Friday, March 20, 2015

Questions, we get questions

As is typical with a blog of this renown, I get questions from my faithful nineteens of readers, wanting to know everything about the inner workings of my life so that they too can emulate my greatness. While I certainly can’t share every secret that makes me Who I Am, on occasion I do graciously acquiesce to answering a few of the more pressing queries or comments. To wit:

I say, meet me in Las Vegas next month, we dine, dance, drink and make a baby the normal method not the "abby something, abby normal I think" way.”
This is actually an excellent idea, most excellent, Random Internet Stranger. If we took just a quarter of the about $60K I’ve spent thus far on unicube production, we could have us a grand ol’ time in Vegas. Cirque du Soleil shows and Vegas-priced Starbucks and quarter slots and basically All The Things. Hell, we could go every month around ovulation time and stay at the freaking Bellagio for that kind of cash.

So if this shit doesn't work, I'm in. Please, RIS, send me an application post-haste detailing your sperm count/motility as well as a genetic test that shows that you too are not a carrier of GRACILE syndrome, aka the rare disease of my heretofore unknown Finnish ancestors. We’ll talk.
“Miss Tasha, are you still using the Cheez-It and Slim Jim training diet along with the intensive method of only training on a bike on the road for only the two weeks leading up to the ride?”
Another excellent question. I was thinking about my training regimen the other day as I was riding my bike – actually, I was driving, but I was thinking about cycling so it’s essentially the same thing. I was trying to pinpoint the optimal 2-week period in which I should start ramping up for all the crazy-ass bike rides I plan to do this summer. Should it be before RAGBRAI, thus going into the rides before that on really fresh (aka untrained) legs? There’s clearly something to be said for going into organized events without having put your body through all the stresses of cycling for hours.
As I always say, any fool can get ready for something by embarking on a strict training protocol months ahead of time. It takes true greatness to just blindly go into those same events with only a 2-week ramping-up period beforehand. I think it’s part of my (ahem) Wharton training, where I do the back-of-the-envelope calculations and cost-benefit analyses and throw in some TQM to get at the greatest efficiencies for my training plan. After all, why spend days and weeks frittering away your life training when you can just pack it all into 18-hour cycling stints for a couple of weeks?
As for diet, I still recall with some fondness the time I attempted to score a Slim Jim sponsorship by reaching out to the one SJ marketing person I could find on LinkedIn.
He denied my request, blocked me, hid his LinkedIn profile, and moved to another country so fast that my head is still spinning. So that was a bit of a bust.
To show my extreme dedication to my attempts at unicube production, I did in fact completely overhaul my diet. Cheez-It consumption was brought WAY down, to almost ridiculous levels; at one point I was down to around half a box per day, just in the morning. Torture to be sure, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else try this, but that’s the kind of single-mindedness eye-on-the-prize attitude I’m known for.
Of course, since my last cycle was a bust, all of that happy horseshit went straight out the window and I’m pleased to note that I’m back to my usual finely-honed diet of cheezy yums and salty meat snacks.
One interesting note – a dear friend who is also on this IVF path told me that apparently some circles say that us IVF-ers should avoid strenuous activity or working out. To which I say, fuck you, some circles, and my apologies to my little future unicorns. Even Miss Tasha has her limits, and if I can’t ride my bike for hours in a frail attempt to preserve what’s left of my sanity, well then, this shit just ain’t gonna happen.

Monday, March 16, 2015


I believe friend Cori said it best: “Couldn’t they wait until AFTER they were born to be disappointing little shitheads?” (paraphrased) (maybe)
No, apparently not. My little future hockey team petered out at the pre-blastocyst stage, so I was left with nothing. Tough to swallow, basically throwing away another $25K with nothing to show for it. At least I got told the bad news by Alison, British Embryologist, because hearing crap news in a British accent is so much more soothing.
Alison: I’m so sorry love, but all of your embryos have gone a bit pear-shaped.
Okay, so that might not be exactly how she said it, but with that accent that’s what I heard.
Anyway, after being depressed about this for a brief time, I shake myself off as usual and start signing up for a shitload of crazy-ass bike rides, because that’s what one does when one’s life is going all to hell, amirite? I also book my WTF appointment with Dr. B., which is what we call the follow-up in IVFLand.
Of course, when I go in, my first question for Dr. B. is kind of the obvious one: what the fuck happened? I had FOUR out of five embies still chugging along on day 5, and then there was nothing. What kind of slacker bullshit is this?
Dr. B. had this theory, based on her years of education and training and experience, that my embies got pushed along to a later stage, probably because of the NOW WITH DOPING regimen that I was on, but that they were probably abnormal to begin with which is why they didn’t make it to the blast stage.
I had my own theory, based on nothing more than the thoughts from my own head, that the supplements I had been on for just a month at that point were enough to get my embies to grow more, but not enough to get them to blast, since they say that it takes 3 months to form eggs. So in my world, with my next cycle Il’ll have been on the supps for 3 months, so I should have excellent results.
Clearly I’m going to go with my theory; the science is sound.
I then move on to rapid-fire of questions at Dr. B., based on ideas As Found on the Internet, all prefaced by wonderful phrases such as “I’ve read” and “studies show” and “I’ve heard people do this.”
Me: What do you think of embryonic co-culture?
Dr. B.: No.
Me: How about in-vitro maturation?
Dr. B.: No.
Me: More doping?
Dr. B.: No.
Me: Test for DHEA level?
Dr. B.: No.*

