After Dan and I got word that the cone biopsy didn’t go our way, Dr. Goff set us up with the UW IVF clinic. We made our way to University Reproductive Health and wondered why things couldn’t go our way.
When we got to the office, both of us crying, we were taken to the financial counselor’s office. She talked to us about what our insurance would and wouldn’t cover, and just listened as we cried. The MA then came and took us to an exam room. She was so kind and brought us water and me a blanket while we waited for the doctor.
Dr. Neal-Perry came in and gave us a crash-course in IVF. I don’t remember everything from that first appointment. It’s all a hazy blur, but we agreed we would start as soon as possible, which meant I was going to stay in Seattle until the process was done (which ended up being 6 weeks–also included 2 weeks dog sitting for friends). We met other nurses in the office and made another appointment for me on Tuesday, and one for Dan on Wednesday so he could get started on his part.
That night I didn’t go to Good Friday mass. I texted my friends with my news, and watched the Sounders lose to Vancouver. My best friend left to go to mass, and came back with dinner from Ivars. We went to bed early with the plan that I would stay with my best friend through the weekend, then move to another friend’s house who was close to the hospital so I could make my many trips.
Dan left Saturday morning, leaving me without a car and the only 3 outfits I had packed for the trip. I spent the weekend with my best friend, spending Easter with her family, and spending time on an emotional roller-coaster of sadness, anger, and laughing.
I wasn’t as broken as I thought I would be. After the miscarriage I shut down. I couldn’t speak to anyone but my best friend, and another close friend who lived in Omaha. I spoke to a friend in Hamilton who suffered the loss of her baby, knowing he would die after he was born. But this time, I was able to talk to my friends. I told everyone what had happened. I didn’t hide away like I did last time. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I had IVF to occupy me, or maybe I’m just a stronger person than I thought.
I also shared our story on Facebook, and asked if anyone had experience with a gestational carrier, or if anyone was interested in being a gestational carrier. I actually got a couple replies.
My friend who I would be staying with came with me to my first appointment. She is a neurology PA and knows the UW system. It was helpful for me to go with someone in the medical field, and who knew the best ways to get my care. The nurse practitioner walked us through a slideshow of the process of IVF. Instead of joining in a group class, I was having a private lesson and going to do a “quick start”, meaning I was going to forego any of the IVF prep and just start injecting hormones. We also needed to follow certain FDA guidelines since we have use a gestation carrier.
Dan flew in Tuesday night for his appointment on Wednesday. We had paperwork to sign and Dan also needed to get his… contribution to IVF inspected. They weren’t sure whether he would need to donate once or twice, or if there were any issues. There was confusion once we got to the men’s clinic though. Paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly, and the clinic had thought we were there for the ACTUAL contribution, instead of examination. I was in the middle of a work meeting (yes, I was working in the waiting room of the men’s clinic — joys of working from home) when Dan called me and told me I needed to come back there. I pretty much hung up on my boss and walked back there. I sorted everything out by saying this wasn’t the actual contribution, it was for examination. I refused to let the visit go by without something happening. Dan did not pay hundreds of dollars to fly out for 24 hours to sign paperwork. Once I talked to the nurse, and explained it wasn’t the actual donation, he said it would be no problem to do that. There was some back and forth between my office and the men’s clinic, and me trying not to yell at anyone, but Dan was able to do his stuff.
We then went back to the IVF clinic to talk to financial counselor again since Friday was a blur to both of us. Once we started learning of the cost what things would cost since insurance doesn’t cover gestational carriers, I started to cry.
“This isn’t fair. We shouldn’t even be here,” I cried.
“No one wants to be here,” the counselor said.
“But I was pregnant a month ago,” I practically screamed. “I have no problem getting pregnant, I just have a diagnosis that won’t let me.”
The counselor looked shocked. I’m not sure if she didn’t remember us from Friday, or our circumstances, but her tone changed. I must have looked inconsolable, because they took us back and I was able to talk to the nurse manager who was so sweet and amazing. I just cried and told her how it wasn’t fair. That I shouldn’t be there. Getting pregnant wasn’t a problem, it was carrying the baby that was.
I know I sound like a brat. Many women deal with infertility, I’m not a special snowflake in that instance. I felt like a fraud being in the office. I felt like I had no reason being there, Dan and I had no problem getting pregnant. Our problem was being able to carry the baby. I didn’t think it was fair that we would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to do something I was so sure I could do on my own. I hate cancer.
It was decided I would start my medication the following Sunday. Sunday night I began taking Letrozole, and Monday night at 6pm I got my first Gonal-F shot from my PA friend with Dan on Facetime. Wednesday, I had an appointment with the nurse practitioner where I signed more FDA paperwork, and Friday morning I had my first ultrasound appointment with my doctor to see how the meds were working. Dan had an appointment on Friday to make his first (and what would be only) contribution.
