Monthly Archives: March 2014

God Gave Me Lemons

I guess I’m supposed to make lemonade huh? I remember on more than one occasion hosting a lemonade stand with my cousins at my Grandparent’s house when I was younger.  Who doesn’t love lemonade? It’s basically just glorified water; yet so crisp and refreshing on a blazing summer afternoon.  Fast forward twenty years, I can’t help but feel shafted.  God gave me lemons while everyone else was receiving oranges.  And we all know oranges are a million times better than lemons!!  I can’t help but think “why me”?  What did I do to deserve this?  Why do some couples conceive more easily and naturally, and I am forced to go the most difficult path to obtain the same goal? I find myself repeating, “life just isn’t fair” over and over and over again.  There are thousands of couples that let’s face it-should never be allowed to have children, popping out kids left and right, along with the thousands of women who have an unwanted pregnancies and end up aborting.  Here my husband and I sit, willing to give up everything to have a child and cannot.  Life just isn’t fair.

 I finally met with my new team of doctors at the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) on Tuesday, March 18th.  Even as I sat in the chair listening to Dr. Awadalla (who PS I absolutely love!!!) reiterate that IVF was my only option to have children, it was as though I was hearing it for the first time.  I guess in the back of my mind I held onto the hope that this miracle doctor would be able to perform some crazy surgery to help remove the damage.  Sadly, this was not the situation.  After reviewing my case, he determined that another surgery to repair my tubes would not be advised for several reasons.  He believes the damage is far too severe.  He said the best way to explain it, is to imagine a bowl.  You have grapes (pelvic cavity) at the very bottom of the bowl, and strawberries (stomach) layered on top, and so on.  Well imagine that bowl being filled with poison and the fruit sitting in that poison for 3 weeks.  The grapes would be the most affected because they are the ones that were saturated the most by the poison.  This is exactly what happened with my tubes when my appendix exploded.  He feels another surgery would not be medically advised as there is no guarantee it would work.  Also, scar tissue comes back and consequently it would not be a permanent fix.  Therefore I have no choice but to fully accept this, embrace it, and move forward.

 IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is deemed as the last line of offense for couples trying to get pregnant.  Fertility drugs, surgeries, IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) are typically the first approaches.  However, IVF is the most effective way with the largest percentages of success to achieve pregnancy for infertile patients.  The first IVF attempt was made by Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Dr. Robert Edwards in 1978.  In the last 36 years IVF has come a long way.  Dr. A even said the progress that has been made in the last five years is truly amazing.  I thought I knew what IVF entailed, however I was thoroughly surprised at how much I didn’t know.

 In 2012 there was more than 61,000 babies born thru IVF.  Out of the 3.9 million babies born in 2012, 1.5% of them were IVF babies.  That is a huge increase over the last decade, in fact it was the biggest year for IVF.  IVF is made up of four stages:  Superovulation, Egg Retrieval, Fertilization of the Egg, and Embryo Transfer.  Throughout the IVF cycle there is careful monitoring through blood work and ultrasounds.  And the best part of IVF is all the fertility drug hormones and shot injections administered daily.  These lemons sure do taste amazing right about now!!! However this is all necessary for the IVF to work.  I try to keep that in mind as my head is swimming with all the information the doctor is giving me.

 Dr. A then began to do prep work for my IVF cycle.  As he was taking measurements through an ultrasound, he noticed that there was some fluid around my tubes.  Since there was no fluid in my tubes during my surgery, he became concerned this was a tubal fluid called Hydrosalpinx.  He believes it may be the result of a complication from my Laparoscopy (apparently it is common).  This is very harmful to IVF as it would leak from the tubes and destroy any chances of the IVF working.  Just my luck.  Dr. A scheduled me for another ultrasound in a few weeks to compare the results.  He noted that if the fluid is still there he will need to schedule yet another surgery to completely remove my tubes.  I know this would give me the very best chance of IVF working if it is Hydrosalpinx, but can a girl catch a break here?

 After I left my initial appointment with Dr. A, I had a crazy rush of emotions.  I was excited, scared, sad, and terrified all at once.  I was excited that he was confident I would be able to have children.  He said I have a 50% chance of success on the first attempt, and an 85% chance of success within three attempts.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to hear this.  But then my thoughts trailed to the possibility of another surgery before I can start my IVF cycle; this one much more evasive with a much longer recovery time.  Haven’t I been through enough already?  It just seems as though every time I get closer to my dream, I get pushed further and further away.  One step forward, ten steps back has never hit home quite like it did now.  And even though I have been doing as much as I possibly could to educate myself on every aspect, I was terrified of the process.  I know that you are your own best advocate, so I wanted to have as much knowledge on IVF going into this experience.

