Shiny Cervix and Other Nonevents

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Oops… was my last post seriously back in March? I took a much-needed hiatus from the infertility blog world, which was kind of refreshing actually. And who knows? I just might take another one immediately after this post! Fertility’s just hasn’t been on my mind lately.

Not only have I stepped away from the blog, but I’ve also bid adieu to daily basal body temping, raspberry leaf tea, ovulation prediction kits, timed intercourse, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and all the other crap that comes along with TTC. And you know what? I don’t even miss it. I like feeling normal again. Living life.

We have now officially reached the 6-year TTC mark and I’m tired: tired of the stress, the all-consuming-ness of it all, the fact that it’s been on my mind way too much than is healthy.

Since I’m here and all though, here’s the scant highlights since my last post:

  • My yearly gynecology appointment showed questionable lumps in each breast. My doc sent me for a mammogram, which was fortunately clear. For the record, mammograms (this was my first) are not as painful as the interwebs allege. And this coming from a chick with the lowest pain threshold in the universe. *breathes sigh of relief*
  • I turned 35. My period came on the day of my 35th birthday, which was either a real kick in the teeth or just a failed scare tactic to mess with my head. Anyway, I guess I’m now officially “old” when it comes to fertility stuff. Whatever.
  • Cervical cauterization. My cervix is quite shiny these days! I’ve started treating with a new gyn (this makes like the 20th gyn I’ve seen: no exaggeration) who recommended having my cervix cauterized with silver nitrate. Silver nitrate—picture that black stuff boxers use on their face to seal up cuts in the ring—should stop my ongoing mystery intermenstrual bleeding. With nothing to lose, I had my cervical cauterization procedure done this week. It was uncomfortable, similar to an extended PAP smear, but, like the mammogram, not nearly as painful as the Internet warned. The only side effect I had was grayish spotting and cramps for the rest of the procedure day.  Silver nitrate acts as a seal for the cervix’s tiny blood vessels, which is supposed to prevent blood (except menstrual blood) from seeping through. Sperms still makes it through I’m told. Sometimes it can take two or three treatments to be effective. Results to follow if it will stop the bleeding.

Back in 2011 when Jake and I were all, “Let’s have a baby!” we naively figured we’d be pregnant by the end of the summer. I had no inkling that we’d still be sojourning toward that same goal six years later. We knew back then that I had endometriosis. We knew I had only one ovary. We knew it might take a few months longer than most people. But we never in our wildest dreams imagined that 72 months later we’d still be trying.

So be it. It’s in God’s hands now. It always has been. I’ve not gone down without a fight—I’ve not even really “gone down” at all—but I’m done with the weird supplements and teas and stick peeing and other fruitless endeavors toward something I’ve literally no control over. I continue on with hope—expectation even—but choose to live and enjoy my life as a normal person in the meantime, whatever the outcome may be.

 

Two Year Blogoversary Musings

Whaaaaa? How has it already been two years?! Wow: time has flown. I wouldn’t have even known about this anniversary unless WordPress hadn’t sent me this the other day:

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In hindsight, I wish I’d started this blog two years before I did. I had no clue that there was a niche forum for fertility bloggers… or that anyone even blogged about this kind of very personal topic at all.

Starting this blog in 2015 came at the end of an informal six-month deadline I’d given myself. We’d already been TTC for several years, but I’d told myself back in September 2014 that—if we weren’t pregnant in six months—then I’d go back to see a new reproductive endocrinologist. I’d just have a quick tune-up surgery for me and some testing done for Jake. Presto chango,  we’d be all set to go, right? How I wish it’d been that simple.

When I began blogging here, I’d just scheduled a consultation with an RE, the ill-advised Dr. B who I eventually fired. I was choosing to reopen the door to reproductive medical intervention. Until that time I’d only had an antral follicle count and several surgeries, after which my docs would give me windows of either six months or a year to get pregnant naturally (maybe ‘naturally’ isn’t the best choice of words, and I hope no one takes that the wrong way). When I began this blog, three years had passed since my last operation, much longer than the little sliver of time promised after surgery.

I never imagined that infertility would lead me down the road that it has, though God has laid a path for me that I would not have chosen to walk myself. I feel humbled by this road, as it has given me greater empathy and compassion for women facing this struggle and caused me to seek deeper into my faith.