While I stayed active every night, getting in as much friend time as I could, I had to pause everything at 5:58pm and prep my skin so I could give myself my shot. One of my favorite memories of this, was when I started to take Menopur and Cetrotide and had to mix the two, my PA friend and I had to leave the bar before a Sounders game to give myself a shot. She was two beers in, and we sat in the backseat of her car in Pioneer Square (a bit of a sketchy Seattle neighborhood), and she mixed the two shots and we injected myself three times. Right after, a homeless gentleman walked up to the car and we ended up having a short conversation with him as we cleaned up the car and headed back to the bar.
One thing I learned about this process, is that I’m very fertile. Both sides of my ovaries had well over 20 follicles and most were producing eggs. Every time I went in for my ultrasounds, the doctor would count over 25 follicle sizes on each ovary. This put me at high risk for OHSS – Ovarian Hyperstimulation Symptom. AKA my ovaries were weighed down and were at high-risk of ovarian torsion. This meant no exercising, stretching, twisting, etc. I was relegated to just walking.
There was hope that they could do the egg retrieval on Tuesday, but alas, my fast growing eggs were slowing to a halt and weren’t growing those extra couple millimeters. I ended up ordering one more days worth of Cetrotide (which was annoying to deal with insurance, and then end up not needing to use it), but I was scheduled for egg retrieval on Thursday. I was so happy to not be giving myself shots anymore. It was painful and my stomach was tired of being used as a pin cushion.
Thursday morning I took a half day off of work and was picked up by a friend who drove me to the clinic. I was an hour and a half early for my appointment, but I had brought a book and settled in to read it. One of the medical assistants saw me come in,and brought me back to a room so I could read in peace and quiet. It was so kind and thoughtful.
The procedure was quick and simple. It was so different than being in the hospital though. I was the only patient, and I got a lot of extra care from the nurse, MA, and anesthesiologist (who may have also been my anesthesiologist from my hospitalization procedure in March, we were trying to figure that out). I warned them about my tendency to cry under anesthesia. I also met the embryologist, and confirmed a couple times that it was definitely Dan’s vial he was using to create embryos with my eggs.
Going under was a lot slower this time, I could feel myself slowly falling asleep when I started talking about how sad I was that this was the closest I would ever get to being pregnant again. The MA, anesthesiologist, and Dr. Neal-Perry were great though, they tried to get me to focus on vacations to South Africa as I fell asleep.
I woke up about 30 minutes later with tears rolling down my cheeks.
“I’m crying again, aren’t I?” I asked.
The nurse smiled and nodded.
“Go have fun this weekend. Go drink that glass of champagne.”
I had no clue what she talked about. And then I remembered talking to her before the surgery about wanting to go home this weekend for my friend’s wedding, but that if I couldn’t fly home, then I could stay in town for a friend’s bacherolette party who was flying in from Georgia, and who’s wedding I would be unable to attend in July. As expected, I wasn’t allowed to fly home, and instead spent an amazing weekend with friends celebrating.
Another friend picked me up and drove me back to our friend’s. Have I mentioned what amazing friends I have? There’s absolutely no way I could have gotten through any of this without them.
The egg retrieval was successful. 24 eggs were retrieved and now we have embryos waiting for us when we’re ready to begin the process. We paid and did the PGS process, hoping to find the strongest embryos to use. The doctor also knows the sex of each embryo. I want to find out, but Dan wants to wait. While I would love to choose the sex, I feel like I’ve played God enough in this process, so we’ll let the doctor decide.
IVF was not something I’d ever thought I’d need. Being quickly forced into the process though, I couldn’t have asked for a better office to go through this with. Dr. Neal-Perry and her staff were amazing. The nurses were so kind, understanding, funny, and made the process easier. The medical assistants did everything to make our appointments run smoothly, and just wanted everything for us to be easy. While I hope no one has to go through this, if you do, University Reproductive Health in Seattle is a great choice. Any question I had was answered, concern noted, and I just felt like everyone there cared about me. They understood how frustrating this was for us to go through, and they let me bitch about it non-stop. I cannot say enough positive things about this office.
Speaking of amazing people, my friends. Without my friends driving me everywhere, letting me borrow their cars, poking me with needles, being shoulders to cry on, I’d probably be in a ball crying still. I’m so lucky to be able to go through and have such an amazing support system.
And with that, I wrap up my story of Winter/Spring 2017. With the pregnancy, cancer diagnosis, hospitalizations, cone biopsy, and radical hysterectomy I’m ready for all this to end. I still have chemo and radiation to get through this summer. And I’m sure I’ll continue to look back at certain instances and write about them more, but with this, the big story has finally been told.