I’m not getting much to work with here.
Me: Perhaps a double trigger to help with maturation?
Dr. B.: Well yes, that is something we ca…..

Victory! We decide to add a double trigger AND to do an estrogen priming protocol (EPP) which can be successful in helping all the follies grow at the same time rather than being all over the damn place. We did have an odd moment as I was asking about the lab at CCRM and if they’re actually any better or what all the hype is about the place, and Dr. B. said that basically they’ve been around for a long time and are certainly a top lab, but so is ORM, which I knew. Then the weird moment, which I think came out of some strange place in Dr. B.’s head heretofore untapped.
Dr. B.: Well, not that I’m trying to encourage this, but if you DID want to talk to CCRM for a consult, I wouldn’t tell you not to….
The air gets sucked out of the room, and we all fall silent, me, Dr., B., and note-taking scribe, who also looks stunned. In a moment though, Dr. B. shakes her head a little bit as if to clear it, and we go on talking about my next cycle as if that odd comment had never been uttered.
I leave feeling insanely optimistic, and to say that my hopes are sky high would not be an understatement.
What could possibly go wrong in this scenario, right?
* We actually do discuss all of these at length, i.e. why they wouldn’t necessarily help, and yes, Dr. B's points makes sense to me. Dammit.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Surgery day

Because I am known for being a font of wisdom for my nineteens of readers, I will share with you all a little secret about surgery, concerning the worst part of it all.  It’s not the anxiety, the loopy drugs, the excruciating pain, the torturous sound of the IV drip, etc. No, none of that.
It’s the fact that you can’t drink any WATER after midnight the night before. Holy schnikeys! I keep forgetting this part until it’s that evening, and I’m sucking down water like a camel up until 11:59, and then poof, nothing. Even though I normally eschew water drinking, suddenly the thirst is overwhelming. Mouth parched. Tongue stuck to roof of mouth. The next morning I wake up feeling like I’m getting over a bender from the night before, or like a deer at a salt lick.
Anyway, after this illustrious start to the day, I head to Portland and to ORM, with my required ride being provided by Kim, because they tell you that you cannot leave after surgery by yourself. Something about drugged up people driving themselves home, meh. This sucks because I’m always fine, but so be it. Once at ORM, I’m disappointed that they did NOT decorate for me this time, but I’ll overlook it this once. I’m sent off to my pre-surgery room, where I’m greeted by the Nicest Person in the Entire World, aka Toni my nurse. Seriously, she’s that nice. Asking me if I need anything (no water though, dammit!), offering to dim the lights, lower or raise the shades, etc. It occurs to me that I’m getting this kind of treatment because Toni realizes Who I Am, and thus it all makes sense, this extra level of solicitousness. Of course. Fame does have its perks.
She even has options as far as putting the IV in.
Toni: I can offer you two options as far the IV is concerned.
Me: Drugs?

Alas, no drugs, just different places to put it, but it was worth a shot. Even more amazing, the Most Awesome Anesthesiologist Dr. M. comes in, and he does NOT give me a hard time about not wanting more drugs!
Me: So, I don’t want any Versed. You see I ha…
Dr. M: Okay, no problem.

Okay, then! We’re batting two for two here, and then Dr. Hesla comes in.
Dr. H.: Okay, ready for surgery?
Me: Yes, and Dr. B. told you we need to get 15 eggs this time, right?
Dr. H.: Heh heh.
Me: I have total faith in you. No pressure.
Dr. H., holding out his steady hands: Nerves of steel here.

