“Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?” Blech. I don’t like when someone asks me that. It makes me feel so… put on the spot. That said, I almost always pick good news first. I mean, who wants to be disappointed right off the bat? Not me. So, reader, while I won’t ask that question of you today, this is kind of a good news-bad newsy post. Just to clear that up.
Today I’ll also start with the good news: the weird intermenstrual bleeding I had all last month is finally gone! And before I tell you why, can I just say how much nurses freakin’ rock?! Seriously, they will tell you the crap that no doctor ever will.
My fave nurse from the clinic, who has been a reproductive medicine nurse for so long that she might as well be an unofficial RE, told me during a follow up phone call what my doctor never did—that the reason for my mystery bleeding was actually quite simple: My lining was, for reasons unknown, like ridiculously thick. So thick, in fact, that it reached the point where my uterus physically couldn’t handle any more lining. In response, it shed itself down to a thickness that would be able to support a pregnancy. So, thank you, uterus! You did your job well… albeit majorly freaking me out in the meantime. And thank you, Nurse, for giving me the real skinny and easing my anxiety that I’m not some strange medical anomaly. Even though I didn’t get this info from the RE himself, I trust Nurse and her explanation makes complete sense.
I was told by Nurse (although, again, not by the doctor!) to expect what’s called a “withdrawal bleed” after ending the Provera I’d been prescribed for the IM bleeding. A few days later, my primary doctor also warned me to expect this same unpleasant side effect. I’ve not had any withdrawal bleed since stopping the Provera, so I’ll count that as a win. It’s not like I was looking forward to any extra bleeding. Hopefully, this whole fiasco is a closed chapter that I can now put behind me.
Now, bad news time… Okay, technically I can’t say it’s “bad” news, so, please, chillax. And it’s nothing related to infertility, either. So, not “bad” bad. But still sucky.
Here it is: osteoarthritis.
Yep, an old people thing… I have it. To a moderate degree. When I think of arthritis, visions of wrinkly old people and prune juice and nursing homes dance before my eyes. So it was a real shocker to have to change my mindset and include myself in the arthritic crowd.
See, about every three months or so I will awaken to intense pain in my thoracic and cervical spine, chest wall, and shoulders. It’s so extreme that I can barely move. And oftentimes when this happens I literally can’t get out of bed the entire day. The pain feels like it’s in my bones and thus isn’t relieved by muscle relaxers or heating pads or the like. After a few days of residual soreness, the pain eventually leaves. A few months pass and I kind of just forget all about it.
But one random morning last week I woke up to this same pain, and it was BAD. I made a same-day sick visit appointment with my primary doctor. He was extremely concerned by my symptoms and told me that I had the worst range of motion in my neck and spine for someone my age that he’s ever seen. Nice, huh? I had blood work drawn and, later, x-rays taken at the hospital. The verdict? Osteoarthritis, or OA for us in the acronym-loving infertility community. Contrary to my preconceived notions, people can get OA when they’re younger. Since onset occurs gradually though, it’s not usually diagnosable until middle age or older.
What this basically means for me is that I will treat with a rheumatologist (or an orthopaedist, the choice is mine) to manage the arthritis, though I can’t completely get rid of it. The disease itself is incurable, which on the surface sounds kind of crappy. But really, I’m actually not upset about it. In a way, I’m even relieved to have an answer for something that’s affected me for the past two years. So it’s okay. Ish. Okay-ish.
One of the first things I wanted to know from my doctor about my OA medication was whether it would affect my fertility in any way. Kind of insane, no? Looking back on this conversation later, I am taken with how much infertility has hijacked my life. When it’s to the point where I’d consider skipping a much-needed medication if it meant any potential reproductive harm (fortunately, it doesn’t), that’s some serious lack of balance. This whole OA business is a wakeup call to me that my “health” as a whole consists of way more than just my ability or inability to reproduce. Being the stubborn person that I am, sometimes I need a good slap in the face such as this to get myself back on track.
The gold standard treatment for OA is regular movement and exercise. I have to admit, I was skeptical when I heard this. It sounds completely counterintuitive to exercise a super painful area of the body, but yesterday I did a lot of swimming and noticed a marked improvement in my pain afterward. This tells me that I must return to exercising regularly if I want any relief. And if ya’ll knew me in real life then you’d know that I HATE to exercise… like, totally loathe it. So, thank you, weird old people disease, for helping me to get my butt back in the gym.
There is always a silver lining.