Sometimes the Answer is “No”

I seem to have this nasty habit of falling off the radar. Life just gets so busy and we’re in the middle of a lot of uncertainty, and I get worried that I’ll be too negative and no one will want to read anymore, so I end up piling up in my chair and playing on Facebook instead.

But in all the uncertainty, there’s at least one thing that’s become clear over the last several months: barring a complete and utter miracle, we will not have a biological child. The endometriosis and PCOS have just made my insides too hostile of a place to be able to create and sustain life. How shitty does that sound? My own body is too hostile to foster life.

All of the weight loss, surgery, shots, drugs, more shots, all for naught. All of the awkward scheduling, waking at 5 a.m. to take my temp, and peeing on sticks and managing to keep from getting any on my hand. All of the “taking it easy” for two weeks after the ovulation trigger shot, all of the progesterone cream, all of the pain, the six months of Lupron hell. All of it for naught. All of the prayers, tears, anticipation. All for naught.

I named the first egg after the Lupron was over. Called it “Peanut.” That’s what my grandpa called me when I was a baby. I begged God to let “Peanut” get to where s/he needed to go and to spring to life. I was certain that it would happen, that God would come through, because it always seemed that He had before…sometimes, literally, JUST in time, but in time nonetheless. I never named another one.

There’s no “in time” this time. No more treatments. We’re not doing IVF; we don’t like it on a theological level (no judgment to you if you did it or are considering it, though). We do still feel that we’re called to be parents, but we know that it will not happen biologically.

Sometimes, dreams die all at once…a tragic accident takes a loved one…you’re abruptly laid off from your job…a freak act of nature destroys your home.

Sometimes, though, they die slowly, over time, little by little, each month, each single pink line, marking the passage of time and highlighting a hostile body.

There will be a new dream, yes; I know that. But sometimes you need a little time to grieve the one that’s dying today.

One Year Ago Today…

 

One year ago this morning, I woke up at 4. I had to be at the hospital around 5 to have what we now know was a fist-sized endometrioma surgically removed. Pre-op and the surgery itself was a breeze.  Honestly, the first day that I was home was pretty easy. Little did I know that it would get worse from there and, ultimately, it would take three months before I felt some semblance of normalcy. And by then, I’d be a month into Lupron side effects. Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever known what “normal” felt like, since up until the surgery, I thought that random gut-wrenching cramps  were normal. And I still don’t think I know what it feels like since I went from post-surgery trauma to Lupron trauma and now into various stages of hormone-induced fertility treatment trauma.

People keep telling me how strong I am. I don’t feel all that strong. Mostly, I feel like I’m muddling through, grumping everywhere and annoying people, complaining about not feeling good and then feeling guilty for not feeling good when there are so many people with worse problems.

But that’s the nature of a chronic illness, right? You never feel quite right, but you never quite look sick. So you feel guilty for complaining and you just suck it up and keep moving. A year ago, I had no idea that I had endometriosis. I’m grateful to have an answer. But with that answer has come even more questions. Will we ever have a child? Will I have to have a hysterectomy? How long until my symptoms flare up again? 

Those aren’t things I can know. But I do know that I’ve got a great, great God who does know. And I’ve got a wonderful husband, family, best friends, and a snuggly puppy and kitty to cling to on the bad days.

I’ll leave you with a pic from a year ago today; Joey took photographic evidence that I made it through the surgery to send to our best friends. I’ve censored it a bit. It may also have become a greeting card that my mother sent me for some holiday last year.