Me, beaming: Excellent. That’ll help you with the 15. I have 100% utmost faith in you that you can overcome past shortcomings and achieve egg greatness today. No pressure of course.
See, this is why my doctors love me so – I push them to achieve their best ALL the time. Most people don’t do that, but as we all know, I strive for perfection in all areas of my life: they don’t call me Tasha the TriathlonJamCycling Goddess for nothing.
After this trifecta of awesomeness, I head to the operating room, hop on the table, and proceed to have poison sent into my veins. Seriously! Okay, maybe not really, but it seemed that way.
Me: So we’re going to get 15 eggs today, Dr. B. promis……ow ow ow ow ow! My arm! It’s BURNING!
Toni: That’s the propofol, sorry about that.
Me: IT BURNS! Owwww!
Dr. M.: I can give you some Versed?
Me: No, because while I’m being annoying right now, at least I’ll remember being annoying, whereas if you give me the Versed I’ll still be annoying but I won’t remember it which will be a million times worse.

At least that’s what I meant to say, but I think I dozed off somewhere in the middle. That’s the kind of bravery I’m known for, folks – when the going gets tough, I fall asleep. I highly recommend it.
Post-surgery, I’m woken up to the exciting news that I have….13 eggs! Whee! Way to go Dr. H! See, this is why I encourage him. I’m sure next time he’ll do even better.
As I’m being lovingly shown on my way, with the usual hugs and tears and Christmas card list promises, something odd happens, which took me a while to figure out. There I am chit-chatting with Toni, when suddenly she starts maneuvering me towards the door out.
Toni: Okay greattoseeyougoodluckbye!
Me: Oka….
Toni: Byegoodluck!
Me: Which way do I go?
Toni: Thatwaybye!

Suddenly I find myself in a long hallway with 2 paths, and I take the one that I presume will take me to the exit. At this rate I could have driven myself here and then home, so this seems….odd. But then, I recall that just before I was ushered out, a (stupid) man appeared in the hallway, this being the first time I had seen anyone else other than medical people in the surgical hallways of ORM. Aha! He seemed to have unceremoniously barged out of one of the other pre-surgery rooms to ask some (stupid) question. Clearly, Toni was concerned with maintaining at all costs the privacy of a Famous Person such as myself, and had to pull the hustle maneuver to make sure my name and face didn’t suddenly wind up all over the internet. It all makes perfect sense now.
Day after surgery
I find out that out of my 13 glorious eggs, 8 were mature and FIVE fertilized! So, one more than last time. I’ll take it.

5 days after surgery
Today I get the call from the lab telling me that FOUR out of my five embies are still growing! FOUR! This, compared to just my one lone wolf BFU last time. Even the embryologist is “cautiously optimistic.” They’ll call me tomorrow to let me know how many have gone to the blastocyst stage. Me, of course I start planning my future hockey team out of these slacker embies. Four this time plus BFU makes up my team, so I’ll need to do one more IVF cycle to get the goalie. Of course, all goalies are known to be crazy, so I might have to rethink that. Hmm. Decisions, decisions……..
Next up: No, I won’t create artificial suspense and a cliffhanger, since I already know the outcome: none of my little slacker embies made it to blast. I am crushed. But, onward.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Doctor fail, again

Recently I started IVF cycle #2, and of course, who should I come across again during ultrasound #2 but That One. Yes, the doctor of “you only have 4 follicles sucks to be you old person” fame. Who will henceforth be known as Dr. Magoo, because that’s slightly nicer than the equally appropriate Dr. Dream Crusher.
Anyway, the US went about as planned. Dr. Magoo clearly had no idea what she was talking about, obviously not accustomed to dealing with someone of my greatness and amazing Ukrainian peasant stock ovaries. Nor familiar with our vernacular that Miss Tasha has become known for at ORM.
Dr. Magoo: Hmm, on the left here, it looks like we have some kind of cyst…
Most Awesome Nurse Tech Helper Person pipes up: Oh, that’s Short Bus!
Me: Yep, Short Bus, the cyst that won’t go away, but isn’t bothering anything or anyone, and has been there for some 7 years now.
Dr. Magoo: Well we’ll just keep measuring it to make sure it doesn’t grow.

Then, the typical, which is what happens when a person is semi-blind;
Dr. Magoo: Okay, so on the left…looks like 5-6 follicles.
Me: Okay.
Dr. Magoo: Then on the right…….one plus maybe four.
Me: What? Dr. B. saw around 6 good ones!
Dr. Magoo: Yes but they’re small.
Me: So do you think they’ll rally?
Dr. Magoo, after a long pause: ………no.

