A woman who suffers from a condition that causes excessive hair growth over her entire body has opened up about how cruel childhood bullies dubbed her Chewbacca after the hairy character from Star Wars.
Samantha Allen, 28, from New York, was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a hormonal disorder that affects how a woman’s ovaries work – and Hirsutism – excess hair growth – at an early age.
She started shaving her legs at age eight, and by the time she was 11, she was growing hair on her face and other areas of her body.
‘I was bullied in throughout middle and high school. People called me Chewbacca, fat b***h, a man. I didn’t even know half the people bullying me and I was certain I didn’t know them,’ she recalled.
Samantha Allen, 28, from New York, suffers from excessive hair growth all over her body
She was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a hormonal disorder that affects how a woman’s ovaries work – and Hirsutism – excess hair growth – at an early age
Samantha recalled how bullies dubbed her Chewbacca after the hairy Star Wars character
‘However, once it started more and more people started getting in on it, including close family members.’
PCOS is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. It causes the ovaries to become bigger than they should be and to develop numerous small cysts on the outer edges.
The disorder affects around 10 per cent of women of childbearing age and can cause symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, hair loss, oily skin, and acne.
The most common cause of Hirsutism in young women is PCOS.
Samantha (pictured in middle school) started shaving her legs at age eight, and by the time she was 11, she was growing hair on her face and other areas of her body
‘I was bullied in throughout middle and high school,’ said Samantha (pictured in 2006)
In addition to her excessive body hair, Samantha also struggled with her weight
Samantha’s PCOS made it nearly impossible for her to lose weight on her own
In addition to her excessive body hair, Samantha also struggled with obesity.
Even though she was into sports and lived an active lifestyle, her PCOS made losing weight nearly impossible. At her heaviest, she weighed 275 pounds.
‘When you’re overweight, everyone always subconsciously comments on it also,’ she said.
‘I always had people try to tell me how to lose weight effectively, what medications I should be using for PCOS because their sister, cousin, best friend’s mom, whoever has it also.
‘Even though PCOS is different in each woman including their symptoms and what does or doesn’t work for their body.’
Samantha started sharing her story on Instagram while she was looking into weight loss surgery
‘I have people leave hateful comments on my pictures or leave the puke emoji upon seeing pictures of my body hair,’ she admitted
At 25, Samantha made the decision to get weight loss surgery after she ended up in the emergency room on the verge of organ failure
Samantha, who weighed 275 pounds at her heaviest (left), has since lost 100 pounds (right)
Two years post-op, Samantha is nine months pregnant with her first child
At 25, Samantha made the decision to get weight loss surgery after she ended up in the emergency room on the verge of organ failure.
What is Hirsutism and why does it happen?
Hirsutism is excessive hair growth in certain areas of the body that mainly affects women.
It’s relatively common and often a long-term problem, but there are a number of treatments to control it.
The excessive hair in hirsutism is usually thick and dark, rather than fine and fair and develops in areas where men often have hair, such as the face, neck, thighs and buttocks.
It may also cause additional symptoms, such as oily skin, acne, a deep voice, irregular periods or no periods at all.
Hirsutism is caused by an excess of male hormones called androgens in the body, or by the body being more sensitive to these hormones.
In many cases, it’s not clear why this happens. Some women just seem to develop extra hair growth as they get older, particularly after the menopause.
In younger women, the most common cause is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that can cause irregular periods and fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on the ovaries.
‘I felt like I was going to pass out and extremely weak,’ she explained. ‘Liver enzymes are supposed to be between 0-40 and my level was 127.
‘My EKG was completely haywire,’ she added, saying they were early signs of renal failure and pre-diabetes.
‘This was a complete wake-up call for me, I had to weigh in on the fact that I was unable to lose the weight myself and get my health on track no matter how hard I tried.’
Samantha started sharing her story on Instagram while she was looking into weight loss surgery and was curious about other people’s experiences with it.
‘I know the huge community there is to be found on the platform and I had some questions about what it would be like to get bariatric surgery,’ she said.
After having bariatric surgery in August 2019, she lost 100 pounds and felt confident enough to share photos of herself.
‘I have people leave hateful comments on my pictures or leave the puke emoji upon seeing pictures of my body hair,’ she admitted.
‘I do not let it bother me as I often get private messages from women sharing their own stories of PCOS.
‘I have had many women claim I am brave and seeing my pictures and story out there helps them in their journey as well.’
Two years post-op, Samantha is nine months pregnant with her first child.
‘I was very surprised and worried as with PCOS it can be incredibly difficult to conceive,’ she said. ‘
‘And even after conception, it can be very difficult to carry a child to term. However, I have had an idyllic pregnancy.
‘At first, I had consulted a specialist and asked a million questions, but I am now in the pre-labor stage of this pregnancy with no complications and could not be happier.’