A picture of the start of this endometriosis journey.

nevermind the below picture; I just don’t want the thumbnail for this link on facebook to be of me flipping a double bird after surgery.

wpid-img_20141119_080235.jpg

The Lupron Diaries: Final Thoughts, Goal Update, and What’s Next

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote; I’ve actually been legitimately busy.  Brace yourselves, because this may be a long one.  Since my final shot:

1. My side effects have subsided!

Thank goodness; they started to go away after about four weeks, which, from what I read, was the normal timeframe for that process to begin.  I cannot express in words how glad I am for the bone pain to be gone.  I’ve even managed to run a couple of times since with NO pain, which makes me pretty excited about fall/winter hiking and my next two 5Ks I’ve got scheduled.  My mood has improved VASTLY, although I’m not gonna lie, I sure would like to have some PMS symptoms about now so we can get back on the fertility treatment train.  But mostly, I’m just so grateful to have survived the Lupron experience and come out on the other side relatively unscathed.  I even managed a 5.3 mile hike on Labor Day in which I didn’t end up stumbling and tripping constantly.  I can’t tell you how much more enjoyable that makes hiking.

2. The weight has come back off!

I gained about 11 pounds throughout the course of the treatment.  Although I was pissed about it, I didn’t beat myself up too much because I’d largely managed to keep from eating all of the food (one of my Lupron Goals), so I figured that it would come off relatively quickly once my appetite went back to normal.  And it DID!  I’ve actually lost about 17 pounds since July 16th and am seeing numbers I haven’t seen in five years.  It hasn’t been effortless by any stretch; I’ve had to work hard and really clean up my diet, but it’s led to a completely different relationship with food and an understanding about what my body needs and how to fuel it properly (more on that in a future post).

3. I hiked Mount Mitchell!

You’ll recall that this was my most important Lupron Goal.  And I did it.  I’ll post a longer recap of the hike itself later. It was by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done physically, and outside of holding the family together while my dad was in the hospital back in 2007, it was the toughest mental battle too. I had a panic attack when it started raining on us, and it took significantly longer than I thought it would, but I reached the top, bloody, dirty, and tear-stained, and I stood on the observation deck looking across what seemed like hundreds of mountains, feeling like I’d conquered the world.  I did it.

4. I’m getting paid to write!

This actually happened a little after the Lupron treatment was completed, but I’m still counting it as one of my Lupron Goals.  I’ve been writing for #AmReading for a few weeks now, and while the pay isn’t much, it’s been fun and interesting and is looking to be the launching point for landing higher-paying clients.  I’m writing about books and reading, and you can check out some of my articles here, here, here, here, here, and here!

There is a downside, though, I must be honest. I can no longer blame my grumpiness on the Lupron.  While it has improved and the little bit of patience I had has come back, I’ve always been pretty crusty and prickly, so I’ve lost my excuse.  I’ve had to replace, “sorry!  I’m just Lupron grumpy!” with “Sorry, I’m just a horrible person and you’re annoying.” So that sucks.

I can tell you, without reservation, that I do not regret my decision to go through treatment with Lupron Depot.  It was hard…probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. But I can also tell you that I’ve come out on the other side feeling better, healthier, and stronger than I have in quite some time.  And I credit a lot of that to Joey. I never would’ve made it through this without a constant source of support and unconditional love (and LOTS of patience), someone to be a caretaker and sounding board, to remind me that I could make it through this. Joey and Jesus got me through:).

This isn’t the end of the story; I promise.  There are too many things going on (both good and bad), and I want this endometriosis, infertility, weight loss, and personal growth journey out there, if nothing else than to show people that it’s possible to survive–and maybe even thrive–through tough times.

More to come!

The Lupron Diaries: The Final Shot

I went off the reservation for a while; sorry about that.  Honestly, I haven’t felt like doing much of anything these past several weeks.  I’m so glad that the first few months were relatively easy, because I don’t know that I could’ve made it all the way through if the side effects were so rough right out of the gate.
So, here’s a rundown of what’s happened as far as the side effects are concerned.

