having a cow

FROM A READER: “It sounds like your hormones are definitely up the wop at the moment. However, FSH levels are not reliable as they can vary. A better indicator of fertility these days is the AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone)test.Look that up. Maybe you could get that done. But I would be worried about high estrogen levels – due to the association with breast cancer and would try to lower it if I could. Maybe you could look into ways of balancing hormones naturally etc – i.e evening primrose, agnus castus etc. Try not to have any alcohol for a while or too much caffeine.”

This comment NEARLY gave me hives. I realize that wasn’t your intent, of course, but you’ve just focused my attention to yet another concern. First I had to google “up the wop,” fearing it was a technical medical slang. I still don’t know what it means, but I figure it’s polite for “you’re fcuked.” So then I look up “how to lower estrogen levels,” because I won’t be affronted by a list of possible diseases I likely have (the only result of medical searches), and in only two days time since my appointment, I feel like my life is going to become unrecognizable… cutting out dairy (I can’t imagine. I live off Greek yogurt for its protein. Adore frozen yogurt as a special treat. I could learn to live without meat, I could, but to live without meat *and* sugar *and* cheese? All three? To live a life of chicken and almond milk and no soy? THAT calls for Drama and whining. I just can’t imagine. Mostly the sugar thing, especially when asked to limit my fruit intake. Limiting anything, actually, makes me lunge for it immediately. Whereas, if you tell me I can have all that I want of something, there will undoubtedly be an initial spike (read: binge), but then there’s a leveling. But if you get all “off limits” on me, I’ll climb barbed wire to milk a cow, then have one.

I realize people have health scares for a reason, to redirect them, to wake them up, rattle them into important. I have been unable to sleep. Now *need* to take Ambien. Thankfully I’ve been “off” caffeine for a year now, so that’s not an issue. And I don’t drink all that regularly, a few times a week, a glass or so, sometimes none. But now? With all this news of HIGH estrogen levels and menopausal range hormone levels, never even mind this “common potato” PCOS (which is likely the least of it), all I want to do is have a glass of wine or five to get myself to sleep. I am very disturbed.

I realize, of course!, that this isn’t anything as close to as serious as Phil’s heart issues or what Lucas has dealt with, given his brain surgery. Of course. But it’s the very first time in my life where my mortality is even something that’s bubbled to the top. I realize this happens, and that I’m lucky not to have worried about my health up until this point, at thirty-six, but it is alarming to me. The change of it all, the changes that have to happen with diet and exercise (consistent) were always a luxury, a vanity, never a necessity. And it does, it scares the shit out of me. Though not literally because I haven’t been able to stop eating since receiving this phone call from my doctor. I’ll leave that comment alone, actually.

All that aired, I’d still rather have well-meaning concern than be in it alone, so thank you. All of you. And if you know of any friends in Florida with a “friend” visiting, I can take all the bleeding friends I can get. A girl can only hope to have such a profound influence on a friend, right? Let’s right this wrong together.

Oh, and in case my tone is all over the place, then I’ve done my job. Because *I* am all over the place, high and low, serious, scoffing, this is nothing relax, this is something, what are you waiting for? I’m here there and everywhere.

I’m also bored by The Bachelor this season. And, I miss Lost.



  1. There is something completely terrifying when the matriarch is faced with being really truly sick or needs to make a life change to prevent herself from being truly sick. It rattles you in a way you had never imagined. My mom has always cared for all of us and been the healthy/strong one through some really serious/ life threatening times. She had heart failure 2-days after Christmas this year. It forces one to put things in perspective. I admire and thank you for talking about what you are going through; I wish my mom would. I will pray that you get some concrete answers Stephanie. I pray there is an easy solution.

  2. In someone your age, FSH is usually checked to rule out premature ovarian failure – in other words, abnormally early menopause. The reason your doctor said that your test results don’t “make sense” is that a high menopausal level of FSH is typically associated with low levels of estrogen. When women reach menopause, their ovaries stop working normally and no longer produce estrogen, which triggers the body to release more FSH. Your high FSH is hard to interpret because your estrogen level is high too, making premature ovarian failure much less likely…which is a good thing!