On a lighter note, this infertility sojourn has also taught me a whole new language to decipher—all in acronyms nonetheless!—which I kind of like to think that I’ve mastered by now. Conquering that makes me feel all medical-like, like I can read message boards and blog posts without having to refer back to a list of acronyms to know what it was that I’d just read.

My endeavor lately has been to thank God in all circumstances…. including and especially infertility. Among other things, had it not been for infertility and this blog, then I wouldn’t have been able to connect with such amazing women all around the globe over a common goal. I wouldn’t have borne witness to so many of your miracles and triumphs, or been able to pray for you in your times of waiting , or lent a shoulder to cry on during the tough times.  I feel privileged to have met so many genuinely wonderful ladies through this medium who are sojourning through the same battlefield.

Next year though? Next year when WordPress sends my three-year achievement, I plan to be blogging about my pregnancy or sharing the birth story of my baby, and to give God all the glory for it.

And even if my time still hasn’t come by then, I’d like to stay awhile and read about yours.

The Fertility Demarcation Line

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In only a few short weeks I’ll be turning 35. In defiance of this age that’s so crucial to the fertility-challenged, I’d started drafting a post all about how 35 could bring its bad self on, how some obscure number wouldn’t suddenly make my eggs all like, “Oh snap, we’re expiring soon!”, etc.  I was all set to publish my post too.

But then, a trigger.

While sitting in church on Sunday morning our pastor invited a couple to come up front with their baby for the baby’s dedication. *Insert gigantic GULP here.* I was caught totally off guard that there’d be a baby dedication that day. If I’d known, I probably would have come in late.

I felt a swarm of conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was happy for this couple. But I was also envious of them. I felt sad for myself… then guilty for entertaining a pity party, especially in church of all places! Several people at my church know that I suffer from infertility. If I left the service while the baby was being dedicated, surely people could guess why. But if I remained in my pew then there’d be the inevitable glances at Marixsa:  you know—the “barren one”—to see how I was “holding up.” Or at least that’s what my pride told me.

Somehow I managed to stay put through the ooohs and the awwws and the laughter that ensued when baby protested to our pastor carrying her around. My heart felt like it was being squeezed. I kept my gaze straight ahead and unsuccessfully fought back tears. In vain, I wrestled against the pangs of grief that my own babies never lived long enough to be dedicated, or even that anyone besides Jake and I know their names. Then I felt rotten for being so selfish during a special moment in the lives of my fellow parishioners.

And so it goes. Infertility’s reminders come during the places and times when we least expect it.

All day afterward something continued to gnaw at me, long after the baby dedication had ended. I finally figured out what it was: 35 looming large on the horizon. That—despite putting my best foot forward, remaining optimistic, and trusting that God will give us the desires of our heart—I’m struggling with this arbitrary line in the sand of my fertility.

By Sunday night I was full fledged upset about turning 35. Once that birthday happens, all the protocols change: my clinic would automatically transfer two embryos instead of one (though I don’t have any embryos anyway). I’d be an elderly primigravida in my doc’s notes and not just your run-of-the-mill primigravida. Any pregnancy I may achieve will be considered a geriatric pregnancy. Geriatric? Me? No way.

I plan to keep pressing on for now. But at the same time, I’m starting to slowly investigate the possibility of one day facing life as permanently childless/child-free/whathaveyou, which is something I’ve never been brave enough to face before. Which then begs the question: When do you stop trying?

It’ll be six years of TTC this June. It gets tiring. At what point does the anxiety of TTC and the putting things on hold “just in case I’m pregnant” get vanquished for good? When do I begin to plan for a future that will just be Jake and I? When do I accept what plans may be for my life?

On the other end, where does my faith come in to play? Faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Isn’t that precisely what this situation calls for? Believing in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? I’m either all in or not in at all. I want to be all in, in faith.

If that means continuing to make baby faith purchases along the way, then I’ll open my wallet. If that means swallowing the hurt at baby dedications then I can do it, by focusing on the fact that it’s just not my turn…yet… but someday it will be. If that means continuing trying to conceive despite the odds, then hello temping and ovulation tests.

Not that it’s not still difficult in the meantime. Because it sure is!  But nothing’s worth it if it’s easy… The hardest fought battles bring the sweetest victory… And so on.

