January 29, 2010

More Tests, con't

Just booked my ACTH test. I thought I might have to beg and manipulate for a day off from work, but they managed to squeeze me in on a day off. The week after next, you'll get to learn all about it. Definitely more nervous now, but it will be over and done with before my vacation.

I've been so busy this past week that I've had to shave every day in order to go out. That's been tough on my skin, but aside from that, I've felt just a little bit more confident about it. My skin seems clearer and I still say the shadow's not coming in as quickly. As a bit of celebration, I cut my hair. It's something I've wanted to do for a while, and now just seemed like a good time to give a new style a try. It was exhilarating to chop it off after a few years, and while I'm enjoying the shock from people, I'm also going to enjoy just having a change. There's still just enough hair to comfortably hide my face if I'm feeling insecure, though, so maybe it's not so brave. But I'm giddy about it.

January 26, 2010

More Tests

I waited all day at work for an opportunity to call the endocrinologist back. I was so unfocused I even forgot to take my Spiro for the day. I finally had to run into the stock room in between clients to make the call in a clandestine fashion amongst dusty boxes. She was with a patient so she would have to call me back again, but the receptionist read "ACTH stimulation test" off my chart and I knew.

Still, I thought maybe I didn't know. Maybe I was mistaken. I'm no expert on all the different tests you can take to diagnose the cause of hirsutism, so I tried not to angst about it too much. I took my phone with me everywhere this morning, including into the bathroom while I shaved. And while I was shaving I did get a phone call, but on the land line, so I couldn't get to it. It was actually good news--a job interview. But not long after that the endo called and confirmed my suspicions. I'm all afluster with all the news I'm getting today!

So, I'm going to have to do the ACTH test to rule out (or confirm) congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Was hoping (and expecting) not to, but hey, now it needs to be done, and in the process you'll all get to find out about it.

Since this is a circumstance I didn't consider all that much, I didn't know too much about it. I'm sure that's true of some of my readers out there, so I'll try to explain as best I can with what little knowledge I have.

Because not all the symptoms need to be present to be diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, it's best to eliminate all other possible causes. High levels of male hormones can usually be traced back to either the ovaries (or testes in men) or by the adrenal glands. (The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys, and do produce other things like adrenaline.) That's why the endo ordered bloodwork for 17 hydroxyprogesterone (17H) and DHEAS.

17H is a hormone that is produced when the body is making sex hormones (like androgens and estrogens). In people with adrenal hyperplasia, there is apparently a blockage in the chain of hormone production, so this hormone builds up in the body.

DHEAS, or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, is also made in the adrenal cortex, and is also used to help determine where the high levels of male hormones are coming from. In people with adrenal hyperplasia, this steroid is high as well. Both these tests can rule out a lot of things, so don't freak out if they appear on your lab requisition. They're used to determine PCOS and other things, too.

These tests need to be taken in the morning, because it seems production drops off as the day goes on. They also have to be taken during the first part of a woman's cycle because that tends to be when these hormones are at their most normal levels.

The thing is, the results of these tests will only go so far. They can't tell you if your levels are high or adrenal-hyperplasia-high. The endo called this a "grey zone," where adrenal hyperplasia still can't be confirmed or ruled out, and further testing is required. And so I am waiting for a nurse from the lab at the hospital to schedule me ACTH stimulation test. I am not going to look this up right now, I think I'd rather not know too much about it and risk making myself more nervous, but the endo did explain in a nutshell what happens. I go in, the nurse injects me with something that will stimulate the production of hormones, then do a blood test 30 and 60 minutes afterward. I think I'll be able to handle that, but still, it being at the hospital and something I've never done before, I know I'll get more and more anxious closer to. So I'd appreciate it if readers didn't share their horror stories about this test or anything. Ignorance is bliss right now.

The endo seemed optimistic about the promptness of the scheduling, so I may be able to get this over with before my vacation. She'll call me with the results. (I keep exclaiming she's awesome because it's true! I've never had this kind of treatment from any doctor before.)

And also, I have to stop taking the Spiro for ten days prior to the test, because it can effect the results. She told me to stop taking it now--too bad I already took the pill early this morning to make sure I didn't forget, or I'd already be two days ahead of the game! I wonder if my cycle will regulate before my trip? That would be nice. I had a one-day period at 22 days this time, so I'm not sure that even counts.

