March 22, 2011

Three Months on Alesse (2 Months on Spiro)

A couple weeks ago I finished my third pack of Alesse. For two of those packs, I have also been on 200 mg of Spiro.

How's the hair?
I thought I was seeing things at first, but it really is true. Two Sundays ago, I shaved my chest, and didn't have to shave it again for two more days. Albeit the hair that has the audacity to grow in my cleavage is a little thinner than the hair elsewhere, but I won't complain if it's going to grow back more slowly. I've been wearing v-necks and scoop-necks, and all-but-forgotten necklaces, all like they're going out of style.

Other than that, though, I've noticed no differences. My beard, the true bane of this hirsute existence, is unchanged. I'm going to try another before-and-after shot, but I did a hefty deforestation just before I went on vacation, so I have to wait for that to grow back before I can do a fair comparison.

Other good side effects?
I don't know if this is good or not, but I've lost almost 10 lbs. The last time I lost that much weight, I'd been depressed and not eating well, so I don't really associate losing weight with good things. But I know some women go on birth control hoping it will help them lose weight, and it seems like that is never a guarantee. Just because it's happening to me doesn't mean it's going to happen to everyone who goes on Alesse/Spiro.

Maybe it's something else I'm doing. I was not expecting such a thing, so I don't really know what to think, but it really is the only thing different about my habits of late.

That rash from the first month has not returned. As difficult as that was, it's history now, and my body and the pill have come to some kind of accord. So that's a plus.

But a really great thing? My cycle is now always predictable. For the first time since I can remember, I've not had a period coincide with travel or conventions. After the third week, I move onto the placebos, and usually the second day of the placebo I have a brief, light period, and start all over again.

Other bad side effects?
My period might be reliable, but the mid-cycle spotting certainly is not. It seems like a force as spiteful as my "af" used to be, coming maliciously just in time to get on a plane or for special weekend plans. It can come anytime between the second week of pills and the placebo week, and though the blood is old, the pain is as bad as a regular period. I am not impressed by this.

And now I'm wracking my brain to remember if my endo told me to call her if the spotting never stopped after three months, or if it stopped but came back each time. So I'm waiting another month to see what this cycle will be like. I really don't want to switch birth control and make my body adjust to another type of artificial hormone.

Since switching from Finasteride, my stomach hasn't gotten any better. It still gets quite upset at some of the most innocuous food, so either these meds are not nice for it either, or something else is affecting my IBS. Hard to say.

We'll keep on truckin'. Endo's appointment is in another three months, so I'm hoping to have seen something else by then, otherwise, it might be time for another change. I don't know how much longer I can do this. It amazes me that some hirsute women have been on their medication for years. I'm already getting tired of it. But then, I'm also in a bit of a dip in my mood lately--angry at the hair, hating the way I look... It passes eventually.

March 15, 2011

Idiopathic Hirsutism and Defending Doctors

There is a certain amount of negativity attached to the diagnosis of idiopathic hirsutism. Even before I was diagnosed with this myself, I was aware that a prevailing opinion was that being told you had idiopathic hirsutism was the diplomatic equivalent having your condition swept under the rug. And I felt that way myself, early on in my quest to find out what was going on with my body. I imagined how I would feel if a doctor essentially said, "I don't know what it is," or even, "It's not important enough to investigate further." I decided I'd be pretty angry, and probably seek out a second opinion.

Yet here I am, content to know that what I have is idiopathic hirsutism. And I'm actually grateful that for once, most of the people around me are not educated in the world of extra body hair. To finally receive an answer, after years of wondering, is emotional in the extreme. If everyone I knew had come down on me with moues of disgust, saying, "Oh, your doctor's just writing you off," I would have felt pretty crappy. How easily others can turn your small triumph into defeat.

So, okay. Here's the thing. I read an article about the stress of a doctor's job, a long time ago, and it's always stuck with me. Sure, it's easy to nod and say, "Yeah, they've got a stressful job." But have you ever paused to really imagine it? The example that really wrenched things into perspective for me was from a doctor who recalled parents bringing their newborn baby to him for help, but he found there was nothing to be done, and he had to tell the parents that their child would be blind all his life. Before the doctor even had a chance to recover from the sorrow of the encounter, the next patient came in and expected to be cheerily welcomed. Often, we're so worried about our own symptoms that we don't even realize who our doctor might have seen before us.

