It was in Year 6 that a devastated Angella Dravid rushed home from the swimming pool and grabbed her dad’s razor to shave her upper lip after she heard a cute guy declare, “That girl has a f***ing moustache!”Meanwhile, Brynley Stent recalls bursting into tears after being told she had an “incurable” condition that would likely require taking birth control pills for life. And Hayley Sproull remembers anxiously “shaving from head to toe” before her first sleepover with her fiancé Aaron Cortesi.
All regulars on the Kiwi comedy scene, the stars make a hilarious trio as they crack jokes during our shoot at Auckland’s Basement Theatre, but behind the gags lie years of insecurity, tears, mental struggles, fears and the frustrations of living with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Also known as PCOS, it’s a common hormonal disorder that causes excessive levels of testosterone and insulin, which can result in weight gain, acne, hair growth, irregular periods and fertility issues. It can also increase the risk of depression, diabetes and miscarriage.
“The fertility thing’s really hard,” Taskmaster NZ star Angella, 34, tells Woman’s Day, adding that she was dumped two days ago because she may face trouble conceiving. “It makes you feel like less of a woman if you can’t have a baby.
“I told my ex I had PCOS and it affects fertility, but he said, ‘Your mum has five kids, so maybe it’s OK.’ It’s hard to hear that part of being a woman is giving birth. You’d hope you were more than a function.”
The toll PCOS can take on relationships, body image and mental health was something the trio weren’t made aware of when they were each diagnosed in their 20s.
For Angella’s Taskmaster co-star Brynley, 31, the news suddenly explained her “moustache and soft sideburns”, and why, despite being a sporty kid, she still couldn’t lose weight around her midsection. “I did swimming, athletics, soccer, dancing... I had long, muscly arms and legs, then pure fat in the middle.”
Strongly urged to take the Pill, which she had previously halted because it affected her mood and sex drive, she’s instead of working with specialist Clare Goodwin, aka “the PCOS Nutritionist”, to adopt a high-protein, low-carb diet.
A similar diet has been key for Hayley, 31, who experienced excessive hair and irregular periods from the age of 12.
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