January 22, 2010

Cursing My Cell Phone

I'm certain when I checked my cell phone on my lunch break there were no calls. Yet when I left the office tonight, there was a voice mail on my phone. The endo had called me personally this morning to say the results of my latest blood work have made another test necessary--no whats or whys, she just left her cell phone number to call her back. (A doctor's cell phone number. She's awesome.)

The thing is, I discovered the message long after she would be available and have the test results with her. So now I must wait until Monday. I have no idea if she means I have to go for that specific adrenal test at the hospital or if I just need to retake another blood test. But I'm going to try to worry about that eventuality when it comes. Whatever needs to be done will get done, and there are worse things than a test or two. And at least I have an idea of the results anyway.

For now, there's nothing I can do. I am determined to have a great weekend--have lots of fun things planned!

I'll update on the results when I have them.

January 19, 2010

Beautiful Beards

Something undeniably cheery this week. When it's usually so hard to live with a beard, it's important to learn to laugh about it sometimes.

I lurk on Etsy frequently, coveting gorgeous antiques and handmade stuff. It isn't rare to find something really unique there; I've come across bearded lady imagery before. But nothing fascinated me as much as Erin Dollar's handmade beards, which she models herself. It might seem a little strange at first--I mean, even I don't ever see myself in a full-grown beard--but then you see her smiling and showing off those brilliant colors, and it makes you grin.

And then I noticed she had a blog, where she posts bearded images made by herself and others. I love her attitude. I didn't see her once promote a beard because on men they were sexy or dignified or whathaveyou. She just celebrates them. Positive, enthusiastic, and adorable.

It's catching.

Visit her blog
Visit her store
See her interview on Beard of the Week

I bet I'd like my beard more if it was that color... ;P

January 15, 2010

How Romantic

I received an unprecedented email from a young man I assisted at work the other day. Apparently he thought I was "cute" and took note of my name as I was helping him, then searched for me on the Internet. (Obvious good reason to have a pen name, hey? It's not the first thing you want a guy to know about you.) How flattering is that?

Chronically romantic, I was quite tickled. What girl doesn't want someone to swoop in out of nowhere confessing their attraction, even if through the buffer of email? Especially when it's a girl who doesn't expect it.

But see, this is where my life takes yet another satirical turn. The things I was helping him with were related to his moving out of the country. Beyond all other possible deal breakers, this one has a rather hilarious finality to it. This is my life, ladies and gentlemen. The chuckles don't stop at the beard.

Refilled my prescription again tonight. This is bottle number three. I told myself I wasn't going to be looking for results until I had finished this bottle. Now I'm always checking. I'm curious, impatient, hopeful, despite my best efforts to stay realistic.

January 12, 2010

Eight Weeks on Spiro

Is it just me, or maybe just coincidence--or maybe after four shots my disposable razor is having a really good run--because I think my five o'clock shadow did not appear at five o'clock yesterday.

I was afraid to type it or say it out loud, because I can't decide if I have high hopes for this prescription or not. I still don't enjoy being on it, though I think all side effects are imagined, except for the diuretic properties. I think I'm even getting the hang of managing that last bit, taking it with a mid-morning snack instead of at lunch, and then I'm not waking up at three in the morning bursting.

Maybe it is my imagination, or an exceptionally good make-up job. It is definitely too soon to be expecting results. But I haven't been doing anything different hair-removal-wise since about October, and when I came home from work yesterday, there was only a slight bit of shadow on the sides of my chin.

Actually, just peeking under my shirt here, I'm seeing the dark but vellus hair above my navel is looking... uncharacteristically sparse. That is odd. It can't be right.

Even if my eyes are playing tricks on me, it felt good to "notice" it. It's been a week where I've just felt tired. Tired of feeling stressed and unwell. Tired of the way I look. Tired of feeling under-appreciated at work. Tired of worrying about family and friends. Tired even of feeling tired. Just the thought that something might be going as planned was, well, nice.

Two weeks and I haven't heard word about the results of the last blood test. I think that is also a very good thing.