What a number a number can do to us.

 

 

 

Conceiving to Conceive

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It’s so strange to be having a normal cycle: I almost don’t know what to do with myself. What is this for-real cycle that I seem to be in? The real test will be when (well, if) I ovulate this cycle—which is scheduled to happen this weekend—because ovulation has been so hit or miss for me this past year. What else is a girl to do, except to order another 50-pack of cheap Wondfo OPKs and continue temping for a temperature spike? The concept of no intermenstrual bleeding, on-time ovulation (without weird luteal phase lengths), and the same 20% chance of pregnancy as the Fertiles have is kind of mind-blowing. And exciting!

My first period post-op arrived right on time, and I ended my surgery cycle on a much-needed positive note of a normal 27-day cycle. My period itself was not so normal, as it came in fits and starts and lasted less than three days. I experienced far less cramping than usual (hooray!); in its place though I had scary insane uterine pains. It was as if someone were mercilessly jabbing at my uterus with an ice-pick and it lasted all day long for several days. The ice-pick stabs began to retreat on cycle day 3 and I haven’t had to take any narcotic pain meds since then.

As for recovery, all continues to be well (stabbing uterine pains aside). I ended up being allergic to the surgical glue which was used to close my incisions.  I’m basically allergic to nothing, so I was totally not expecting this. The allergic reaction is ongoing and unrelenting: think raised, angry red bumps, swollen skin, and ceaseless itching. Hydrocortisone cream has been my newest BFF; we go everywhere together these days. Although I’ve removed all of the surgical glue, only the passage of time will clear up the allergic reaction… which cannot happen fast enough.

So yes, it’s an unfamiliar feeling—in a good way!—to be entering into a cycle right now knowing that I could conceive this month as a fact. Not as a slim chance or as a shot in a dark: an actual, bona fide chance! No more ambiguity, no more wondering. No more trying to ignore the deep down sinking feeling that something, somewhere is physically very wrong and my efforts are probably for naught. I’m still adjusting to the idea that my pregnancy chances are now normal… It’s been a long time coming.

Normal chances or not, a pregnancy now would be still a miracle of sorts in my book, since there remains the matter of my somewhat inhospitable uterus for an embryo to contend with: (1) I have a moderately arcuate uterus, which increases the risk of a second trimester miscarriage; and (2) Dr. Din is pretty positive that I have adenmyosis going on in my uterus, in addition to the endometriosis outside of my uterus (I’m not sure what this means for me going forward?). Oh yeah: and the risk for ectopic pregnancy is much higher following procedures that unblock the fallopian tubes, so I’m not yet out of the woods. I don’t mean this to sound pessimistic. These are just real hurdles I may encounter, and I have to be aware of them, both feet in.

In the meantime, I’m back on the bandwagon full steam ahead:

  • Stocked up on Brazil nuts… a whole 2 pounds of them
  • Daily red raspberry leaf tea (during follicular phase only)
  • Basal body temping
  • Timed intercourse
  • Ovulation prediction strips
  • Pre-Seed lubricant
  • And so on and so forth

I’ve also added these guys to my already extensive supplement list (prenatal vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin C/Ester C, CoQ10, DHEA, L-Arginine, and baby aspirin), which is probably a post for another day:

  • Serrapeptase
  • Mineral supplement
  • Migravent (unrelated to fertility; this is a mineral supplement that’s supposed to help reduce the frequency of migraines. I average 1 migraine every 2 weeks, which usually puts me out of commission for an average of three days. We’ll see how this does…)

 

It feels good to feel normal. I’ll take it for as long as it lasts.

Peace.

Pre-Op: Check (plus a Blogging Milestone)

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This morning I went to the hospital for my pre-op formalities for my upcoming laparoscopy. It was all very routine: blood work drawn, insurance paperwork reviewed and copay for the surgery itself paid, plus a brief meeting with a nurse to go over the other detail that I won’t bore you with.