I leave in a shit mood, but then remind myself that Dr. Magoo is partially blind and not mathy, and if it were up to her, I’d probably leave egg retrieval minus two ovaries. “I count negative two!” That makes me feel better, knowing that it’s just her. Never me.
Luckily, for my next appointment I have my Most Awesome Dr. B. again, and she’s not semi-blind or math-challenged.
Dr. B.: Okay, so……I’m seeing from 4-5 follicles on each side, but some are on the smaller side. It’s looking like we’ll get 6-9 mature eggs total.
Me: So what I’m hearing you say is that it looks like we’ll get 15.
Dr. B: But…
Me: 15.
Dr. B: ……okay…..sure.
Me: If you can dream it , you can achieve it! That’s my mantra, along with all that stuff from The Secret. No wait, I’m totally bullshitting you – I hate all that stuff.
Dr. B: Oh whew, because I think that’s a bunch of crap too.
Me: Right? Like if you just think of something happening, it’ll happen. Pshaw.
Dr. B: That’s the thing. That book will tell you to, say, hang an inspiring picture of a fit person on the refrigerator, if you want to get in shape. Then you and I know that you use that to motivate you to go out and exercise and eat right . The book skips out on that whole second part!
Me: Total garbage!

We beam at each other in total agreement, me secure in the knowledge that we’ll be getting 15 eggs at egg retrieval. Dr. B. wouldn’t let me down.

Next up: Surgery Day!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Doping dreams

While many of my nineteens of readers have found their way to my little Blog That’s Sweeping the Nation because of the trials and tribulations I bravely face with cancer, bike crashes, IVF, etc., the fact is that this blog has its roots in my esteemed racing career, focusing on cycling and triathlon. I have advised legions of people as to the ways of using As Seen on TV devices to kickstart their own athletic journeys and achieve similar greatness, as I was reminded of recently when I alerted the world to my impending foray into doping.
Alert Reader Colleen pointed this out – “But Tasha, what will this mean for your racing career?”
Indeed! Of course, as soon as I was made aware of the potential ramifications of using HGH and my future ability to dominate the age-grouper scene in Oregon and beyond, I did what any sane, sensible person would do under similar circumstances.
I started googling the shit out of rides/races I could sign up for, to take advantage of the situation.
What, you didn’t think I’d be letting thousands of dollars of HGH go to waste, did you? That’s life, folks – if people want to compete at my level, well, they too can spend shitloads of cash on IVF meds. Oh sure I know what you’re all thinking. “But Miss Tasha, you’re already such a finely honed competitive athlete. Is it really fair to give yourself even more of an advantage other than what you have with your natural abilities and extreme training regimen?”
To which I reply that anyone else willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to shoot themselves up several times a day is perfectly free to join me. It’s not like I have a monopoly on boxes of Saizen at Strohecker’s Pharmacy. Oh wait, except that I do. More about that later.
Anyway. First on my list became the Oregon Gran Fondo, a rollicking ride of 117 miles over ridiculous hills and mountains, all of it chip-timed. Because I don’t do anything half-way, I looked up what it would take to win my age group. And excuse me here while I rant about women of AMA as we call them (Advanced Maternal Age, i.e. 40+) who can’t leave well enough alone. Seriously people! I quickly discover that in this particular age group, the top woman is FASTER than anyone in any of the other female age groups, and in many of the men’s! Wtf!
Being the mathy person I am, I calculate that I would need to average 22.6 mph over those 117 miles to win my age group.
Ech, piece of cake.
Then I look up the King/Queen of the Mountain segment, whereby each person is timed over a 4 mile segment that climbs 1K feet. Again, using my (ahem) Wharton education, I do some back of the envelope calculations and figure out that the grade is about 6.8%, and I’d have to average 16.4 mph to win.
Yawn. In my sleep, folks, in my sleep.
I mean, that would be in my normal state. Add the doping element, and all bets are off.
So I go in to see the Most Excellent Dr. Barbieri, to tell her about this excitement.
Me: So, my triathlon friends are really jealous about the fact that I’ll be doping.
Dr. B.: Oh, you do triathlons?
Me: Well yes. Blah blah two Ironmans….blah blah…greatness……blah blah age group glory…blah blah.
Dr. B: I’ve done a couple triathlons, and one half and that was it as far as distance.
Me: Oh sure, the half distance is great….blah blah…my greatness….blah blah…….Steelhead glory….blahblah.
Dr. B: Have you thought about doing cyclocross?
Me: I’ve thought about it…..blahblah……future greatness….blahblah…….cyclocross glory…blahblah.

