Shannen Tan was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when she was 17. She had irregular periods and although she felt liberated not having to worry about “strategically planning your activities or coping with the fatigue or cramps or massive amounts of bleeding that came with the time of the month”, she went to see an OB/GYN at KKH to find out if anything was wrong. She had an ultrasound and found 11 immature follicles in her left ovary.
“They looked like tiny dots or little bubbles and they made my ovaries look like Swiss cheese or a lotus root,” Shannen recalls. “Basically, these bubbles were eggs that weren’t released. I just thought that the reason why I didn’t have my period was because my ovaries were constipated and were quietly hoarding eggs for a rainy day. The technician thought this was a great time to tell me, ‘Oh you have just the right amount to start your own football team!’ Yes, that’s exactly what I need to fulfil my dream of unseating Albirex Niigata as champions in the Singapore Premier League.”
When she went for a review session a couple of months later with a female doctor at the same hospital, Shannen’s experience wasn’t exactly a pleasant one: “That day, it was a young but stern looking female doctor. The moment I sat down, she muttered a brusque hello and quickly glanced through my ultrasound results on her desktop. Abruptly, she said, ‘OK, you have something called PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome which means that you’re probably infertile. There’s no cure.’
“I don’t remember what she said after that. She scribbled and circled something on a piece of paper but I wasn’t paying attention. I just sat in the chair – stunned into silence – I didn’t know what to say, I just cried…out of shock. I left the room in a snivelling mess,” she adds.