 There is also the financial side to think about.  The cost of meds per cycle is between $3,000 and $4,000 and considered extra to the IVF fees.  One single round of IVF is $12,500.  IRH does offer a money back guarantee program of 3 IVF cycles and 3 frozen transfers for $17,900.  I instantly felt sick to my stomach wondering how in the world we’d be able to afford all of this.  Paul and I currently work our asses off, with Paul holding down three part time jobs and myself with a full time career. Were we going to need to pick up more jobs and which route did we want to go, the one cycle payment or three payment cycle?  The one cycle payment seemed like we were putting all of our lemons in one basket, and what if it failed?

 Although the different blogs of personal stories were helping me cope, I can honestly say that I have never felt so alone in my entire life. This is a difficult feeling to explain.  I know that Paul and I are in this experience together as he was exceptionally good at comforting and reassuring me.  He has truly stepped up to the plate when I needed him most and went beyond what I could have asked for. World’s Best Husband award goes to you, Paul!!!  We also have an amazing support team of family, friends, and co-workers.  Shortly after we found out about our diagnosis, we had an abundance of people reach out to show their support!  In fact, I thought we were going to run out of places to store the gifts!!!

                                gifts 

Even though I knew we had support, I did not know a single person who had ever gone through the emotionally draining, intense, and difficult journey of IVF.  I knew the world had continued to go on as normal, but for me I was still stuck back on February 25th.  I felt like my entire world had literally stopped moving.  IVF and my desire to have children seemed to be completely taking over my life: my every thought, my dreams, my prayers, and every second of my free time.  It was like I was being swallowed up in this crazy experience and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  It became hard to focus on daily activities.  I felt this extreme disconnect from my friends whose world seemed to be moving full speed ahead.  The things that once used to matter now seemed very insignificant.  My every moment was literally consumed with counting down the days until my next doctor’s appointment.  I knew my body was going through the daily motions, but it was like nobody was mentally home.  I had completely checked out.

 And that’s when God answered one of my prayers.  He sent me Katie and Mike.  I will never be able to explain how much their impact on this experience has helped to make it that much easier.  After reading my blog, Katie reached out to me and offered to share her experience.  In that moment all my doubts about publicizing this blog 110% vanished!!  She has been through the IVF experience twice, with three babies and is currently on her fourth pregnancy all on her own!!!!!  And to make matters even better, she was also a patient of Dr. A!  I was beyond  inspired and I could literally feel the hope pulsing through my veins.  One Saturday evening Paul and I got together with Katie and Mike.  She shared her IVF journey and offered some insight as to what I can expect.  Being in her home and seeing the pictures of her three children, all IVF miracles, restored that fire and determination inside me that had been slipping away.  Being able to talk to someone else who had gone through the same experience that I will be embarking on felt so amazing.  She explained it best when she said family and friends can only offer a certain level of support because they don’t 100% understand what you are going through.  I learned that it is very important to also have my IVF support team. I recently joined two online, local support groups.  All the members are either currently undergoing infertility treatment or have been through it in the past.  Knowing that I have this support team to help me with any questions that may arise along the way truly has helped to lift some of the burden off my shoulders.  I no longer feel alone in this experience.  Seeing the other members’ success stories restored the hope that I would be able to start my own family.

As I sit in limbo, waiting to hear if I will need another major surgery or if I get the green flag to start IVF, I feel like I have a better grasp on what’s to come.  I feel inspired, hopeful, and rejuvenated.  I AM going to make this dream become a reality.

 And, you know what?  Lemons aren’t too bad after all!  Actually, they are pretty amazing.  They promote natural healing, boost immunity along with brain activity, and FIGHT infection & fatigue.  They have a STRONG antibacterial & antiviral power that treats insomnia, reduces anxiety, CONQUERS bad breath, and eases pain & inflammation.  These lemons were the perfect gift for God to have given me.  You can be sure I’m gonna make the best damn lemonade anyone has ever tasted!!!

 “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward.  So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.  So just focus, and keep aiming”

 

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Talking About the Taboo

When I first learned of my Infertility diagnosis I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the information.   Do you tell your family and friends?  Do you keep it a secret since it is a private matter? Would people closest to you even want to know or get all wigged out by the subject? As I attempted to cope with the news, i looked online to group discussion boards, stories,  and blogs of other people’s situations that were similar to mine.  To my surprise, they helped.  They inspired.  They gave me courage.  They gave me faith. The tears of sadness slowly turned into tears of determination.  So with that in mind I decided I wanted to tell my story. 

