A bearded woman who shaves 3 times a day has been left devastated after the NHS declined life changing laser treatment on her skin – because the procedure is ‘too cosmetic.’ Mother-of-two Cheryl Howe, 32, removes hair from her face, breasts and stomach daily because of a lifelong condition which affects her hormones.
Cheryl was identified with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) at age 12 after tests showed she had small cysts growing on the ovaries.
First, these cysts interfere with hormone development, and typically cause excessive hair growth, infertility and miscarriage in the rare event of conception – and even escalate the likelihood of developing certain varieties of cancer.
Mother-of-two Cheryl Howe, 32, removes hair from her face, breasts and stomach daily because of a lifelong condition which affects her hormones. She was originally warned she would never conceive due to her condition, but in spite of this, had two children – Sharon, now 15 and Jack, aged 6
She asserts she has been spending £2,000 a year on razors and shaving cream since her problem started.
Then, last January, after a decade-long wait for help on the NHS, she eventually got approved for NHS funding for laser hair removal treatment, which costs a minimum of £10,000.
But a month back, after not hearing anything about a further appointment at Leeds Teaching Hospital, she called to chase it up.
It was only then she learned she was no longer on the waiting list as her treatment was ‘cosmetic.’
The decision comes after Miss Howe, a parts advisor for a car firm, was at the start warned by doctors she would never conceive due to her condition.
In spite of their warnings, she had two children Sharon, now 15 and Jack, aged 6.
Furthermore, she is also awaiting surgery to remove her ovaries after a recent battle with cancer left her more vulnerable to future illnesses.
‘I am absolutely heartbroken,’ said Miss Howe, from Morecambe, Lancashire.
‘This horrid condition has dictated my entire life and gets too much for any man to handle. They can’t deal with the fact that I can grow a beard quicker than they can.
Miss Howe was identified with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) at age of 12. She asserts she has been spending £2,000 a year on razors and shaving cream since her problem started.
After a decade-long wait for help on the NHS, she eventually got approved for NHS funding for laser hair removal treatment, which costs a minimum of £10,000. However, she has now been told she does not qualify as it’s a ‘cosmetic’ procedure
‘After a 10-year wait to have my voice heard and my condition treated on some level, I finally thought I was going to become a real woman [when I had the treatment approved].
‘But I was then shunned because my treatment was cosmetic.
‘I am no different to a burns victim or a woman seeking breast implants to enhance her confidence. I feel completely devastated, and can’t help but wonder if I will ever have the chance to love my body, as I never have because of the condition.
‘This isn’t cosmetic. I have a disfigurement. It’s horrendous I’ve had to wait so long for treatment. All my life I have been the punchline, the easy target.
‘I have been refused jobs on the grounds that I would scare clients despite being suitably qualified for the job, and I was even turned away from an X-Factor audition because I didn’t look the part.’
She added: ‘I don’t understand how the NHS can just push me aside without a second thought after I have waited on a list for almost 10 excruciating years.
Miss Howe said: ‘I am no different to a burns victim or a woman seeking breast implants to enhance her confidence. I feel completely devastated. This condition has dictated my entire life’
‘It took me constantly begging my dermatologist to be placed on the list in the first place and I have patiently waited my turn, despite fighting cruel comments whenever I leave my house, combating online trolls and battling several health problems along the way.
‘Despite having two beautiful, healthy children I have also suffered two heartbreaking miscarriages, one of which happened almost five months into the pregnancy, the other when I underwent cancer treatment.’
After being identified with cancer for the first time at 21 and battling it three times since, Miss Howe had her womb removed as a preventive procedure.
She is at the moment waiting to have her ovaries removed to abate the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.
She said: ‘My body has been probed, poked and prodded for years and I am fed up.
‘I have faced terrible bullying throughout my life, incredible physical pain, emotional trauma and loss on an incomprehensible scale.
‘I was absolutely delighted when I saw the result of the trial treatment. There was a whole patch of skin without a single hair in sight, and it has never grown back since, which is astonishing because I would normally have to shave it three times every day.
‘To suddenly withdraw my application is so cruel and almost callous. I have seen how effective the treatment is and how much it could change my life for the better.’
She added: ‘They tell me it’s because my treatment was too cosmetic and not a good way to spend their limited funding, but a burns victim or an insecure woman with a flat chest would be given utmost compassion, and my procedure would be no more cosmetic than theirs.
‘Severely overweight people are often offered a gastric band on the NHS, and they often become fat by choice.
‘I didn’t ask for PCOS. This is a terrible condition that is ruining my life and I deserve to be taken seriously by those who are supposed to care for a living.
‘Over the years I have found it more and more difficult to cope with my condition, and I even attempted to take my own life on one occasion.
‘I am not proud of it, but I was broken.’
She went on to say she is determined to change the world for PCOS sufferers.
‘There is a serious lack of understanding of the condition, despite it affecting 1 in 3 women around the world,’ she said.
‘This urgently needs to change, because too many women are forced to suffer in so many ways, yet have nowhere to turn and no support from professionals.’
A spokesman for NHS Lancashire North Clinical Commissioning Group said: ‘The CCG has a limited amount of money to spend, and has a public duty to spend this appropriately across the range of health care needs.
‘In all cases the decision made by the panel is based on the clinical effectiveness of the procedure for a particular patient and not on financial grounds.’
HOW DOES POLYCYSTIC OVARIES CAUSE EXCESS HAIR GROWTH?
Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS) commonly brings on excess hair in women.
PCOS is a condition in which ovaries don’t work properly and are covered in small cysts. It on an average affects 10 to 15 per cent of women.
Due to that, eggs are released erratically or not at all, leading to irregular or missed periods, and often reduced fertility and acne.
One most common symptom is a high level of male hormones (androgens), which bring on hair growth.
All women produce androgens. But, on occasions women produce higher levels, or they may have normal levels, but their hair follicles are more sensitive to androgens.
‘If excess hair is due to a hormonal imbalance, then it tends to occur in areas such as the chin, upper lip, sideburns, chest and inner thighs,’ says Dr Rina Davison, an endocrinologist from Whipps Cross University Hospital, London, with a special interest in excess hair.
‘These are areas of the skin that are more sensitive to testosterone.
‘The hair is also likely to be coarse and dark.’
Given the implications for fertility, women worried about excess hair should see their GP, advises Steve Franks, professor of reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College, London and an endocrinologist at St Mary’s and Hammersmith Hospitals, London.
‘There may be other problems to investigate,’ he suggests.
‘Often, excess hair is a symptom of PCOS, but it also can be indicative of less common, but potentially more serious, hormonal disorders, or tumours of the ovary or adrenal gland – the two parts of the body that produce testosterone.
‘Many, if not most, GPs will take the problem seriously and refer to an endocrinologist if appropriate.
‘Women should not be afraid to ask for a referral to a specialist.’