  1. The clumsiness has gotten much better.  I don’t get lightheaded upon standing, and I haven’t had too many instances of tripping or stumbling.  It was definitely pronounced during the first three months, but has gone away for the most part since.
  2. The joint and bone pain has gotten MUCH worse.  No more PRs for me on 5ks right now.  I’m doing well if I can get out and walk, much less run.  I am still getting out faithfully, though (except today, because I really do think I need to give my legs a rest).  I keep track of my steps through my Jawbone Up, and I made my goal every day in June.  We’ve managed a few 8+ mile hikes (Mitchell in less than three weeks!!), but my legs, arms, and hands hurt constantly.  My mantra has become, “If I’m going to hurt sitting, and I’m going to hurt moving, I may as well be moving.”
  3. The sadness/depression/anxiety/grumpiness has gotten worse.  I’m avoiding just about anything that’ll make me sad, which is pretty much everything.  My patience is extremely thin, so if I’m not feeling like I want to cry, I am feeling like I want to bite everyone’s head off.
  4. I’ve gained about ten pounds.  I chalk it up to my own decisions.  I’ve eaten too much because “I can afford to do it since I’m exercising so much.”  I’ve picked stuff that’s easier/more convenient rather than picking healthier choices.  So that’s all on me; I hate it, but I don’t blame it on the Lupron.  I’m back on the wagon, so I anticipate losing it relatively quickly.
  5. The hot flashes are still manageable.  It probably helps that it’s summer, so it’s hot as balls anyway.

People keep asking me, “but does your endo pain feel better?”  Honestly, since I didn’t know I had it before, I haven’t noticed.  Maybe my insides don’t hurt as much, but my arms and legs hurt so bad that I want to cry sometimes, so I’m not sure what the improvement will be as far as that goes.  But that wasn’t the reason that I agreed to take the drug anyway.

I got my final injection this morning.  Ginger gave me a big hug and said that she wanted to see me again when I’m pregnant.  I appreciate her optimism.  So I’ll have another month or so of Lupron side effects (and whatever residual effects there may be), and then we start the fertility journey again.

I have mixed emotions; I know it’s weird, but “Lupron” has become my identity over this last five months.  While the physical process has been difficult, it’s also been good in that it’s forced me to be in the present moment.  There’s been no point in worrying about whether or not we’ll be able to have kids since we couldn’t even try.  My focus has been on getting through this moment, this day, this week…preparing for Mount Mitchell, trying to keep from eating all the food, getting out the door and walking or running.  Thinking about the future was pointless because I felt so far removed from it.

In that respect, I’m afraid.  Now the process begins again, and I don’t know what it’s going to look like.  More shots? More hormones?  More side effects?  More heartbreak?

On the other hand, I’m a little excited.  I never thought I’d say this, but I missed the temperature charting and testing, and that twinge of excitement for a couple of weeks of imagining the possibilities and hoping for a BFP (Big, Fat Positive).  I missed the feeling of hope.

I go back to the OBGYN on the 26th and we’ll discuss our next steps then.  Until that, my main focus is to summit Mount Mitchell on the 23rd.

Here’s hoping.

The Lupron Diaries: Vacation and Victory

Last weekend, Joey and I took a trip to Waynesville, NC, to stay in a cabin in the woods and hike all the miles. Although the accommodations left a bit to be desired, I think this was probably the best camping trip we’ve ever had.

On Friday, we hiked the Pink Beds Loop again, but this time, we made it all the way to the waterfall off the Barnett Branch Trail.  It was WELL worth the mile of straight uphill.  The waterfall was about 25 feet high, and the water was ice cold.  Indy was thrilled to get a drink.

image

Here’s a shot of Indy at our campsite.  She looks so regal.  I think I overestimated her ability to adapt to a strange situation, though.  She didn’t enjoy being trussed up on a lead, and she was afraid of the campfire.  She’ll learn, though.

image

On Saturday, we went to the North Carolina Arboretum.  I’ll have to do a separate post dedicated to that, because I took a TON of pictures.  The below is part of their quilt garden; every year, they create a different pattern on individual squares. This year was a butterfly; can you see it?

image

They also had a fantastic bonsai exhibit.  Joey has dabbled with bonsai here and there, so he was beyond thrilled to see all of the trees. I took pictures of each one, and it’s definitely renewed his interest in picking it back up again.

