[Originally published May 4, 2016]
My Post-Diagnosis Reality
Thank goodness I have a really good planner with a to-do list for every day as well as a daily agenda. And extra space for notes on this and that. It even has motivational quotes at the top of each page. Because wow every piece of this process requires so much detail. And so much effort.
Sleep has been an issue, even with the anxiety meds, and by last Thursday I was spent. The hormones and the to-do lists didn’t help. And yes the egg freezing process is immensely anxiety-inducing – if one little thing goes wrong, or if the dosage is off by a teeny bit, or if you have too many eggs, or they don’t retrieve the eggs on the exact right day, the whole thing is for naught. Cycle terminated. No eggs. No backup plan. No pressure. That on top of the hormones… yes it’s quite an emotional roller coaster.
I was able to relax a bit on Friday after the daily bloodwork and ultrasound, and had scheduled a wig consultation at a nearby hair salon, just to see some options… just in case… I have to say, especially for someone who has never messed with her hair, it was kinda fun being a blonde one minute and a brunette the next and trying on different hairstyles. Funny enough, they had a wig called the ‘Leanna’ – same exact spelling as my sister’s (rare) – and a hair sample that was almost EXACTLY my color named AMANDA. What are the odds. Of course, Leanna had bangs and Amanda wasn’t available for the longer wigs that worked for me. Still, it was an interesting experience.
The Egg-Freezing Pre-Procedure
Anyway, I got the call that afternoon that I would in fact be pulling the trigger that night (the final Lupron injection that stimulates egg release) – at precisely 10:15pm – and would go in Sunday morning – at precisely 7:15am – for the retrieval procedure. Which also meant I had to be at the clinic at 6:30am the next morning – on Saturday. SO FUN.
So that evening, while re-watching GoT Season 6 ep 1, I got my syringes ready and injected one into each side of my lower abdomen (at least 2 inches from the belly button, ideally). My lower stomach looked like a bit like a pin cushion by that point, but this was it! No more injections! Though, in all fairness, I got pretty good at those injections and didn’t really need any of the bandaids [pats self on back], although of course I still used them for moral support. These Lupron injections had a lot of fluid and there was so much at stake with these shots it was extra nerve-wracking. I washed my hands about 4 times, thoroughly cleaned the area with alcohol wipes, and at 10:10 laid the two most important injections of the process out on a clean towel, each with 40 units for a precise 80 total, and picked up the first one so it was ready to go immediately when the clock read 10:15.
At 10:14 and a half I applied light pressure to get the fluid going, and OMG liquid gold came shooting out. I panicked. My eggs needed every drop! Then I remembered the nurse said I could reload if I lost a couple drops (she made a big deal of it too though) so, hands shaking, I brought it back up to the 40 mark. My heart was racing. And these syringes were terrible. The worst of them all (I’m an expert in syringes by now, of course). I pinched the skin of my lower abdomen, just as I had each of the previous 9 evenings, took a deep breath, and inserted the first needle on the right side. Then the second on the left. Done. 10:18pm. I thought I was probably ok. PS, the relatively large amount of liquid creates a bubble of bloat immediately around the injection site. Totally bizarre, but it dissipates.
I went to sleep, sort of, and woke up to meditate. Well, I was already awake at 5:30 so I figured why not meditate then. Then I pulled myself out of bed, grabbed my nuts and berries (literally… berries and nuts for breakfast), and headed over to the clinic for my 6:30am cattle call. Fewer than 10 of us would go through the egg retrieval the following morning, so it wasn’t too bad. I started filling out the forms, and then they called us back for bloodwork. I hadn’t had time yet to eat my nuts and berries but warned them and had water and everything ready for immediately after. All good.
Panic and Fainting
I sat at the conference table filling out the forms while dutifully filling my mouth with those precious calories and the nurse came in to go through the forms. When she got to the part about no food after midnight and no fluids after 5am, my anxiety spiked. A wave of wooziness washed over me and I had to lean my head on my hand. The nurse saw and paused her spiel – I apparently went white as a ghost. I briefly explained my reactions to her, she put my feet up and gave me an alcohol swab to smell. It passed, but the nurse came back over afterward to tell me to set my alarm for 4:45 to drink extra fluids with electrolytes. They’ve had people faint – but never just sitting at the table! I once again explained my reactions to everyone there that morning so they were thoroughly warned and prepared.
I left and had breakfast number 2 – avocado toast with a fried egg. Yup, back on the animal protein, slightly, as per my nutritionist’s recommendation to keep my protein and mineral levels up. To keep up my weight and my strength. Eggs, fish, grass-fed butter, and kefir are allowed (tbh still haven’t tried kefir…?), but no cheese and absolutely no milk. Ah cheese! How I miss thee. And I’m supposed to stay gluten-free, so I’m very glad I discovered Le Pain Quotidien’s gluten-free seed bread. I love it. A small slice of that with avocado is heaven, either with coconut oil or grass fed butter, and with or without eggs. So yum. Other than small slices of this bread, I’m still more or less carb-free. I spent that afternoon organizing then had dinner with my yogi homegirl besties – grilled Bronzino with escarole and cannellini and I cleaned my plate.
The Egg Retrieval
Sunday at 4:45 am I woke up to drink my organic coconut water. I lay back down for a bit, meditated, then headed over to Cornell for my procedure. The nurses and doctors set me up in a special area with my mom while I waited for my turn since they had hooked me up to an IV with fluids beforehand. They don’t typically do this but given my reactions they took every extra precaution. They also wound up putting me completely under with the anesthesia since I didn’t feel the initial injection. Also not typical. When I came to (not too long after) I was back in the recovery room and my mom was there. I was a bit groggy but ok. The nurse came over to tell me how many eggs they retrieved: 19, though not all of those would necessarily be mature enough to freeze. I would find out that number the next day. I started sobbing. The nurse was 100% perplexed. This was good news.. a great number. In that moment, however, the reality of my situation, the significance of these little golden eggs, hit me full on. Those little survivors could possibly be my only chance. It didn’t seem like enough. Not if this was my only chance.
Highly concerned by my fragile emotional state, the nurse actually went back to get the surgeon so she could speak with me. Again, not normal. She, too, reassured me that this was a good number – a really good number. Based on my last ultrasound she thought they’d only get 15, of which not all would be mature, because the cyst on one of my ovaries limits growth on that side, but even so this is a great number. More importantly, it actually is an issue of quality vs quantity – more isn’t necessarily better. This mollified me slightly, but, truth be told, it was a really rough day, and the recovery days that have followed haven’t been as easy as I hoped they would be. The hormones, the lack of sleep, and the stress of everything going on just came crashing down. That part of the process was complete, and reality hit. The nurse also called the on-site psychologist at the fertility clinic, with whom I’d met on Thursday as part of their standard recommendations for the process. Definitely the most high-maintenance patient there, likely one of the highest ever.
The next day while recovering and waiting on my final number, I obviously researched this. Apparently, 15 is the optimal number. More than 20 eggs retrieved can actually yield lower birth rates, and anything above 15 does not increase birth rates, based on research so far. Guess how many of my eggs were mature and successfully frozen? 15. My little golden eggs did great after all. I’m so proud of them. And full disclosure here, I laid my hands on my lower belly the two nights leading up to the procedure and said a little prayer sending them love and strength…. Call me crazy if you like but I think it worked, because I got 15 fully mature eggs, not just 15 retrieved. 😉 Phew. Now, on to the next….