Friday, November 1, 2013

Putting Your Mustache to Good Use: An Interview with Miss Movember, Jeanette Martin

By Caitlin Seida
Jeanette Martin, used with permission

The human body is a weird thing - sometimes we're given features we really would rather not have. Some women regularly pluck stray hairs from our bodies. But too many "cysters" (women with PCOS) know the pain that comes of being cursed with the ability to grow a lush beard or mustache that would be the envy of many a man. Not every woman with PCOS has unwanted facial hair, but for those that do it can be embarrassing, sometimes to the point of making it hard to leave the house without being on the verge of tears.

One cyster is standing up and kicking ass and using what Mother Nature gave her for the power of good. Jeanette Wilson-Martin, 32, of Bremerton, WA is doing exactly that. Last year Jeanette committed to growing out her facial hair for Movember, a movement that encourages men to grow out their facial hair in the month of November to raise funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and other men's health issues. And she's doing it again this year.

" I heard about Movember on our local radio station the put out a call for any woman who would be willing to grow a mustache for Movember," she says. She reached out to them and joined their team. "A few weeks earlier my (now) husband was watching football, and I noticed all the pink for breast cancer awareness...I figured if they can wear pink I can wear my mustache!"

Jeanette's struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome is a story that rings true for many cysters. Jeanette tells us "I was 22 when I was finally diagnosed with PCOS, but my symptoms started showing at 16 along with puberty." Since symptoms are different for every woman, she elaborated and explained some of the other issues she has to contend with on a daily basis: "I have the facial hair and excessive body hair, weight gain, and depression, I have fertility issues. I have been borderline diabetic." She says she's been lucky with the borderline diabetes, but managed to develop gestational diabetes when pregnant with her daughter.

And her daughter - so lucky to have a mom who is unafraid to be who she is and show her beautiful
Jeanette Martin and her daughter, used with permission.
face to the world, is something of a miracle. As with many PCOS women, the fertility issues experienced made it hard for Jeanette to bring her vivacious and wonderful daughter into the world. "My daughter was my 7th pregnancy, and the only one to make it past 6 months along." My heart broke for Jeanette when she told me this - pregnancy loss is never easy, and can really do a number on your life when you have a diagnosis that basically says your body will do all sorts of things that aren't "textbook normal" - it's frustrating to no end when your body does not behave the way it's supposed to.

"I was on over 100 days of bed rest and had to go to UW in Seattle to have her, I went into labor 3 times with my daughter, and the final time, she was 5 and a half weeks early. I was life flighted from Bremerton to have her in Seattle." Like mother like daughter, Jeanette's little girl was a fighter from the start. "The two times I went into labor before this, they gave me steroids to strengthen her lungs and get her ready if they couldn't stop my labor, so when she came we were prepared for the worst and got the best anyone could have expected. She was 4 lbs 7 oz, 17.5 inches long, and was very close to perfectly healthy, she had a few issues keeping her body heat, and eating, but we only stayed 4 days in the hospital and i was able to bring her home."

For women with PCOS who have fertility issues, Jeanette's story is a beacon of hope. Many women with PCOS, especially those who are diagnosed later in life or don't have access to proper medical care but want a family, have an incredibly hard time starting one.
Speaking of access to medical care, I asked Jeanette what her doctors were doing to help her. Many of the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome are invisible - the cysts, the insulin resistance, the depression, but those that are visible like the weight gain around the middle and the hair problems are the only indicator to the world that there's a problem. Treatment of PCOS usually consists of working with different medications to correct the insulin resistance and mediate the hormonal imbalance that causes the signs and symptoms of the syndrome.

"I am uninsured at the moment and have not seen a doctor since shortly after my daughter was born," says Jeanette, a story that is again all-too-familiar to many American women.  "When I did have a regular doctor, they put me on metformin (Glucophage) and (hormonal) birth control." Like PCOS, which is not a one-size-fits-all disorder, the standard course of treatment did not work for Jeanette. "The metformin made my sugars drop and scared me because I am not diabetic, and the birth control did not help the facial hair as they thought it would." Again, a frustration that many cysters know firsthand. It can take a long time to find the right combination of things to mitigate the symptoms of the disorder.  



As for her now iconic mustache, I asked Jeanette if she'd ever tried to get rid of it. She says: "I have had every treatment for my hair that I can think of: laser, electrolysis, waxing, and now I just shave every day." True to the I Feel Delicious motto, Jeanette doesn't let her facial hair stop her from trying to feel and look her best.

"I like to play up the features I like about myself, I do crazy colors and bold eyes," she says of her beauty routine. "I try to dress for my body type, and not the body type I wish I had, and be comfortable." She offers this advice for other PCOS sufferers with the same problem:  "You gotta work with what you have; find your strengths, and highlight those."

She doesn't just try her best to look good, but also feel good. "I am not really a fitness kinda person," Jeanette says. But as new moms know, we get a lot of physical activity whether we want to or not. " I guess my favorite exercise is running after my two year old!" And with a firecracker like Jeanette for a mom, I'm sure that keeps her busy 24 hours a day!  

