Years after receiving a positive PCOS diagnosis, but still no effective treatment plan, Brooke M talks about the emotional toll of hoping for “a miracle pill” - or any kind of effective solution - at the next doctor’s visit. Most women with PCOS can relate to this: the hope that the next appointment will bring an end to struggling with the same burdensome symptoms that they’ve carried for years. This constant running from endocrinologist to endocrinologist had worn Brooke down by the time she met with Allara’s founder, Rachel Blank.
We spoke with Brooke to discuss her struggles up until this point, her priorities when tackling PCOS, and the most effective changes she has made to improve her PCOS symptoms so far.
Where does your PCOS story begin?
Oh wow, pretty much after I got my first period at the age of 12. The specialist mentioned PCOS after some blood tests were drawn, but he wasn’t fully confident in that diagnosis. At the time, PCOS was even less well-known and spoken about than it is now (which is saying something), and no one seemed to truly know what was going on with my body.
From then on, my symptoms only expanded as I experienced anxiety, mood swings, irregular sleep, light periods, cystic acne, uncontrollable weight gain, food cravings - you name it. I even had hair loss, body aches, bloating, and digestive issues. The weight gain component was especially difficult, since doctors I visited didn’t bother to investigate further. I was written off as they told me to simply exercise more and eat less, but the root cause of all these issues weren’t addressed. I was eventually put on the pill by a gynecologist, but that ultimately only made things worse.
How did you find Allara?
It’s been a long journey before finally discovering Allara! I feel like I’ve visited hundreds of endocrinologists in my life, and none of those doctors know how to identify - nevermind treat - my symptoms. I had reached a point where I was so frustrated with the traditional healthcare system, and the lack of information and resources for someone like me, that I googled ‘PCOS doctors near me,’ and Allara popped up.
I really liked that Allara showed the many faces of PCOS: women of all shapes and sizes, of all different symptoms, we all had representation. That rang true for me, since I believe PCOS isn’t one size fits all. I got to speak with the founder, Rachel Blank, and when Rachel told me her story with PCOS, it really resonated with me.
What’s been your biggest struggle with PCOS?
By far, the biggest things that have affected my quality of life because of PCOS is inconsistent sleep, weight retention, and an irregular cycle. When you don’t sleep at night, your energy is off during the day. I also had food cravings brought on by lack of sleep, and edema in my legs, which affected my mental health even more negatively.
What was your goal when you signed up for Allara?
I just wanted to wake up and not have to see a doctor. I wanted to not feel the need to complain about these symptoms. I wanted to get my cycle back. Ultimately, I hoped I would feel seen and heard in a healthcare setting for the first time (which I do), and that I could connect with a specialist who truly is on my side and advocating for me just as hard as I’m advocating for myself. Thankfully, I couldn’t be happier with the help of my amazing doctor, Dr. Henigsman.
What have you gained from Allara?
Before Allara, I was by myself. I was the one researching and responsible for all my symptoms, reaching out to different services to get blood tests completed, and figuring out the next steps for treatment. Now I don’t have to go through this alone: my doctor is extremely supportive; she communicates with me about my results and treatment details as fast as possible; she truly wants the absolute best health outcomes for me. It’s a weight off my shoulders to have an expert in my corner who can make recommendations that make a difference to my life.
What has been the biggest difference between Allara and traditional healthcare?
I would say the holistic approach to understanding and treating symptoms. For instance, if my body stays in fight or flight mode for a long period of time, it impacts other things like my period and what my blood work looks like. My doctor knows this, and so though we have decided on medication to help bring on my period, we also have made joint decisions about my sleep schedule, incorporating slow-weight exercises into my routine, and eating in tune with my body.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
PCOS is not my fault.