I’d like to start off by saying that I am not sharing my journey for pity, attention,  or sympathy.   I am telling it because like it or not-it is now a huge part of my life.  And there seems to be this huge taboo with talking about infertility.  I think a large part of that is because people aren’t informed enough about this disease.  I want to change that.  I want to inform and educate.  I want to inspire others who may be facing the same obstacles I am.  And more so I want to give people the hope and faith that they are not in this battle alone. 

I also want to preface this blog by saying I will try to be as positive as I can throughout this journey.   This part is going to be hard as I still have some really “bad days”.  However I truly believe that having a positive mind set and trying to find the silver lining in every situation has a major impact.  But I guess I should start from the beginning huh? 

I’ll give you all the details in a nut shell.  When I was 13 my appendix  ruptured.   As you know, your appendix is one of the vestigial organs that is filled with poison.  When it ruptured, it caused severe scar tissue to build up in my fallopian tube.  This was detected thru a HSG test.  An HSG test is a glorified X-ray that inserts blue dye thru the tubes.  If there is no damage to the tubes the dye should flow thru.  The dye stopped completely on my right tube.   From this test my dr concluded that I needed to have a laparoscopy surgery performed.   Her plan was to go in and remove the built up scar tissue inside. 

On February 25th I was admitted into Good Sam Hospital for my laparoscopy.  

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I had prepared myself for the worst case scenario: she was not going to be able to repair the damage to my right tube.   However as I awoke in the recovery room, there was no amount of preparation for the news I was about to receive.   As my husband Paul and mom came to each side and grabbed each hand, my heart dropped to the pit of  my stomach.  This was bad, worse than I imagined. The damage was too extensive and to BOTH tubes.   Despite my doctor’s attempt to cut out what she could, the dye wasnt able to make its way thru either side.   To say I was devastated would be an understatement.  I was barely able to choke out the words “will I ever be able to have children?” Paul explained that my dr felt I was the perfect candidate for IVF.   However I would probably never be able to have children without the help of IVF.   This was the day that my world momentarily stopped spinning. 

Infertility is a medically diagnosed disease that effects 1out of every 8 couples.  There are approximately 7.3 million people in the U.S. that are diagnosed with the disease.   Infertility is 1/3 attributed to the male partner,  1/3 attributed to the female partner,  and 1/3 attributed to both partners or are cases that go unexplained.   85-90% of these diagnoses are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures.   Fewer than 3% need advanced reproductive technologies (ART) like IUI or IVF.  Infertility is much more than a disease-its a loss.  Its a loss of a dream. Its a loss of hope. Its the loss of an assumed future-this belief that you grow older, get married,  and have children.   Its a loss of a genetic legacy, the parenting experience,  and grandparent experience. And like any other loss, it should be grieved. 

Since infertility involves so many personal life issues it is often not talked about.  It becomes the taboo.  This is where we are failing! Before my journey began I was uneducated about infertility. I was ignorant.  It’s simply not talked about enough for the public to be able to understand the full effects. People think they are being supportive when they offer phrases like “well they didn’t say you could NEVER have kids”. But those who are diagnosed often have to deal with the fact that despite the world’s best technology-they may NEVER be able to have children. Or more importantly they may never have the MEANS to get the scientific help they need to obtain the dream that seems to be disappearing from within their grasp.  A typical round of one month of IVF is approximately $15,000.  And not one dime of this is covered under typical health insurance. Which is why for many people the journey is over from the minute they are diagnosed.   Medically it could be possible for them to have children, financially it is impossible.  

Since there seems to be such a taboo with talking about infertility, most people don’t know how to respond and they often unintentionally end up saying the wrong thing.  So instead of doing the best thing possible-(being supportive),  they end up causing more pain.  So why aren’t people talking about it? The most common reason is the feelings of inadequacy,  embarrassment, shame, and lowered self worth that come along with infertility.   The feeling that because you are struggling to have children, you are somewhat less of a man or woman than Sally or Timmy who are able to conceive on their very first attempt.   What people need to understand is that it is a disease! In fact April 20-26 is National Infertility Awareness week.  Cities around the US even put on a sponsored walk called The Walk of Hope.  I truly believe the more awareness that is raised on the subject, the easier it could be for couples experiencing infertility to cope with. And society as a whole would be better equipped on how to treat the sensitive issue.

Writing has always been an outlet for me to handle and cope with my emotions. If I can also help to raise awareness on the issue and  offer inspiration or hope to at least one other person, then I would consider this blog a win-win situation.   My journey is just beginning and you can be sure I am not going to quit before I give it one hell of a fight!!!!

“Whatever life throws at you,  even if it hurts, just be strong enough and fight through it. Remember strong walls shake, but never collapse. “