daily prayers will always be with the Parkland families and all of the other families who have lost children before their time, for their lives will never be the same again. May our wonderful God, Jehovah, pour out His love, strength, and peace that passes understanding upon them all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.