The Turning Point in McKenna's Journey to Manage her PCOS

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McKenna Marquez was uncomfortable in her body, and she didn’t understand why, “as far back as I remember, I’ve always been an anxious person, always overweight and just always felt off.” Marquez did what almost anybody would do in her situation: she turned to her doctor to help her figure out what was wrong, but they didn’t offer much insight, “my doctor [at the time] put me on birth control and told me to come back when I was ready to get pregnant.”

Subsequent visits to multiple doctors yielded even less helpful results as they all told her the same thing: “Lose weight, eat healthily and exercise more.” 

It wasn’t until years and seven Ob/Gyn’s later, that Marquez was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a complex, chronic hormonal condition that impacts your body in a variety of ways, including weight and irregular periods–both symptoms Marquez was dealing with. 

Unfortunately, her experience is not unique. PCOS is frequently underdiagnosed; in one study, nearly 50% of respondents reported that they visited three or more health professionals before receiving a PCOS diagnosis. For many people with PCOS, like McKenna, the diagnosis often comes late. When diagnosed, many people with PCOS don’t receive any useful tools or information to help improve their condition and quality of life.

Here, McKenna shares her PCOS journey, the turning point that spurned her to take control of her health, and how her job in Marketing at Allara changed how she thought about managing PCOS. 

What led to your PCOS diagnosis?

My entire life, I’ve dealt with anxiety and weight issues. I just always felt off. My doctor [at the time] didn’t offer much help. They told me to lose weight and prescribed birth control. For years, I continued to struggle with my weight and irregular periods, suffering in silence because no matter who I talked to, they told me the same thing again and again.

After seeing seven more OB/GYNS, I was finally diagnosed with PCOS, but that still did not lead to any change in my condition because nobody offered any tools or strategies to manage my condition. 

What was the turning point in managing PCOS?

After my diagnosis, I began taking Metformin (an oral medication often prescribed to treat Type 2 diabetes and PCOS), but my weight still fluctuated, and I had irregular periods. It was disheartening, but I thought that was normal; I didn’t know any better.

In 2019, I broke my ankle and leg in three places and quickly gained 30 pounds. I have never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. To make matters worse, once I was active again, I couldn’t lose the weight, no matter how hard I tried, and that was a turning point for me. My periods were still irregular, I had unbearable bloating, and my anxiety and depression were worse than ever. I knew this couldn’t be right; I was doing everything right, eating healthy and staying active, but nothing worked.

For you, what’s the biggest struggle of PCOS? 

Besides hormonal acne, anxiety, bloating and rapid weight gain, the biggest struggle for me was the lack of information. For many of us with PCOS, there simply aren’t widely available tools to help manage these symptoms. 

It wasn’t until I started working at Allara that I felt validated and heard. I had a doctor who worked with me to monitor my bloodwork and help manage my other symptoms.

How did you learn to manage your PCOS Symptoms?

After trial and error, I finally found the right combination of medication, supplements, and an anti-inflammatory diet and started to feel better than I had in years. I started fueling my body with more protein and vegetables and lost 30 pounds, which I’ve sustained. I feel comfortable in my body again.

I still have to manage my PCOS daily and I now have tools and resources that make me feel my best. I remember when I was dealing with my worst symptoms, and I would think, “This is my life, and there is nothing that can help me.” But I was wrong; thanks to platforms like Allara and ongoing PCOS research, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

What is some advice you would give to someone who is struggling with unexplained hormonal symptoms?

The best advice I would give is that it is perfectly acceptable to advocate for yourself. That seems simple, but it took me years to find my voice and become my own advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask for second or third opinions; this is your body, and nobody knows it better than you, and you know when something isn’t right. 

Also, the lifestyle changes needed to manage your symptoms can sometimes seem daunting and challenging to adjust to at first, but they can and do become part of your daily life. Now, I know what I need to do to feel my best, which is so important to me because when I’m not feeling my best, I can’t be there for others.

Finally, just know that you are definitely not alone.

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