January 5, 2010

Hair in History: Ancient Egypt

I'm not a history buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I love history. I wasn't one for the political focus in high school, but when I moved on to art history in college, I just ate it up. Hearing and reading little tidbits here and there has spurred me to look at the way body hair figured into cultures throughout history. I thought that every now and then I could do a mini research project on a certain culture, and who knows? It might just reveal the obsession with body hair is just too deeply ingrained in our psyches... or it might put hair in a different perspective. I'm willing to see which it is.

I'm sure some of you won't be surprised that the first place I'm going is ancient Egypt. Quite obviously, they had methods of hair removal. But how, and why?

If you were to visit Egypt today, you'd find it to be a hot and generally without much rain except in the winter months. In the summer, you're looking at an average temperature between 27 °C and 32 °C in summer (or 80 °F and 90 °F), and even higher temperatures on the Red Sea coast. Where I live, 27-32 °C is a freakish and murderous heat wave worthy of lying on a tile floor and sticking popsicles down your pants. Now imagine how sand could reflect that heat back up to you. And knowing how big the ancient Egyptians were on construction, many of them had a lot of heavy work to do in all that heat.

And not only was it hot and busy (and therefore sticky and smelly), but many of them were clustered around the Nile. Where there's water, there are bugs. They lived in constant danger of things like Malaria, parasites, and lice. But according to medical texts recorded on papyrus, the ancient Egyptians apparently had an understanding of where such infections came from. They knew the value of cleanliness. Though they may have bathed several times a day, some resources said they had no soap, and others say they used a mixture of animal fat and chalk. People would be cooler, have less odour and find it easier to bathe with less hair.

From what I've read, it seems that the extent of body hair removal varied in different time periods. Depending on the time, they might have shaved it all off including their heads, or kept head hair in a short bob above the shoulders, or the women let it grow but kept it braided. Even so, they all wore wigs as they could afford them, made of a mixture of human and animal hair and sometimes plant fibres. Just like today, the quality and complexity of a person's false hair displayed their wealth. These things weren't just fashion statements, though. According to some authorities, they were also designed to keep cool and protect the head from the sun. (Could you imagine working on a pyramid all day with a bald uncovered head? Ouch!) I'm sure having a shaved head under a wig would have been less irritating, too.

Apparently men, women and children all practiced hair removal of some sort. Wealthy families could keep a barber on staff. Priests in particular had to keep themselves clean, and according to one source shaved everything ritualistically every third day, and are often depicted with bald heads as a symbol of holiness. And when you see representations of pharaohs with beards, it's possible they are wearing a false beard they could tie on under their chin. (As a kid I always wondered how they could make a real beard look like that!) As much as being hairless was a way to keep clean and cool and differentiate from the surrounding cultures and even social classes, the men still may have felt that having facial hair was a sign of maturity, masculinity, virility, and even dignity. This is still something of a mystery, however, as depictions of beards seem to come and go throughout Egypt's early history.

So how did they do it? Archeologists have uncovered many tools thanks to Egyptians burying each other with things they might want or need in their afterlife. Plenty of razors have been found, usually made of copper or bronze, so apparently hair removal was important enough to continue doing even in the next life. It has also been suggested that they used abrasion with pumice stones to remove hair. (Oww.) One website mentioned an early form of tweezers. Some websites on body sugaring (a homemade alternative to waxing) claim it was an "ancient Egyptian art," but I haven't found any scholastic resources to support that--not that I give myself days to research this stuff, mind you.

And so it appears the Egyptians were very active aestheticians. Some other interesting things:
  • They were apparently concerned about greying hair and used henna to cover this--as well as to fashionably dye hair, lips, and nails. Some sources also quote various potions to color or prevent the greys, such as donkey liver steeped in oil.
  • Men may have been worried about hair loss, too. Prescriptions may have included animal fats (from snakes and crocodiles to hippopotami and cats), and wearing lettuce on the bald spot.
  • You don't wanna know what they used for birth control.
  • Kohl, the black make-up seen under their eyes, was not just for fashion. As with football players today, it helped reduce the sun's glare.
  • Because they were evidently a fastidious people, you can bet they employed some early forms of deodorant, such as incense.