Womanhood comes with many challenges, including several female-specific health issues. We want to spotlight three women who deal with health issues such as these but have chosen to live ambitious and fulfilling lives regardless of their setbacks.
Pam, a mother of four, including an adult with special needs, suffers from fibromyalgia. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia over 25 years ago. “I’ve learned to manage the symptoms through diet, exercise, and daily routines,” she says. “Despite feeling like I have the flu most days—with chronic body aches and fatigue—it has just become a normal way of life. Most people have no idea that I even battle this condition. Lack of sleep, weather changes, stress, and simply ‘overdoing it’ can all be triggers for a more serious fibro flare up. It is still important to me that I keep an organized, clean home; work in the yard regularly; and care for a special needs adult. The key for me has been balance—knowing when to take frequent breaks or even give myself an extra gentle day.”
At just 20 years old, Lexi suffers from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She says, “Last year I first started developing symptoms of hormonal imbalances without even knowing it. My moods were all over the place; my weight fluctuated all the time; I had terrible acne; my hair thinned quite a bit and would fall out every time I brushed or washed it; and my cycles were completely irregular.
I made an appointment with my primary care physician last summer. After running lots of blood tests and ultrasounds, I was diagnosed with PCOS. This means that I produce more male hormones, and my ovaries will always produce cysts. This can make periods and ovulating very painful because the cysts can (and often do) rupture.
My doctor suggested birth control as a way to regulate my hormones. I tried the pill, but then I bled for six whole weeks! After some trial and error, I got an arm implant. Ever since then I have been fine! My hair has started to grow back—there are baby hairs galore! My moods and periods have improved so much. Seeking medical treatment was the best decision! I had no idea that my symptoms weren’t normal until my doctor diagnosed me. Now I barely have any symptoms and my life has improved so much!”
Lynn, mother of four and grandmother of seven, is a breast cancer survivor:
“When I got diagnosed with cancer the first time, I couldn’t function,” she says. “The fear was so overwhelming that I couldn’t handle it. All I did was sit in my pajamas all day—I didn’t turn on the lights or even eat until my kids came home. Instead of raiding the fridge as soon as they came home like they usually did, my kids all sat down and cried with me. At that point I realized I needed to get up and get moving because I had taught them their whole lives to have faith and be strong.
I learned that you can’t make big decisions about medical treatments when you’re so scared. You have to get on top of the fear before you can make any big decisions. Hope is truly the only thing that pushes you forward. One of my biggest cheerleaders was my husband, Jeff. I’ve seen so many other women who struggled with cancer and didn’t have that support.
The second time I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a grandchild. I realized that I was going to miss the opportunity to watch her grow up if I didn’t do my best to keep living my life. I found that if I would stop and serve someone else I would stop thinking about my situation. That perspective was so much better and I always tell people to serve others, no matter what their own crises are. For me, creating is service: cooking, sewing, drawing, or making a card. Serving someone else holds a lot of healing power!”
What battles are you or the strong women in your life fighting?