What She Said: An Ovarian Drilling Made Life Make Sense Again

July 21, 2021

Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.

The subject of today’s What She Said is a 23-year-old woman who had an ovarian drilling surgery. She talks about PCOS and how it affected her mental and physical health, how unhelpful the doctor who diagnosed her was, and needing an ovarian drilling. 

what she said design with a woman in a hospital gown sitting down

Tell me something about your childhood.

Okay, let’s talk about my first period.


I got my first period on the Sunday after my 13th birthday. We were in church, and after service, I went to the bathroom and there was blood. My mum had already given me a comprehensive rundown of periods, so I felt zero panic. I just whispered it to her. We left the church and she gave me a pack of pads when we got home. That was that!

Sounds very stressless. 

It was, but unfortunately, that didn’t last for long. 

What happened? 

When I was 14, I started gaining a lot of weight. I also got really bad cramps whenever I got my period, but I just chalked it up to puberty. I noticed how terribly people treated me once I gained weight. And this went on till I went to the USA for university in 2015.  

I don’t know if it was the stress of change or a new diet that triggered it, but my first semester in school, my period came and just didn’t stop. 


I tried to ride through it because I’m very stubborn when it comes to pain, but after the 20th day, I went to the campus health centre and got put on the birth control pill. My period stopped then. 

At the same time, I gained a lot of weight. 

Did you go to the hospital again? 

Yes, before I came back to Nigeria for the summer, I went to the health centre one more time. The nurse said that based on what had been going on, I might have something called PCOS and should go to the ob/gyn when I go home.

I googled it, and honestly, it read so fatalistic that I cried for days at the possibility of having it.

That must have been so traumatic for you. Did you still see the oby/gyn?

I did. When I came home, my dad took me to the ob/gyn. I described everything that had happened in the past year and told him about the suspicion of PCOS. 

I laid down for an ultrasound, and he pointed at my ovaries on the screen and said, in the most condescending tone, “See that? You have what we in the field call polycystic ovaries.” 

After we’d sat back down, he wrote me a prescription for 4 packs of birth control, handed it to me, and said, “Lose some weight and you’ll be fine”. That was all. 

It was one of the worst doctor visits I’ve ever had, and considering all the things PCOS does to a body, it was completely unhelpful and almost harmful honestly, but that was my diagnosis.

It must have hurt for someone to have dismissed you like that. What did you do next? Lose weight? 

It was such a jarring experience. Since all he said was that I’d be fine if I lost weight, I tried to focus on that. I went on all sorts of diets, did so much fasting and got plied with so many “fat-burning” vitamins and supplements.

None of it worked. I kept gaining weight. My periods were longer and more painful. I was exhausted all the time, my neck got darker and darker, and I constantly had acne. My mental health was in the bottom of the gutter. Overall, I was not doing great. 

I’m so sorry you had to keep dealing with all of that. 

It’s fine now but not so much then. Since I was fat, acne-ridden with dark patches of skin and constantly tired, people who didn’t know I had PCOS simply assumed I was a lazy slob who overeats. They would offer me all kinds of unsolicited advice. It’s honestly rough to feel like you live in a body that’s constantly hurting and betraying you, and then people add to it by playing doctor with you in a rude, overfamiliar way.

When I went back to school, I had to deal with my studies, my part-time job and extracurricular responsibilities. I didn’t have any energy to devote to taking care of myself. This went on for about three years.

In my final year of school, I decided to visit the campus dietitian a few times, but I found it so hard to take on her suggestions. I was already averaging one meal a day, barely sleeping and the gym was so far on the other end of campus that getting there felt like a full workout of its own. I simply couldn’t handle the effort it would take. It was truly a gift from God that I graduated with the grades I had.

Did graduation change anything? Give you more time to focus on your health? 

After graduation, I went online and bought a book about PCOS that I had seen in the dietitian’s office. I started some proper research into PCOS by reading and trying to create a routine for myself. At the time, I had a visa for a year of post-college work (OPT), so I was living in the DC area in the US and working full time. It was fully up to me to make sure I was feeding myself well and getting some daily exercise. 

For a while, I seemed to be getting a solid grasp of how to handle things, focusing more on feeling healthy rather than losing weight. But as life and work got busier, I started to slip on focusing on my health. 