The first phlebotomist who drew my blood did a terrible job! She stuck me twice, both times with no luck. She was fumbling around for so long that my arm was turning purple from the tourniquet. Now I’m no newbie to having blood drawn and it normally doesn’t faze me, but I found myself getting frustrated with her. Fortunately, a more experienced phlebotomist stepped in and saved the day by finishing the job! My arm is quite sore from the first phlebotomist’s missteps, but I figured no biggie. But then the hospital called me two hours after I’d left to let me know they’d “forgotten” to draw an extra vial of blood that was needed, and would I mind coming back in for another “quick draw” (which is an hour drive each way for me)? Yes, I do mind! But I’ve little choice in the matter. So back I go tomorrow! Hmmph.

Only 6 more days until surgery day! *Gulp.* My nerves are starting to amp up a bit… Not a lot, just the usual amount of butterflies that happen when reality starts to sink in and time draws closer to an event.

Here’s what I’m not looking forward to:

  • Anesthesia. I’m just not a fan of those moments right before going under: The cold metal table beneath my thin hospital gown. Staring up at the bright, spaceship-like lights of a sterile operating room. The deep burn of the anesthesia as it courses through my veins. But it’ll be okay in the end. Because God’s got this! Couldn’t be in better hands than His!
  • The initial wake up. The pain that strikes when the nurses awaken me from a surgery is like nothing else I know to describe. It starts as a dim awareness of just having had surgery, followed by nervousness that the doc had to slice me open after all, then concludes with the actual surgical site pain itself and intense craving for ice chips.
  • IV. Okay, maybe this sounds crazy, but in my opinion, the IV that the nurse oh-so-sadistically plunges into my hand pre-surgery hurts almost as much as the surgery itself! I plan to ask that my IV be inserted into my arm instead. I had an arm IV during my 2012 surgery (after three—yes three—failed attempts into my hand. Oy.) and it was so much comfier! Want proof? This is what my hand looked like a full week after the IV was removed from my hand following my 2015 egg retrieval. It also took that nurse multiple attempts to correctly insert the huge, scary needle into my hand, and each merciless jab of her needle had me writhing in pain:
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Ouch!

What I am looking forward to:

  • Pain relief (well, after I’ve healed from the surgery pain!) from years of near-constant ovarian and uterine pain. Goodbye, relentless pain and damaging adhesions. Time to go away. And stay away!
  • A restored fertility window of six months to a year, which gives me the same chances of conception as any woman my age who doesn’t have endometriosis. Yippee!
  • The end of intermenstrual bleeds. Umm, yeah. Won’t miss those.

 

Finally, I got a happy little notice from WordPress last week that The Endo Zone has reached 100 followers! (And, since then, up to 103.) A huge shout out and ginormous Thank You to all 103 of you lovely, awesome people for following along! Much love <3.

(abdominal) Battle Scars

Dermoid cysts. Ovary removal. Chocolate cysts. Complex cysts. Abdominal hernias. Abdominal keloids. Laparotomies. Laparoscopies.

These are my history.

And this is what a history like mine (well, really mine, because these are pics of my actual abs) looks like:

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Not pictured: my seven laparoscopy scars (bad lighting) and only a partial picture on the left of my low transverse incision (6-inch horizontal cut, which is the same as a C-section incision).

I’m quite used to the appearance of my abdomen, even though I realize that it doesn’t look normal. As a caveat, I recently lost 18 pounds, so I’m not actually not “used” to right now, since I’m still relishing just being able to fit back into my size 8 jeans! Sorry, just had to throw that in there, as I’m thrilled to be only eight pounds away from my goal weight! Hooray:)

My original scar—which is the vertical one extending from what was once my belly button—became infected post-surgery back in 2004. Like, bad infected. Think smelly pus, antibiotics, and frequent bandage changes. Ick. The result of that infection is that the bottom of that scar is now permanently indented like a miniature frowning face. During my 2012 surgery, my surgeon/RE attempted to fix the scar site, but only so much could be done. It seems I’m stuck with the frowny face for the time being.

My low transverse scar also didn’t heal correctly. This is what I’ve asked Dr. Din to fix during my upcoming surgery:

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See those little black dots? They lie on my incision site and are buried into the skin. After examining them, Dr. Din told me they are a type of surface cyst known as epidermal inclusion cysts. Epidermal inclusion cysts are not painful or dangerous in any way. But mine bother me simply because I’m a picker, and it takes a lot of restraint for me to not pick them out of my skin. Gross, huh? For that reason alone I want them out. They’re a nuisance. It will be nice to see them gone.

