Hirsut-wha? | This WONDERfilled Life

Hirsutism (HUR-soot-iz-um) is a condition in women that results in excessive

growth of dark or coarse hair in a male-like pattern — face, chest and back.

(Per the Mayo Clinic).

A few weeks ago, and I was so thankful you couldn’t see my beard in the morning sunlight. Something I’ve had to check my pictures for for years now.

I struggled trying to decide whether I wanted to write this post.  On one hand…if you know me IRL (in real life) this description shouldn’t come as a surprise, y’all can see my face.  On the other hand, I’ve managed to sort of ignore the issue publicly and shining this direct light on the issue and therefore my face makes me uncomfortable as well, but I want my kids to know that people are all made differently and choose to deal with those differences differently and so here I am…telling my story in the hopes that in the coming year I have some AMAZING after photos!

I’ve struggled to manage the hair on my face for over 10 years now.  It started innocently enough, peach fuzz…but then one or two hairs would come in darker, coarser…and then it was more than a few.  But as a uninsured freelance musician I didn’t feel I had the means to even begin to address a problem I felt was more about vanity than health.  But I was sidetracked by discovering and then having a large (and I mean LARGE) Mucinous Ovarian Cystadenoma removed in early 2011.  I had hoped with the removal of the tumor that the multiplying hairs on my face would disappear as my body resumed what appeared to be normal functions after the surgery. I don’t remember it getting worse, but our attention quickly turned to trying to have children ASAP as I was down one ovary and the clock was ticking.  Again, no time for the vain focus of a lowly musician, so I just accepted that this is how God made me and how I was suppose to look and I did the best I could.  I spent painful hours plucking hair after hair on my face only to get in the just the right light (usually the car!) to see all the follicles I missed.  I used my hand to cover my chin when talking to friends and colleagues, planned when I could cut or pluck the hair from my face to give me the best chance at looking normal when at work. It was tiring. Then the PANDEMIC happened, and to be completely honest, I LOVED having to mask up.  For the first time in my recent adult life I wasn’t ashamed to be with people.  I had lost almost 80lbs, the healthiest I’ve been in my 30’s and 40’s, and no one was looking at my face and wondering what were they seeing.  I could joke with colleagues and not worry if they were totally grossed out by my face.  I could pick my kids up from school without their friends silently wondering (though there were a few that questioned me before the pandemic) why I had a full on beard.  If I embarrass my kids I want it to be because I did it on purpose, you know wearing curlers and kissing them as they run into the school.  Not because I have some rare condition that labels me as a freak, the last thing I wanted my kids to suffer was to be known as the kids with the “bearded lady” as a mom.  

So when the mask mandates were slowly lifted the first time in 2021 I made the decision to go to my doctor and demand a solution.  Well, while I love both my doctors (gyno and gp) neither of them really understood what the big deal was.  My gyno, who I love for all things down there and birthing children just kept saying “go have it lasered”.  And so I did some research, and it really didn’t seem like an option, mostly because, lasered hair can grow back, especially if an underlying condition that causes the hair growth isn’t addressed. So off my GP I went to demand more answers and a referral to an endocrinologist.  She too suggested laser hair removal, didn’t address my request for a specialist (I am still looking into this option though) and  prescribed me an androgen blocker to see if it helped slow/limit the hair growth. I was prescribed the lowest dose possible and after several months I did notice the hair was less thick, but it wasn’t disappearing.  The medication also made me lightheaded…so in early 2022, when the mask mandates were finally being done away with everywhere I knew it was time to address this more head on.  I had felt so confident at work and social settings hidden away behind my mask.  I could feel my insecurities sneaking back each time I went out maskless and I really felt this wasn’t just me being vain but a mental health issue.  I needed to feel my best to be my best so I finally made an appointment with a dermatologist friend.  He and his wife run one of the best clinics in Chicago and he was able to set me up with a great clinician.  It was so great to take off my mask and have a medical professional say, “Oh, yah, I get why this bothers you.”  I finally felt heard.  Then the bad news came…laser won’t help this.  This is hormonal so it would absolutely grow back and laser does not work on light hair on light skin (which half of my hair is, even though I couldn’t care less about the light hairs, it’s the dark ones I hate). So, she prescribed me a topical cream that was just FDA approved to see it that helped lessened the current issue and referred me to a clinic here that offered Electrolysis.  I ran home to do more research.

