Being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and then seriously injured in a balcony collapse have changed Tenisha Peters’ outlook on life.
Tenisha (22) was diagnosed with PCOS when she was 17-years-old and about a year later, had just started studying for a Personal Training Diploma at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin when a student flat balcony collapsed during a Six60 band gig, injuring 18 people.
The fit, energetic young woman who’d always trained hard and never been injured broke both legs and fractured a vertebra. Her recovery took more than two years and initially she couldn’t even get out of bed herself.
I’d never understood what it was like to have to ask someone to help me in the shower or to go to the toilet,” she says.
She’d previously enjoyed exercise as an emotional outlet and taken movement for granted, but suddenly couldn’t train.
“All of a sudden I was the one in the gym stretching all the time instead of being the one exercising.”
Tenisha didn’t return to polytech for up to 12 weeks and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the balcony collapse, which was life-altering.
“That probably changed my perspective and probably my whole life.”
The courageous student realised she wanted to help others. She recovered, completed her diploma and studied for a Bachelor of Applied Science degree at the polytech, where her lecturers continued to mentor and encourage her.
During her final year of study, she created PCOS Fit, a 10-week exercise and behaviour change programme for women with PCOS, a hormonal condition with “daunting” possible side effects including depression, anxiety, obesity, miscarriage, reduced chances of pregnancy, acne, balding or excess hair growth.
The programme has run twice in Dunedin to heartfelt, powerful response and longer-term, Tenisha wants to make it available to women throughout New Zealand and possibly overseas.
Diagnosed at 17-years-old
Tenisha was a healthy 17-year-old living in Australia and playing lots of sport when she became concerned because she hadn’t ovulated for more than a year. A doctor told her she might have PCOS.
I was like, ‘what the hell’s that?’”
She underwent an ultrasound, which she describes as surreal because she’d imagined her first would be when she was pregnant.
After PCOS was diagnosed, her doctor advised taking the oral contraceptive pill to deal with the condition’s side-effects. Tenisha reflects that she was young and uneducated about the condition’s repercussions and the pill.
“It really is a band-aid for the symptoms,” she says.
This year Tenisha has stopped taking the pill because she wants to learn to manage the condition and symptoms without it. She is open about her experiences because she considers that many women don’t understand enough about PCOS, the pill’s effects and their own well-being.
“It’s been a struggle street this year,” the lively 22-year-old says as she sips coffee at a Dunedin cafe. She shares about this struggle on her blog, which she began as part of her degree. The blog discusses PCOS and the value of exercise in combating it.
Sufferers often experience low self-esteem and feel they’re not receiving quality advice from medical specialists or enough family support, she says.
The PCOS Fit programme Tenisha developed is predominantly an exercise programme, however its most vital aspect is creating a safe community environment in which women can share together and sweat together.
“I really just wanted it to be around well-being.”
Women are able to be themselves at the programme and still keep in touch.
“I think that’s such a powerful thing when you can bring people together who support each other.”
Tackling body image
Body image is another important facet of the programme because Tenisha believes there is a massive gap between what the health industry tells women with PCOS about weight loss and them knowing how they can lose weight healthily.
PCOS Fit addresses why bodies are the way they are: “So it’s building that skill-set and knowledge behind it.”
Now that she’s gained her degree, Tenisha is working full-time and hopes to travel overseas. After that, when she can secure funding and commit long-term, she wants to run the programme full-time and possibly train others to do so.
“It’s just the best, honestly. I can’t wait to do it again.”
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Audacious, which taught Tenisha entrepreneurial skills