We ended up leaving on Sunday so we’d have a day to recuperate at home, but not before hiking Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC.  While we didn’t make it all the way up to the pinnacle, we did get plenty of beautiful pictures along the way.  The below is at Split Rock, about a half mile up the trail.

image

The first mile of the hike was along this creek; it was full of cascades and rapids, and Indy wanted to check out each one.

image

We hiked a total of 11.5 miles over the course of three days.  It was exhilarating, but also an eye-opener.  We’ve got a lot of work left to do before Mount Mitchell at the end of July.

I’m still counting it as a victory over Lupron, though.  On previous camping trips, we would’ve spent the bulk of our time hanging around the campsite and snacking.  This time, we spent it out in nature, working out and getting excellent views along the way.  I did have a few clumsy moments, but Joey was there to grab me before I stumbled.  I had a few “Lupron sadness” moments as well, but he talked me out of those.  He’s pretty great that way:).

Hiking has been such an effective means of dealing with this journey through endometriosis and its treatment.  I’m forced to unplug while we’re out on a trail…there’s no phone reception, no chance to fiddle around on Facebook or check my Instagram feed.  I’m forced to be observant of the present moment and little else; I have to watch the ground diligently for roots and rocks.  I have to pay attention to my surroundings lest I miss a beautiful waterfall (or a bear…it goes both ways).  There’s no time to think about my dysfunctional body or whether or not we’ll ever get to have a biological child.

There’s just miles of trail.  And not dying…there’s that too.
image

The Lupron Diaries: Dealing with Clumsiness

The Lupron Diaries (2)

If you’ll recall my list of side effects that suck, clumsiness and stumbling/falling is one of the more common ones. This one’s kind of tough, since there aren’t a whole lot of tricks and tips to offer. I suppose you could opt to use a walker until you’re done with the Lupron, but if you’re not receiving Social Security benefits due to your age, then you probably don’t want to do that. For the most part, I’m muddling through with this and just trying not to faceplant in front of people.

  1. Don’t stand up too fast.  My biggest problem is that I become lightheaded upon standing, but it doesn’t really hit me until I’ve taken about twenty steps.  I spend the rest of my walk trying not to pitch forward.  Stand slowly, and wait until the feeling passes before you start moving.
  2. Lean against something (stable) for a moment after you stand.  If I’m near a wall, I’ll rest on that for just a couple of seconds before starting off, or I’ll hold onto the back of my office chair for a bit before moving.  It’s embarrassing, but better than meeting the floor face-to-face.
  3. Walk deliberately.  Pay attention to where you’re going, what the path in front of you looks like, and where the people around you are.  Focus on your end destination and it’ll help you to keep from getting distracted and stumbling.
  4. Use a friend.  Joey’s probably tired of the amount of times I grab his arm while we’re walking somewhere.  If you’ve been honest with your loved ones, they know that you’re dealing with clumsiness and won’t mind offering you a steadying shoulder to lean on.
  5. Sit down!  If you think you’re going to fall; sit down.  It’s better to sit against a wall than to throw yourself into it.  One requires medical attention and drywall repair. You can handle some minor embarrassment.  Besides, people might toss change at you, which you can put toward your outrageously expensive medical bills.

Of course, it goes without saying (hopefully) that you may want to wait for the Lupron to leave your system before you head out for your Everest expedition or attempt to summit Denali.  Or before you tightrope walk the Grand Canyon.  Or take up with Cirque de Soleil.

Be careful out there, ladies.

**note, I am not a doctor…just a clumsy Lupron patient.  None of my advice should outweigh anything your own doctor suggests you do.  Although I sincerely hope s/he doesn’t tell you to climb Mount Everest while on Lupron.**

The Lupron Diaries: Shot #4 and Running Update (and Victory!!)

The Lupron Diaries- (2)

Thank goodness, Shot #4 was painless like #1 and #2.  I made sure that I was completely relaxed, and other than the pinch of the initial stick, it was pain-free.  Ginger blamed #3 on herself, but I told her I was certain that it was my fault for being tense.