When I went home and googled the clinic I was referred to I was astonished to read about electrolysis and what it entailed.  It’s literally a needle that is put into each and every hair follicle and then zapped with electricity.  BUT it is permanent (often after one zap but likely I’d need a few treatments to make it all stick) and it is most often used on women with my condition AND transgendered woman.  BINGO! This whole journey I kept scratching my head trying to figure out what transwomen did? I mean there are people born men, with full beards who transition and they have baby faces now, HOW? Electrolysis seemed to be the answer.  I went to a consult a few weeks ago and left in tears, tears of JOY.  My clinician took one look at me and said, “No laser, absolutely electrolysis and we can do this”.  I couldn’t believe I had finally found someone who saw my pain, and my problem and said “I can do this.  I have done it before, this will be great.”  At her suggestion we set up my first appointment and because I had such large, dense growth she suggested we start with several, what they call, “Comfort+” sessions.  Basically they inject numbing medication via needle into the skin which allows the clinician to get more done in the time allotted.  As we thin out the hair I can move to more traditional, 15 minute appointments which are less high voltage (don’t laugh, it’s true!) and without the injected pain medication.  

Before - Front

Before - Right Side
Before - Left Side

I went in for my first appt last Saturday.  I made sure I didn’t have any playing work for the next day or two based on my previous consultation.  I was warned my face would likely be swollen the next day.  As a brass player I was petrified I was trading my vanity for my profession.  Crazy, but these are the things you think of. The worst part was the first needle injection for the numbing.  After that everything else seemed to get less.  I needed several numbing shots throughout the session as I began to feel the electrical current later in the session. Surprisingly we were able to get so much done this first session.  My clinician was super happy.  The whole process is really interesting and I layed there with a mirror watching her kill follicle after follicle.  When she was done I was so happy I was holding tears back.  My face was immediately swollen and bruised from all the trauma. I felt like I was “Mr. Incredible” or channeling Jay Leno with my “big chin” but three days post procedure and the swelling has gone down quite a bit and I could easily play my horn 36 hours post zapping, a welcomed surprise.

Right After - Front

Right After - Right Side
Right After - Left Side

I think it’s so important to talk about things like this.  Much like miscarriages, cancer, etc…we’re all dealing with things, often that are out of our control, and the only way to normalize things is to discuss them.  So I don’t want this to be the “elephant in the room” anymore.  Not that I have ever really hid it…but still.  I’m hopeful that by sharing my story I can help some young woman out there who might be struggling with the beginning stage of this horrible condition and tell her to get help NOW! And that there are ways to fix this!! Had I really known this was an option years ago I wouldn’t have waited.  I’ve also realized the cost mentally this has had on me and am looking forward to the future of living even MORE out loud than I already usually am! LOL! But seriously, if you knew how much I’ve hid in public the past few years I think it would surprise a lot of you!

Resting and icing afterwards.

Bruising within a few hours.

I’d like to also give a shout out to SUPER.  I always felt like I was embarrassing to be seen with. But it’s NEVER, EVER bothered him.  I wish everyone could have such a supportive partner as I have with him.  It’s something I’ve always admired about him.  He gets somethings are just physical and out of our control and I love that he’s showing our kids that people are people, no matter how they look or even function, and that we treat everyone the same.  While it was at Super’s suggestion I keep looking into treatment, it wasn’t because he was effected in anyway but he could see the mental toll it was taking on me, especially after working so hard to get healthier these past few years. 

One Day Post - Right Side
One Day Post - Left Side

Icing my face while watching TV.

On the other hand, when I made the decision to move forward with the treatments I told P and she freaked out.  She said she loved my beard and “it’s what made Mommy Mommy”…well that did give me pause…but when we both had kids ask us about my beard at the summer camp field trip last week I was sure I had in fact made the right decision…she’s still on the fence about it but I think she will come around as the sessions progress.

Three Days Post
At Starbucks writing this post!

So there you have it…when you see me this week (and maybe in the future) and you see my bruised face you know why! This will be an ongoing thing for the next few months so feel free to ask me about the procedure and my progress, because if this is something you are struggling with I want you to know there are options and you are not alone!!


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