I can tell that Dr. B. Is getting a bit overwhelmed by being in the presence of an athlete such as myself, so I bring up another topic important to the situation.
Me: So Dr. B., I just wanted to note that we need to get 15 eggs this time. Studies have shown that that’s optimal, between quantity and quality.
Dr. B.: What? But we got 9 last time and did great!
Me: Yes, but that was then! Studies have shown 15 is better!

Claire the nurse tech assistant person giggles. I take that as a clear testament to the truth of the matter.
Me: Amirite? It’s not like I make this shit up – I’m just the messenger.
Dr. B: But…
Me, firmly: 15.
Dr. B: Sigh. It’s a good thing Dr. Hesla does the surgeries on weekends.
Me: Oh, Dr. Hesla. Hmm. Last time I told him 13 eggs, and he failed to achieve that. But I guess I can give him another chance.

I can tell by the way Dr. B. always leaves the room so quickly that the veracity and brilliance of our conversations is almost too much to handle. Think about it – every conversation afterward would just pale so much in comparison that it’s better to leave my presence immediately so that the little people at least have a chance.
It’s truly a gift.
* * * * *
Oh, and about my doping career? It turns out that there are in fact stupid age-groupers out there using this shit for actual doping. Because my pharmacy isn’t carrying the stuff anymore. Say what? I immediately call Haley, my most excellent coordinator person at ORM, to take care of the situation, and as always, she leaps into action.
I get a call from her 20 minutes later.
Haley: Okay, so they have some new FDA regulations coming out – because of people using this for doping! But I managed to get them to put aside for you the last of what they have. (“Pony up, assholes, this is our star client we’re talking about here.”*)
Me: Doping! Who the heck would even THINK of using it for that??
Haley: Ugh, I don’t know. But for now at least you’re set.

I pick up my 2 dusty boxes of Saizen at Strohecker’s, at well over $1K for 2 small vials. Any cyclists out there actually using this stuff for nefarious purposes, please contact me, because you obviously have a hell of a lot more money than I do. Momma needs a Sugar Daddy, oh yes I do.
*Relevant subtext added

Friday, January 2, 2015

Fear and Anxiety in IVFLand

I can’t really say “loathing” because other than the extreme cost, I really don’t mind the IVF cycles. Especially since I had a great result from the first one. And let’s face it, everything moved along smoothly, like clockwork. The shots didn’t hurt, and I had zero side effects from them. Once I started stims, all went as it should. Follicles grew as hoped for. Estrogen level rose perfectly. Everything happened with the precision of a Swiss clock. And this was all without having to change my dosages, which is often the case when one isn’t responding with appropriate follicle growth. Even egg retrieval was stellar – I had 9 good follicles, 9 eggs retrieved, 8 mature. It doesn’t get any more perfect than that.
But what if it was all a fluke? I now know more about all the things that can go wrong with one’s cycle, and it scares the shit out of me. I see all these people doing all these things to improve their cycles, and for this one, I’m doing it too, because why not. I’ve changed my diet from the All Cheez Doodle Diet, have been taking a shitload of supplements, am avoiding plastics and cans as much as possible (BPAs doncha know), etc. But what if I go in and have shitty results right from the start?
What if Cheez Doodles are the key to IVF success?
What if I go in for my first ultrasound and there are only, say, 4 follicles, aka The Original 4?
You see, I basically still have Follicle PTSD from my first antral follicle count ultrasound. I went in there all cocky and shit, thinking hell yes, we’ll get a ton of follies, I have the badass AMH of 2.94, bring it!
The appointment didn’t go quite like that. It was a different doctor doing the US, and it’s probably a good thing I don’t remember her name because I continue to hate her with all the burning fury of a thousand suns.
Jerk Doctor: Okay, so on the left we have……2 follicles. On the right……also 2.
Me: Wait, what? There are only 4? Are you sure?
JD: Yes, only 4, possibly a 5th smaller one.
Me: But….does the number of follicles you have change from month to month?
JD: No, not really. Next month you might have 5, then 4 or 3, but they basically stay the same.