As for my upcoming surgery, it will change my scar landscape like this:

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Basically, I’m only adding one new incision. The bottom two blue circles are where Dr. Din will go in with his laparoscope over top of my existing scars.

Here’s some tips I’ve picked up when it comes to abdominal surgical scars:

  • Drug store creams meant to reduce scar visibility, such as Mederma, don’t work. Seriously. Save your money. They don’t do a thing, and are very expensive for the amount of actual product that comes in the tube. Plus, who has time to rub ointments made of questionable chemicals onto their skin thrice daily?!
  • Rest! Especially sleep! Even if you feel ready to be up and running a few days post-op, staying rested anyway will help scar healing. Our skin repairs itself while we sleep, so getting lots and lots (and lots…) of sleep will promote quicker healing.
  • Do.Not.Pick! Scabs. Loose hanging sutures. Crust. Blood. Whatever it is, don’t pick it. It doesn’t help scars heal and can lead to…
  • infection. See your doc at the first sign of scar infection. Don’t wait like I did.
  • In the meantime for infection, hydrogen peroxide is your new BFF.
  • Keep your surgical area very clean with gentle (geeeeeeentle) washing and frequent bandage changes.
  • Eventually you may be tempted to allow the skin under the incision site to “breathe,” but resist! If the scar is in a place where clothing will rub against it (like your abdomen), uncovering it will only serve to irritate the surgical site. Keep that bad boy covered up until it’s healed.

There you have it. I hope this helps someone facing an abdominal surgery in the future.

And if not, well, you got some stellar views of why you don’t want to have endometriosis.

 

Would You Like a Hysteroscopy With That?

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Not having to be conscious during unpleasant medical procedures makes me deliciously happy. Why, yes, I would in fact enjoy a nice dose of anesthesia while having my lady bits poked and prodded with frightening medical instruments, thankyouverymuch! So, in that sense, it’s a dream come true for my pain threshold. Confused? Read on: this is a quicky post.

I don’t actually expect my readers of this lil’ blog (all 98 of you awesome people…still shocked that nearly 100 people find this stuff remotely interesting. Mwuah!) to remember what I’m talking about. I’m kind of an infrequent blogger, although one my new year’s resolutions is to fix that.

So, quick recap: I was supposed to have a combination hysteroscopy/D&C/uterine biopsy with my RE, Dr. C, earlier this month to investigate my last six months of continuous unexplained bleeding. After that procedure, I was supposed to have a laparoscopy cleanup surgery for endometriosis with my other doctor, Dr. Din, in early February. Pleasant ways to start off a new year, eh?  j/k. I’m actually grateful to be in the hands of such good doctors and to have God’s blessings of finances to pay for this medical care.

After I’d already scheduled my hysteroscopy/D&C/biopsy with his clinic, Dr. C suggested that, instead, Dr. Din could do these procedures while he was already operating on me… Which came down to a real “duh” moment for me: Why would I want to have two unpleasant procedures spaced out over the course of a month when I could just have them both done at once (and—bonus— while not having to feel the actual procedures while they were happening!)?

I saw Dr. Din again last week. He was extremely cool about adding these extras to my surgery.

We also scheduled my surgery while I was at his office. I picked the first available date. It all goes down on Wednesday, February 1, 2017:

  • Laparoscopy for endometriosis removal. This includes checking my bowels, abdomen, uterus, ovary, fallopian tube, cervix, pelvic cavity, and bladder for endo and/or adhesions.
  • Hysteropscopy to see why the heck I keep on bleeding and bleeding (including as I type this on cycle day 24) like a crazy woman between periods.
  • D&C to empty out whatever mystery intruders might have taken up residency in my uterus, possibly causing the bleeding.
  • Uterine biopsy to make sure nothing more sinister is lurking in my cells.
  • Correction of one of my previous surgical scars (post to follow) that looks….well…not like it should.

I’m pretty chill about the surgery itself. This is not my first rodeo, so I’m fully aware of what to expect afterward.

It seems like I’ve been writing on this blog for months now about having another surgery. Literally, months. You must all be bored to tears reading about something that never seems to actually happen! It’s a great feeling to finally have a set date, rather than just a looming possibility hanging in perpetuity in the general future.

Next up: all about surgical scars. I promise it will be nice and gory.

Peace. 🙂