The timing of the shot sucked, though…I had a 5K planned for two days later, and if you’ll recall from my list of side effects that suck, I’m usually in for three days of joint aches that make any kind of high-impact activity pretty painful.  But I’d already paid my $35, so I was going to do this 5K, even if I had to crawl across the finish line in agony.

I was nervous, because Friday was a rough day.  My hips and knees ached badly, and ibuprofen was only taking the edge off.  On a side note, the sadness/weepiness and anxiety have been getting progressively worse with every shot.  It’s still bearable, so I’m not waving a white flag, but I’m finding myself crying a lot more and getting overwhelmed by small things/worrying about huge things that I can’t control (getting older, job stress, the never-ending passage of time, etc).  Joey has been an absolute rock through all of this; I have no idea what I’d do without him.

I was also seriously nervous about this 5K, because it was the first one I was going to do without Joey.  I was running it with my best friend Katie, but she had her own goal pace (which was a good bit faster than mine), so I was going to be doing this on my own (although it was encouraging to know she’d be waiting for me at the finish line).  Would I push myself hard enough, or would I just give up without Joey encouraging me to run a little bit more? Plus, this was going to be the biggest 5K I’d ever done.  It was put on by the Carolina Panthers’ Keep Pounding Charity, to benefit the Levine Cancer Center.  This wasn’t just some local 5K with a few hundred participants.  Nope, we’re talking thousands. Would I get stuck in a pack of people?  Would I be in the way, an obstacle for the “real” runners?  Would I get lost and end up in another part of downtown Charlotte entirely?

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling better than Friday; my legs weren’t hurting as badly, so I took 3 ibuprofen and hoped that’d hold me through the race.  Joey made me an egg over toast and a cup of coffee and I triple/quadruple/quintuple checked to make sure I had everything I needed in my race belt, that I had Katie’s shirt and bib, and that my playlist was all set and downloaded (Thank you, Amazon Prime Music!).  I headed her way and we were off!

We arrived (with only a minor snafu getting to the parking deck) in plenty of time to get a shot in front of the stadium before being shuttled to the starting line at the Levine Cancer Center.

image

We stood around and stretched (and I agonized over being nervous), and then I noticed SIR PURR! Not only am I a huge Carolina Panthers fan, but (as you already know), I’m a huge cat fan in general, so I was super-psyched.  I actually dressed as Sir Purr a couple of years ago for Halloween.  I yelled “OMG, SIR PURR!!” and he ran right over for a pic.  Forgive the blurriness…Katie had picture-taking anxiety.

image

The course itself was brutal; we started at the Levine Cancer center and ran all the way up Morehead street to the stadium.  The race organizer playfully called it “Mount Morehead,” but he wasn’t kidding; it was almost entirely uphill.  When we reached the stadium, we ran a lap around the outside, up the stairs, and into the north gate entrance.  Once inside, we ran a lap around the ground level concourse and then up the ramps to the 500-level (holy crap).  Then we went a short distance around the upper concourse and back down another set of ramps, out the players’ chute and through the finish line on the 50-yard line.  So, as you can see, the bulk of the course was uphill (especially those ramps).

It was SUPER crowded at the start line, which was overwhelming.  I kept freaking out and Katie kept telling me, “We’ve got this.”  She was a little nervous too, but kept it together and kept encouraging me.  Before we knew it, a horn sounded to start the race.  I do wish they’d told the walkers to make their way toward the back, because we had to do a lot of dodging people and running out into the road to get around walkers.  I kept up with Katie for two or three minutes, and I made it almost all the way through my first song before I had to take a walking break.  I tried to stay to the right whenever I walked so I wouldn’t be an obstacle to folks who were running.

I started to get discouraged right away, which sucked.  Normally, I would’ve had Joey there to say something at just the right time or to suggest that we run to some point up ahead and get my mind off the negative thoughts.  But it was up to me this time.

I set a simple strategy; run as much as possible through each song on my playlist, run through each mile-marker sign, and run through each intersection so I didn’t have to have a cop holding traffic for me while I wheezed my way across the road.  The scenery was pretty, and the day was PERFECT…maybe 60 degrees, a little breezy, and sunny.