Despite all I tried to do, I was completely exhausted at the end of each day even though I was at my desk for most of it. My mental health had not improved at all. I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to juggle life, and I kept seeing the lack of progress as me being a complete failure, so my well being took a backseat to all the other stuff going on with my life like my job and visa issues.

COVID-19 hit, and the US was enforcing a lockdown, so I started working from home in March 2020. I tried to rest a lot, but even when I slept for hours, I never felt rested. 

Also, at this point, my period hadn’t shown up since January. Still, I made the effort to start eating better and taking a walk every day, and for a while, I was actually feeling pretty good! Then the worst happened, LOL.

What happened? 

My job decided not to sponsor a work visa, so my last day would be in July and I had to be back in Nigeria before the end of September. I was gearing up for that emotional rollercoaster when, on June 16th, 2020, my period finally showed up for the first time since January.

I was excited about it and took it as a sign that all the work I was doing was causing changes. Then a week passed and it was still there. Two weeks, three weeks, a month. My period was still going. 

July passed and I was looking for COVID exit flights home, but my period was still there. August came and went, September came and was almost over, it was still there. What I and my body went through at that time was unbelievable to me. I was heavily iron deficient, and my iron supplements weren’t really helping considering how much I was bleeding. I spent most of my days in my bed because I had no energy to do a single thing but take a shower and then lie down. 

My then roommate had to make my food sometimes because I couldn’t walk down the stairs to cook. I ended up ordering more food than usual so I wouldn’t have to go buy groceries and then cook.

Every other day, because even in my suffering, internalised fatphobia was still hooking me by the throat, I would get up and try to exercise. Every time, without fail, I would barely make it back to my room and sip some water before passing out. Unsurprisingly, I was in the worst depression of my life. 

I once saw someone tweet “Is there anything that PCOS cannot do or cause?” And the answer is truly no. In those days, I gave up on trying to fix my PCOS. I told myself that if it killed me, it killed me.

You and your body went through so much. Please tell me it ended eventually.

I decided to just focus on getting home and thinking about further steps when I got there. Hearing what I was going through was very hard on my parents, and they were desperate to get me back in their care. I flew back to Abuja at the end of September. 

When I got back, my parents had some good news. They told me that while visiting some family in Ilorin, they were referred to a hospital where the head ob/gyn had a lot of experience and kept up on new research about reproductive health issues, especially PCOS. So, we travelled to Ilorin and met with the doctor. It was the kindest I’d ever been treated by a healthcare professional.

He was very patient with me, listened to my experiences and explained in-depth what was actually going on with my body. I nearly cried at the amount of kindness and clarity I was getting. 

I’m so glad. I hope this kindness came with help. Lots of it.

It really did. He ran some tests, did an ultrasound and actually explained what it was showing about my ovaries. When we discussed my weight gain, he was upset with me about how many uninformed decisions I had had to make trying to lose weight, because the doctor who diagnosed me should’ve told me differently. 

Through him, I learned that intense cardio is actually bad for people with PCOS because the increased cortisol it causes can trigger weight gain for us, and that weight training, yoga and low impact workouts like walking or a casual bike ride was healthier. Diet-wise, I also learned that PCOS causes chronic inflammation, so more whole grains instead of refined carbs, and a more anti-inflammatory diet would help. Reducing stress is also key because stress worsens PCOS a lot. 

What happened after the tests? 

After all the tests, he candidly told me that the way my PCOS had progressed, he’d have to suggest a last resort: an ovarian drilling surgery. 

How did the idea of surgery make you feel? 

I was terrified at the idea, but he calmed me down and explained what it was. it would be done with a camera (laparoscopically), so it was minimally invasive. 

They would make two small incisions, go in with a camera and drain a lot of the cysts on my ovaries. It would take at best three hours, and after maybe two weeks of recovery, I would be fully healed. 

After talking with my parents, we agreed on it being the best course of action, and since it was way more affordable there than it would be in Abuja, we stayed in Ilorin. We scheduled a surgery for the next Sunday morning.

How did you feel before the surgery?