    It’s possible that your labs were ordered at the wrong time in your cycle for accurate diagnosis, but either way, it sounds like your doctor is recommending the next logical step in evaluation. He’s also right that having only 3 periods a year isn’t ideal because the lining of the uterus just builds up and never sheds. If you let that go on for many, many more years, that could put you at higher risk of uterine cancer. However, your risk of that right now is nearly non-existant and this problem can easily be remedied with either birth control pills or a Mirena IUD. High levels of estrogen are associated with breast cancer, but that’s over a lifetime. I don’t think this one lab value indicates you should be concerned about that.

    So, to sum up: there is no reason to worry right now or even consider changing your diet.

    Hope this helps you sleep well.

    —from an anonymous gynecologist

    1. Author

      Oh, goodness. Thank you. This has made me feel much better. I won’t eat cake for breakfast or anything, but I can have a normal day now. I’m going to the gym, then I plan to paint with my watercolors (maybe at the ocean!). You’re such a peach. Thank you.

      1. Stephanie – I also had FSH tests run at the “wrong time in my cycle” which totally skewed what was going on and led to a lot of unnecessary drama… I was trying to conceive at the time. One doctor ordered it, and the second doctor, who read the results, was like “WTF?” about when during the cycle the test was run. End of story – all was fine, and also I was able to successfully conceive baby #4 (born healthy 6 months after my 40th birthday). Take care.

    2. Author

      Just got new news today. My FSH is still in the menopausal range, after taking three months of birth control pills. Would love your take on it. Truly. See today’s (May 2, 2012) post.

  3. Well, never intended to alarm you that much so sorry about that. Just really saying that there are some things you can do help to balance hormones, seeing as yours are a bit out (does that sound better). Good luck with it all. Maybe you could ask your mum and grandmother – or ask your mum about your grandmother to figure out when they went into menopause. Might give some idea when you might be likely to. But I doubt your goods have dried up just yet. Could be stress related or to do with weight loss like you said – or maybe the cysts. I can’t claim to be an anonymous gynaecologist though – only an archair analyst.

  4. I have very little contribute except this….if you miss Lost, check out the new series Alcatraz. I’ve only watched the first episode and it reminds me of the early days of Lost – and not just because Hurley is in it!

    1. This is exactly what I came here to say. I am no help at all for the medical stuff, but I have been suffering serious LOST withdrawal, and Alcatraz is my new drug. It has a similar feel (and a nearly identical soundtrack, which plays a big part). Plus, Hurley, which is is awesome.

  5. Just a warning: that provera does work well, but in can bring on some serious SERIOUS cramping and major flowing! Particularly if your lining hasn’t been shed like it should have been. I had to take it several months early last year–seems like also, that after you have a “mock” period for 7-10 days, you will have a period of your own in about a week? Is that right???? I can’t remember. I DO remember though, the VERY VERY strong period from that first dose. Be prepared for some heavy cramping pains. Good luck, I hope it all goes well.

  6. Watch Homeland from the first episode . You will forget all your issues. Promise.

    1. Oh, I’ve been there. Watched it live and LIVED for that show. I cannot wait for the next season. Also, what is happening with Mad Men?! Ever returning?

  7. “Mad Men” is coming back, just be patient, young lady. The creator had to negotiate his money and that’s why there’s a delay. In the meantime I rewatch “Dream On” (80s!!), “CSI” and “Gilmore Girls”. You should check out “Sherlock” (3 episodes). I want to watch “Thirtysomething” but can’t find it anywhere.

  8. Entire series of “thirtysomething” is available on netflix instant streaming. Glad to know i am not the only one i adored that when it came out.

  9. Just finished your book. Friend in EW recommended it. You go and keep going! Self discovery is so under-rated!

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