Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Infertility Awareness Week 2017

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. To share and show support, I'm going to post my story. It's personal and might be a little too much information for some, so fair warning, if you don't want to keep reading.

When I hit puberty at 13 years old, I gained weight and my period was normal to start. After a few months, my period stopped being regular and I only had one every 3 or so months. My mom took me to the doctor, they ran tests and nothing was "wrong". So, after talking to my doctor about it, my mom and I decided that I should be on the pill to regulate me. I was on birth control for about 2 years and everything was normal.

Flash forward a couple years, I stopped taking birth control, gained more weight, and my period stopped completely. For 2 years I didn't have any bleeding at all. Then I met Brian. And after being with him a few months, I started randomly bleeding again. It wasn't regular by any means, but it was a period so to speak. The first time it happened, it lasted for over a two full months. Bleeding every day for over two months. Then, it went away for a few week and came back for about the same amount of time. And it would go away and come back, the periods. I don't really call them periods though, since they aren't regular and they stay for so much longer than they're supposed. I just call them bleeding.

Another couple of years later, my wonderful boyfriend became my awesome husband. And I gained a little more weight. After we got married, we decided to stop using protection. We wanted to have a baby! We weren't counting days or anything, but we were ready! We called it "Not trying, but not preventing." And my bleeding was the same. Off for a few weeks, on for a few weeks. Nonstop pretty much. And week after week, month after month - no pregnancy, no baby.

Then, around our first wedding anniversary, I decided to make a doctor's appointment. I've always been heavy/overweight/fat, whatever you want to call it. So I developed a small fear of having undiagnosed Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I don't have a bunch of the symptoms, but I'm overweight and apparently infertile, so I wanted to get checked out. We didn't have insurance, so I found a low-cost clinic nearby. It took two months to get in, but I got an appointment. After the normal bits of blood pressure, weight and height, the doctor came in for my pelvic exam. Normal exam. After my clothes were back on, he came back in to see if I had any questions. He said everything looked normal and my swabs would be back in a couple weeks. I asked him about not being to get pregnant. He told me that it's because of my weight. He recommended I lose 100lb and then I'd be able to get pregnant no problem. That's right. He told me to lose 100lb, like it would be a magical cure-all for infertility. Now, I'm the first to admit that my weight is a problem. But I felt like he just blew off my questions and concerns. So then I asked him about the possibility of cysts on my ovaries. And he said "Oh yes, I felt cysts during your exam." What the hell? If you felt ovarian cysts during my exam why in the hell would you tell me that everything looked good?? That makes absolutely no sense to me. He pretty much just walked out after that, but not before recommended that I go out and pick up a weight loss book that he co-wrote! On top of all that, while I was walking back to the car, I started bleeding again. I went home and cried.

About two years later, we moved, so I found a new doctor. He confirmed my self-diagnosis of PCOS and prescribed me a medication to help with some of the symptoms, including inability to lose weight at a normal pace. And it really helped! I was on it for almost a year, until we moved again and I didn't refill the prescription. I lost about 30-40lb in that year, but gained it back (plus some) when I went off it.

After we moved again, I decided to try and focus on losing weight before finding another doctor. I worked at it for about a year, and didn't seem to go anywhere. Then, about a year ago, I started to get the feeling that I needed to make a doctors appointment with an ob/gyn. I don't know why, but I just felt like I needed to go. So I made an appointment, and waited the two months to go. I had my normal exam, my ob/gyn said that I didn't seem to have any cysts. Then I waited for my results. The doctor called me about a week later and asked if my husband and I could come it. We both knew that it wasn't good news then.. The ob/gyn sits down with us and tells us that I have endometrial cancer, in my uterus. She says that I'll probably have to have a hysterectomy, maybe chemo and radiation. She refers me to an oncologist in San Antonio, about 2 hours away. I actually had to find a primary care doctor to refer me first, and he said that same thing. That I'd have to have a hysterectomy. I was devastated. Before this diagnosis, I'd always had in my mind that we'd have children eventually. I never really considered that the option could be taken away from us. Brian and I had a long talk, and reassured each other that if we ended up not being about to have children, then we would have dogs and travel and just love each other. He's such a great man.

So, I go see the oncologist. And he's awesome! He tells me that a hysterectomy is absolutely the last resort, especially with how young I am and the fact that I don't have children and still want them. He deals with this type of cancer pretty often and has great results that don't end with a hysterectomy. Thankfully, all my cancer was completely located in my uterus and hadn't spread. I was still in stage one. He prescribed me what I call "cancer pills" that I take twice a day. They actually shrink the cancer cells. And then every few months, I go in for a minor surgery where he actually scrapes out the cancerous cells. I have had two surgeries so far, and I'm going in for another at the beginning of June. Before my first surgery, I had cancer. After my first surgery, I was downgraded to "pre-cancerous cells". After my second surgery, I was downgraded to "abnormal cells". My oncologist is pretty positive that this next surgery will be my last surgery and I'll officially be cancer free! After that happens, my oncologist is actually very optimistic that he'll be able to help us get pregnant. He has a couple medications that he wants to try, after I beat this cancer, that he thinks will be successful in helping us get pregnant. We'll see what happens there! My next (and hopefully last) surgery is June 8th. My follow up appointment will be about 3 weeks after that, and then we'll start taking the next steps to hopefully start having some babies!

Until then, I'm still working on losing weight. Unfortunately, the cancer pill cause increased appetite and weight gain. So, I gained about 25lb in the first few months that I was taking them, bringing me up to my highest weight ever - almost 300lb. I've lost about 17lb so far, and I'm hoping to keep it going until my next surgery, and after. Brian has been amazing through all of this, including walking with me to help with my weight loss. He's so great! I'm so grateful that he's been my partner through all of this. And this is where we're at for now! Dealing with cancer, and hopefully being able to get pregnant after all this is done. And if we still can't get pregnant, we'll have a beautiful life together anyways. We've talked about adoption, and maybe we'll save enough money to make adoption part of our story. But no matter what, we're together in love. 

Thank you for reading my infertility journey! And my husband's too, since he's been with me through it all. Spread awareness, and don't be afraid to talk and ask questions. 1 in 8 couples are struggling with infertility! PCOS affects 1 in 10 women! These are things we shouldn't be afraid to talk about. =)