"I do try to eat a home cooked balanced dinner every night." Jeanette tells us, making me wish I could ask for an invite to dinner because my cooking skills are horrid and I admire her dedication to making sure her family gets proper nutrition. We're all only human though, and Jeanette confesses that she, her husband and daughter eat out once a month. No harm in having a treat now and then, and Jeanette says it's mostly when they're on the go and away from home. I hate the fact that Jeanette feels the need to justify a meal out, but sadly many PCOS sufferers do feel a need to explain their dietary choices, even though it is nobody's business but their own and their doctors'.
Jeanette at the Movember gala, used with permission


Becoming Miss Movember hasn't been the easiest thing in the world and Jeanette faced her own share of cyberbullies when she first participated in 2012. "On a few websites some of the comments did get pretty mean, but every time I was about to defend myself I would see many post from others defending me, and saying how brave I was, it seemed for every negative there was a lot more positive," she tells us. Maybe there's a little faith in humanity, because unlike my own story, Jeanette mentions "I even had some (people) apologize for their remarks, and they took the time to read about PCOS, and they learned a little."
The participants in Movember made Jeanette feel welcome though - despite the fact that she's not the gender of the typical participant. "When I was nominated for Miss Movember, I had to get on stage and next to some fairly thin, very pretty girls, but I did it, and the crowd roared for me, and accepted me for me, it was the most awesome feeling."

And as for her family's thoughts on her growing out her mustache for a good cause? "My husband
Jeanette and her husband, used with permission.
was super supportive. He did Movember with me last year and now this year too, but tries to get everyone to donate and see my page, and encourages me to keep going when
it gets a little long, and the stares start coming."

Although last year was only the first year Jeanette participated in Movember, she's doing it again this year (2013) and says she plans to do continue doing so. "I have said I will keep growing my Mustache out until I reach $1000, in a single Movember." After that? "I will still participate just not grow."
Despite garnering some overwhelming attention from both the press and the public at large, Jeanette says it's been a pretty positive experience. "Last year at the Seattle gala I won Miss Movember, and became the first woman to ever win Man of Movember," a pretty big achievement! In today's society of pink ribbons and breast cancer support, it's not uncommon to hear of men sporting pink apparel or "Save the TaTas" t-shirts, championing for what is typically considered a "woman's disease" (despite breast cancer's insidious ability to affect anyone, regardless of gender.)  But rarely do you hear of a woman becoming a figurehead for men's health and testicular and prostate cancer - possibly because the causes don't get nearly as much attention as breast cancer or possibly because women just don't think it's of their concern.  

I would not hesitate to call Jeanette a role model, and she would be someone I would be very proud to have my own daughter of a similar age look to for inspiration. When asked what she would like to tell her daughter, Jeanette says: "Every person is beautiful, and different, and to embrace your uniqueness. I was given a curse, and for many years, I hated my facial hair, and would walk around with my head down hoping no one would notice, but then I heard opportunity knocking and a chance to use this as a gift and make my negative into a positive."

"So many people said I was brave, but really I was more afraid than I was willing to show, and if it helps just one person to look and the mirror and see something different then what everyone has told them to see, it was and is worth it." I think Jeanette has more than accomplished her goal - from those who apologized for their cyber harassment to those who took the time to learn a little more about PCOS to those who have donated to her Movember campaign, she's making a BIG difference in the world. And for all the girls and women ashamed of their facial hair, Jeanette is showing that you can still be beautiful, even with your mustache. This strong and, yes, courageous woman is beautiful both inside AND out.
You can donate to Jeanette's campaign to raise funds for Movember here at her "MoSpace" page.
Let's see if we can try to help her reach her $1,000 goal! Caitlin Seida has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites including Livestrong.com, TypeF.com, Salon.com, Dogster.com and The Daily Puppy. A Jill-of-All-Trades, she splits her workday as a writer, humane society advocate and on-call vet tech. What little free time she has goes into pinup modeling, advocating for self-acceptance, knitting and trying to maintain her haunted house (really!). You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and of course here on I Feel Delicious!

7 comments:

  1. Jeanette Martin is amazing and I am happy and proud to say she is my best friend. She is an inspiration to me and I know she will inspire many others. She has fought mother nature and won! She is the most beautiful person I know inside and out. This story is wonderfully told.

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  2. I feel honored just to have met her! I can't speak highly enough of her. -Caitlin

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  3. I'm happy for my new stepmom. She's beautiful, courageous, and the best person I've ever known next to my parents. I'm proud to call her family.
    Katharine Martin

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  4. I've known Jeanette and been friends with her for over 10 years and I have to tell you she's always been one of the most loving people. We have talked about our struggles with the PCOS and mine eventually turned into ovarian cancer (which is gone) and I've always said how amazing it is that she is just taking back and winning on the hand she was dealt in life. I love you Jeanette!!!!

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  5. I truly enjoyed this article! Jeanette is inspirational!

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  6. thank you all for your beautiful words and continued support!!! ~Jeanette

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  7. Jeanette....I'm proud of you!! You were a strong person when we worked together and you've only gotten stronger!! Keep up the great work and know that you are being a good example to so many others!! ❤️❤️❤️
    Kelly Amis

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