And that stress starts early. They have to work hard to get into medical school. They're often confronted with cadavers pretty much right away. I've only seen a dead body once in my life, and it was thankfully not in a dissecting room. I can't imagine how awful that would be. When my art class planned to go down to the University to see corpses for anatomy studies, I flatly refused to go. And then, for medical students there's the hospital training. If I had to face fatal diseases and mortality every day when I was in college, I don't know how that could have changed me.

And with all that knowledge packed into their heads, they also have to figure out how to interact with people they help every day. Not everyone is a natural people person of course. And with all the natural fear and anxiety that comes with being ill, doctors often find themselves having to be counselors, too, as patients use them as a sounding board for their frustrations. And that's not even the difficult patients. And the longer a doctor practices, the more responsibility they have. It's a job where things never, ever get any easier with time.

Now, I've said before that it is everyone's right to choose their own treatments, get a second or third or fourth opinion, and to retain a doctor they feel confident in. We know I've had a doctor or two I've lost faith in thanks to a couple of errors in diagnosis. Most people have a story of misdiagnosis, or know of one. And I do feel neglected and overlooked that my most recent family physician did not call or send a note, or get her office staff to do so, to inform her patients that she was moving. But I don't know all the circumstances. I just have to take a deep breath and not take it personally. Because the inherent antagonism of doctors, the blind mistrust that sometimes colors peoples' attitudes, it makes me sad. It seems almost like a fashion to have a cynical opinion of the people responsible for our health. They are as human as we are. And they have chosen one of the most demanding jobs imaginable--but also one of the most rewarding.

So here are a few things I just want to emphasize, if you're searching for treatments for your hirsutism and are frustrated with your doctor.

  • There is no FDA-approved drug for hirsutism out there. None. There are drugs that have side-effects that help manage the hair, but there is no Pill For Hirsutism. Unless it's caused by hormonal reasons where the cause is actually removable (like a testosterone-secreting tumor), there is really no permanent cure for excess hair growth.
  • Your doctor has prescribed you a medication because the benefits outweigh the risks. This is written on practically every fact sheet I get with my prescriptions. Maybe the risks will be higher for you, but nobody knows until they try. If you are not comfortable with taking the drug, you can always refuse treatment and live with your hirsutism naturally. There's nothing wrong with that. (I can imagine myself doing that in the future.)
  • Idiopathic hirsutism does have a definition, even if some doctors use it as a blanket name for medical mysteries. It means that, rather than having hormonal abnormalities or other factors, your hair follicles are simply more sensitive to testosterone. Even among men, there is a vast difference in amount of body hair. Some people, and indeed some ethnicities, simply have it written into their genes that their hair follicles will be more sensitive to testosterone, and thus they'll have more and darker body hair.

If you don't feel that this is the cause of your hirsutism, is it because you haven't done enough tests to eliminate other causes? If that is the case, ask for them. You deserve to know, and have that peace of mind. I feel that everything that needs to be checked has been checked. I am satisfied with my endocrinologist's conclusion. She did a great job.

Read a little more about idiopathic hirsutism here.

March 8, 2011

Allerleirah's Review Policy

Heh, really took that vacation time and ran with it, didn't I? Looks like I didn't miss much while I was gone, though. :)

It's happened a few times now where I've been contacted by websites, companies or people who would like me to try and review a product. This is great, I'm up for trying something new! But I feel like I should put this out there, so if you're wanting Al to post a product review, here are some things you might want to know:

  • I only review products related to hair removal. This usually includes shaving mediums, certain moisturizers, make-up, razors, depilatory creams, etc.
  • I am always grateful to and excited about receiving free samples. However, this will not factor into my review. It is important for my reviews to be honest in order for readers to benefit from them. I imagine some of my readers to be like I was--lost and looking for something to make hirsutism easier to live with. With virtually no over-the-counter products designed specifically for us, it is not easy to know where to begin. That is the reason I provide product reviews on my blog.
  • This is a blog about and geared towards girls and women with hirsutism. I may be using your product in a way for which it is not designed--namely, to remove facial hair. This may negatively affect the review, but I always mention the way I am using the product if it is relevant.
  • I don't simply use a product once and then review it, unless the outcome is so unpleasant I refuse to use it again. For most products, I use them up completely so I can evaluate long term use. It may be months before you see a review of your product on the site. If possible, I will contact you once the review has been posted.
So with that fine print stuff out of the way, next week is back to our regular programming. With the surprising move of my family doctor, it ought to make the topic I want to blog about next a little more interesting!