I also made a commitment not to fall behind the folks around me; I focused in on a red-haired girl who appeared to be about my same fitness level and was run/walking as well.  It worked like a charm.

Until we got to the ramps inside the stadium.  I had to walk up all of them.  Plus, I had only been in the stadium once before, so I didn’t realize that there were two ramps per level. I got up the fourth ramp and thought I was done, and then I saw the door leading inside and it said “300 Level.”  Shit, I thought.  Shit, shit, shit, I’m never going to make this. But I kept on walking and tried my best to keep up with the cadence of the music.  I finally hit the top and I picked up running again.

I REALLY wanted to walk back down some of the ramps, but I told myself I wasn’t going to waste any downhill portions of the race (especially since there were so few), and I kept running.  Toward the bottom, my earbuds fell out for good (I’ve got to get some new ones), so I just took them out altogether.  Before I knew it, I saw daylight ahead and was running out the player’s entrance.  WHAT a rush that was…the same entrance that Steve Smith ran through, DeAngelo Williams, Cam Newton…there I was…dodging some lady and her toddler, but running through nonetheless.  I revelled in the moment for just a second, and then started scanning the line of cheerers for Katie.  I heard her screaming “look at the clock!!” and I looked up and it said 44:20.  WHAT?!!  I spent the entire race feeling like I was going to fail again at my goal (being under 46).  But here I was just a few yards from the finish line, and I was going to end up beating my goal by over a minute!

Katie snapped a pic of me:

image

I was shocked and thrilled and exhausted.  My official time was 44:35.  Katie made her goal too (under 39).  And I ran over half of the race (at least).  Four months ago, I would never have believed I could’ve done that.  According to many of the online accounts I’ve read of women who’ve taken Lupron, I shouldn’t have been able to do that.  But I did.

Katie and I snapped a selfie, got our official times, snagged water and protein bars, and then sat in the parking deck for 40 minutes trying to get back out to come home. I also found that red-haired girl and told her I’d been trying to keep up with her, and that she did awesome.  Everyone needs to hear when they’ve done a great job.

image

The ibuprofen worked like a charm…not one bit of joint pain during the run, and I haven’t had any since, either.  I even went with Joey and Indy on a celebratory lap around the neighborhood after I got back home.

On the technical front, I need new earphones and a new running belt.  I don’t have enough room in the one I currently have for my phone, ID and keys. My driver’s license fell out on the field while we were getting our official times.  I saw it happen, so I was able to pick it up quickly, but there’s always the chance that it could happen and I wouldn’t catch it.  I’m thinking of getting a Flip Belt; a couple of people had them at the race and they looked comfortable and secure.

On the “what’s next” front, I’m going to focus on endurance for the next couple of weeks rather than speed, because we’ve got two hikes planned over Memorial Day weekend (both in the mountains).  Our next scheduled 5K is July 4th, and I’d like to finish it in under 44 minutes.

I’m proud.  I’m proud that I managed all by myself.  Katie even offered to give up her goal and run with me, and I told her not to.  I’m proud that I picked up and ran again every time I felt exhausted.  I’m proud that I didn’t give up.  I’m proud that I’m not using Lupron as an excuse to stay on the couch, even when I don’t feel the best.  Endometriosis isn’t going to win this.  It’s not going to beat me, and it doesn’t have to beat you either.

Here’s my playlist in case you’d like to use it:

  1. Tik Tok – Ke$ha
  2. Turn Down for What – DJ Snake & Lil Jon
  3. Lips are Movin – Meghan Trainor
  4. Boom Boom Pow – The Black Eyed Peas
  5. Hey Mama – The Black Eyed Peas
  6. Toxic – Britney Spears
  7. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  8. Word Crimes – Weird Al
  9. Chariots of Fire – London Philharmonic Orchestra
  10. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  11. Bring Me to Life – Evanescence
  12. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  13. Wannabe – Spice Girls (I finished the race before this one started, thankfully!)