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.

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17 Hopes and Plans for 2017

It’s been an intensely introspective last couple of weeks with all of the challenges our family and friends have been facing, much of which has turned the upcoming year into one with more uncertainties than we’d ever hoped for. Nonetheless, it’s imprudent to face a new year without some sort of plan for things you want to achieve. In light of that, here are seventeen things I’d like to work toward this year (subject to change, of course, were I to actually get pregnant):

  1. Complete my weight loss journey
  2. Lower my cholesterol naturally
  3. Do one BIG hiking trip that we travel to do
  4. Participate in Reach the Peaks in September (a 12 mile hiking challenge that covers all 5 peaks at Hanging Rock State Park)
  5. Transition back to a mostly vegetarian diet (I’ve been struggling with this for several months now and am mostly only eating poultry and the VERY occasional fish)
  6. Change my workouts to be geared more toward hiking than running, and stay consistent with them.
  7. Find a better-paying writing gig (although I am having fun over at #AmReading)
  8. Knit more
  9. Get back to cooking
  10. PURGE the house and start fixing and upgrading things
  11. Begin pursuing the adoption process and, if that’s the way we are supposed to go, be as far along in it as possible by the end of the year.
  12. Begin cleaning some of my stuff out of Mom and Dad’s (I feel kinda guity for contributing to their clutter in addition to all of my own)
  13. Read a devotional and Scripture and pray every day (I’m currently reading Jesus Calling)
  14. Say “no” more often to things that bring me stress
  15. Read more BOOKS (currently reading: Decision Points by George W. Bush)
  16. Apologize less and work to stop feeling responsible for everyone else’s problems
  17. Stop picking my arms

Some of these will (hopefully) have to be put off until 2018, and if that happens, I will be unbelievably thrilled (and I’ll have a whole new set of goals). I also know they’re a bit nebulous and vague.  What can I say…there’s less chance of missing the mark entirely when the target is so big.

In other news, two years ago (2015), one of my resolutions was to stop biting my nails. Two years later, I think I can say I’ve officially conquered that bad habit.

nails-15-16

And yesterday:

nails-2017

I know, my cuticles need some work.  Small victories.

16 Things I Learned in 2016

As I sit here on New Year’s Eve (nursing a cold because, of course this year should kick my arse one more time before it expires), I find myself deeply conflicted over the year that was. It’s been one of the worst years in my adult life, fraught with illness, treatments, side effects, failures, and disappointments. But at the same time, it’s been one of the best years I’ve had as a married person; Joey’s and my relationship has grown by leaps and bounds while trying to make sense of our circumstances. I’ve learned more about myself in these twelve months than I ever knew, and I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do.

I also find myself ill-at-ease about what 2017 has in store. I do know that the infertility journey will continue.  Round 3 of the meds/trigger shot didn’t work, so we get one more try with that before we have to make the decision as to whether to visit the infertility clinic or go ahead and start saving money to go toward an adoption. Will 2017 be filled with pregnancy and labor and a baby? Or home studies and paying thousands to an adoption agency, waiting and hoping someone chooses us to give their child to? It’s too overwhelming to think about at this point.

So in light of this time of reflection, here are 16 things I learned this year.

  1. I learned that (non-life-threatening) surgery isn’t as scary as I’d feared. I was pretty terrified the couple of days before my endometrioma removal, but the day of, I was remarkably calm. After an excellent nap, I was back home only six or seven hours after I’d left.
  2. I’ve learned that you should try to avoid opiates as much as possible. I didn’t even take that many of them and STILL ended up with weeks of stomach and (lack of) poop troubles. No way.
  3. I learned what my insides look like.  Gross.
  4. I learned how to tell where your ovaries are on an ultrasound, what cysts and follicles look like (and when they’re big enough).
  5. I learned what endometriosis really is and why I’ve always felt crampy and uncomfortable for most of my adult life.
  6. I learned what menopause feels like (along with bone pain, brain fog, etc).
  7. I learned that walking in the woods and hiking mountains cures most of my anxieties.
  8. I learned that I can do HARD physical things. And I have the journey up Mount Mitchell  and FIVE 5K races to prove it.
  9. I learned that diet and exercise changes really can drastically improve your body in both appearance and lab results.
  10. I learned over and over again, with every small and large gesture, that my husband is one of the best people on the planet and far better than I deserve.
  11. I learned that being responsible for a dog really does make me want to be a better person.
  12. I’ve learned to change my prayer from “God, please let me have ‘x,'” to “God, please help me to accept what You are going to do.” (still working on this, obviously)
  13. I’ve learned to stop clinging so tightly to things I’ve loved in the past but that cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
  14. I’ve learned that I don’t want to have to hustle to be a freelance writer; I may love to write, but I don’t love the stress of constant pitching to clients. I’ll be okay in my stable, corporate job at this point; I’ll write because I love to and will just wait on God to see what comes.
  15. I’ve learned that adult coloring books are straight out of heaven.
  16. I’m starting to learn that I don’t need to apologize for saying “no” to things sometimes.  It’s not my job to fulfill everyone else’s needs all the time.