The day before surgery which was Saturday, October 17th, made it exactly 123 straight days of being on my period. At that point, anything that would bring me lasting relief was very welcome.

I felt a little jittery before the surgery, but overall, I was quite calm. I checked in the night before and had to beg my dad to go sleep in an empty hospital room, otherwise, he would’ve watched me all night. He knows I don’t like to break down in front of people, but he didn’t want to leave me alone. At the end of the day, I was okay. 

Knowing I made it out of that honestly helps when people make rude comments about my body. It’s always in my mind that my body and I have survived more than some people will ever deal with.

How are you now post-surgery?

I’m a lot better! My periods aren’t 100% regular yet because it’ll take a little time for my hormones to recalibrate, but they are shorter than they have been in at least six years. 

I feel healthier. I’m taking vitamins and supplements recommended for people with PCOS, and I try to walk with my dog or do some yoga to decompress from the day as soon as I get home from the office. 

I have days where I mess up and eat something I know will make me feel like garbage, but keep pushing instead of beating myself up. I’ve lost a bit of weight as well, but I’m working on focusing on how I feel rather than how I look. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

My mental health is also improving. I make a lot of noise about being tired of living at home and wanting to move away, but I really need the care and love I’m getting. Life feels like it makes sense again. 

For more stories like this, check out our #WhatSheSaid and for more women like content, click here


Itohan Esekheigbe

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

October 8, 2020

Using a cab service as a Nigerian woman seem to be an extreme sport. From drivers who try to touch you to those who try to harm you because “tHey hAvE yOuR tYpE aT hOmE” women have been through it all. These five women in the city’s capital share their worst cab ride experience.

June 3, 2020

Trigger warning: This interview contains descriptions of sexual violence. It’s been a heavy week for Nigerian women across the country. Most especially for survivors of sexual violence. A couple of days ago, news broke that Vera Uwaila Omozuwa a 22-year-old girl who had gone to read in a church was brutally raped and killed. Shortly […]


Now on Zikoko

Recommended Quizzes

What are you like in a relationship?
February 7, 2020

Your taste in music can say a lot about you, and this time, it’s going to reveal what you are like in a relationship. So, pick a few of your favourite Nigerian love songs, and we’ll let you know if you’re typically a distant, passionate or unbothered partner. Here you go:

October 29, 2019

We are going to be attempting to guess when you’ll marry based on your favourite Nigerian foods. What does your fave swallow have to do with when you’ll tie the knot? Please, don’t ask complicated questions. This quiz is rigorous and accurate (don’t quote us), so just take it already. QUIZ: Why Do You Have […]

February 26, 2020

Are you all set for marriage, or are you still figuring it out? Well, if you’re curious to know the answer, then this is the quiz for you. All you have to do is create your own ideal Nollywood wedding film, and we’ll tell you if you’re ready to say “I do”. Go ahead:

December 11, 2019

In the past month, we’ve made quizzes that guessed the last time you had sex, how many people you’ve slept with, and just how good you are in bed. For our latest attempt, we will use your taste in Nigerian music from the 2010s to ascertain what you’re like in bed. Take to find out:

November 15, 2019

There are two types of people in Nigeria right now: those who are proud Marlians, and those who are still in denial about stanning the divisive star. So, for those who proudly wear the Marlian tag, we made a quiz to test how well you really know Naira Marley. If you get more than 6 […]

November 27, 2019

Do you have a face that could make angels jealous, or should you really be walking around with a nylon bag over your head so you don’t scare children? Well, this quiz is here to answer that by telling you exactly how good-looking you are. Take and find out: 11 Quizzes For People Who Aren’t […]

More from Her

black girl leaning on the wall with curly hair
September 21, 2021

“Everyone from his fraternity ran away except him, and that was how he went down. He died on school grounds. Omo, I wasn’t myself for days. That was when I realized everything everyone said was true.”

8 Nigerian Women Talk About Their Experience With Cultists

Read here:

black woman with afro smiling
September 20, 2021

Hair lice are tiny, wingless insects that live in the hair of humans. They feed on tiny amounts of blood they get from the scalp. They spread easily from comb to comb. It is especially rampant among kids.  It’s not easy to get rid of hair lice but here are a few tips that have […]


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.