I think I’ll be back tomorrow with goals for January. Signing off for now.

My Endo Journey: When Life Kicks You in the Teeth (A.K.A. Good Riddance, 2016)

Well, I let some more time pass, despite my intent to continue to share this endometriosis and infertility journey with you. I’m sorry. Honestly, my high after finishing the Lupron has worn off entirely, and the last few months have been crappier than I could ever have imagined.

First, things did not “start back” in the timeframe that the interwebs led me to believe was normal. Which meant I couldn’t start back up on the fertility meds.  Which also meant I needed to be pumped full of hormones to kick it all back in gear. As you can imagine, a “hormone bomb” like Provera creates a Melanie who cries constantly. I can’t tell you how many times I burst into tears for little reason, sobbing and apologizing to Joey for being ridiculous. He just laughed and soldiered on, as has become his modus opperandi this past year. Someday, I hope I can return the favor by actually taking care of him instead of the reverse. And he’s working three jobs these days, so his stress is already quite high.

So, it was back to the Femara (a med like Clomid that stimulates follicle production on your ovaries, thereby increasing the likelihood that you’ll ovulate). This time, though, we added in an Ovidrel “trigger” shot. The shot forces ovulation within 24-36 hours. It is not covered by insurance, and it’s $140 a pop. Now, we’re not destitute or anything, but come on. Still, I found myself excited this time…the endo was under control, ovulation was a sure thing; what could go wrong?

It didn’t work, that’s what. I had my annual checkup with my OBGYN a few days later and she told me not to get discouraged, that it’s fairly common for it to fail on the first try. That lifted my spirits some and we prepared ourselves for Round 2.

On Round 2, I promised myself that I wouldn’t get excited or hopeful this time so I wouldn’t be as disappointed when it didn’t work. And I was successful at that for the first week. But around 8 days post-ovulation, I started feeling “off.” And that led me down the road of symptom-spotting and agonizing over every little twinge. Needless to say, when it became fully evident that Round 2 failed on Saturday, 12/3, I was devastated.

In all honesty, I don’t like Christmas. I don’t like the commercialism. I don’t like the Elf on the Shelf. I don’t like the pressure on parents (self-imposed or otherwise) to create a magical “Santa” experience for their children. I don’t like the obligations, busy-ness, endless presents to buy (the bulk of which to be returned, thrown away, or stashed in some corner somewhere until they’re discarded when eventually rediscovered), social events to attend, weeks and weeks and weeks of extra rehearsals eating up what precious little free time I already have. There’s just too much stress that comes with the month of December, and in my worst moments, I want to run for the hills and return sometime mid-January.

So I didn’t even get a chance to fully grieve the failure of Round 2. I had to go to a six hour dress rehearsal the morning I discovered it. Then I had to sing in a Christmas program the next day. Then my office Christmas party. Then Joey’s office Christmas party. I painted on a fake smile and told everyone that I was doing just fine. We started Round 3.

Then Joey’s uncle died very unexpectedly and suddenly on the 13th. We were all quite close, and Joey was one of the first to arrive at the house, just after the paramedics. Just like that, Uncle Bob was gone and then came the business of trying to make sense of what had happened, settle his affairs, and take care of our newly-widowed aunt. All while in the midst of medications and ultrasounds, scheduling trigger shots, etc. I felt guilty for even worrying about our infertility drama, but just as the world does not stop spinning for death, neither does it stop spinning for the biological clock, so Round 3 had to trudge on whether or not we felt hopeful or had time for it.

And that brings us up to the present. Also, I forgot to mention that I broke my toe two months ago and it’s still healing (it’s hard to heal a toe when you don’t have time to stay off it), and I managed to get pinkeye just a couple of days after Uncle Bob died, and thus had to miss visiting the nursing home and seeing my grandmas for Christmas.

We haven’t been able to hike since Black Friday. And never more have I needed to be out on a trail than this last couple of months. Another reason December bites…we’ve just been too busy. We’re going hiking on Monday (the day after Christmas), and I don’t intend on seeing a car for at least six hours. We’re hiking all of the miles, injured toe and all.

I’m 4 days post-ovulation today. I had two follicles on Monday. I’d think that increases the chances that this round will work, but I’m not about to let myself get my hopes up again. And I’m not about to even think about symptoms. It’s not worth the pain. We get one more shot after this and then my OB wants to refer us to REACH (the infertility clinic). I’m not sure how helpful it’ll be since we don’t intend to do in-vitro, and it’s sketchy whether my insurance will cover any of it. There comes a point where we have to look at the situation logically. We can either shell out money for REACH or save up to begin the adoption process. I’m leaning toward adoption at this point.  We’ll see how it plays out.

So, Merry Freaking Christmas. I hope yours is merry and bright. I just want mine to be over.

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.