She wasn’t even sympathetic as she was imparting the information that was crushing my hopes and dreams. Needless to say, I was shell-shocked. Devastated. I went after that for my blood draw, and my Coordinator at the time saw me sniffling and asked what was wrong.
Me: I only have 4 follicles! That’s bad, isn’t it…
Kelsey: Well, it’s not what we would have expected with your AMH.
Me, sniffling: We……we can still do the IVF, right?
Kelsey, with a sympathetic shoulder pat: Oh of course.

I then drove home psychotically and proceeded to be devastated until probably my next US appointment. Which showed THIRTEEN FREAKING FOLLICLES. So much for the number not changing!
The point being, I’ve learned since then that there is in fact a lot of variation from cycle to cycle….so what if we’re back to LoserLand where I only have a few pitiful follicles? What then? While I’m exceedingly happy to have BFU, the fact is that there are so many things that can still go wrong, it’s not like this is a sure shot by any means.
I can’t even take to drink, since I’m off the booze. Ugh.
As a result, the countdown to base ultrasound #1 for my next cycle is taking forever. Luckily, in the meantime I’m planning out my return to the triathlon/racing world…..
Next up: Taking Advantage of the Situation, or, Doping, Is It Wrong?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Me, the Rock$tar

I’m sure I’m not the only one who plays out little vignettes in my head, i.e. how I envision things unfolding in the future. “Yes, I gladly accept this nomination for the Nobel.” “Another cup of tea would be lovely, my dear Queen Elizabeth.” And so on, all while the relevant players are in the background, the necessary accompaniments sallying forth, fealty being sworn, etc.
However, it is rare indeed when things actually work out this way – needless to say, reality is so often a disappointment.
Until my last visit to ORM.
Oh sure, in my mind they’d all be falling at my feet in wonder and awe. A normal embryo! From someone old as dirt! I’d now be the Golden Child to be sure.
So I walk into ORM as usual, and is that a hint of surprise in the front office person’s voice when I tell her who I am? As in, “oh, so YOU’RE the one?” Possibly.
Then I get called back to meet with Dr. Barbieri, and not only is she eagerly waiting to greet me, but she’s also pulled over Serena, the Wonderful Genetics Counselor, with whom I discussed my bizarre Finnish heritage. She had also counseled me that even with a chromosmally normal embryo, I shouldn’t expect BFU (at the time just a hint of a far-off dream) to be perfect. To which I assured her thusly:
“Oh, don’t you worry, if this kid isn’t perfect in every way, I’m leaving him or her on a doorstep. IN FINLAND.”
We yucked it up back then, but here I was, me with my perfect embryo. Take that, shitty chances!
Anyway, Serena gushes over this amazing turn of events, and then we head back to Dr. Barbieri’s office, where, I kid you not, is someone prepared to transcribe every word we utter, probably for posterity. Okay, so Dr. B. said it was because they were “transitioning to all electronic records,” but surely that was just a front. Because then Dr. B. leaves for a minute, and walks back to the room with someone else, who just peeks into the room. “Look, there’s our unicorn!” “Wow!” This is how I imagine their conversation.
Finally, Dr. B. and I sit down and cut to the chase.
Dr. B.: Wow, you really surprised all of us!
Me: Yeah, I’ve just been hoping to get another step closer to the mural of me in the lobby of your new building.
Dr. B.: None of us expected this, it’s wonderful.
Me: So now I’m your Golden Child, right?
Dr. B.: Well this is certainly unprecedented.
Me, firmly: Golden Child.
Dr. B.: Absolutely.
Me: We have a name for the embie already too.
Dr. B.: Oh, do tell?
Me: BFU. Badass Fucking Unicorn.
Dr. B.: That’s perfect.
Me: So I have to ask, have you gotten to this point, of a normal embryo, with your other 46-year-old clients?
Dr. B.: Well……we’ve had 2 44-year-olds who wound up with embryos to transfer. But those didn’t take.
Me: Not even any 45-year-olds?
Dr. B.: No. Not one BFU.
Me: Yep. Golden Child.

I’m surprised that at this point they don’t wrap me in bubble wrap to ensure my safety, but that’ll probably come later. In the meantime, we talk about my plan to get more BFUs, or unicubes, on ice (props to Laura M. for the brilliant unicube name. So perfect.), and she’s totally on board. Even though this is all expensive as shit, my hope is to do another cycle or two to get more unicubes, so I don’t have all the hopes and dreams of a nation riding on one little BFU. Plus I note that I’m hoping to have more follicles now that Shithead the Cyst has met his demise, and we both breath a sigh of relief over that – though Dr. B. does tell the scribe that she doesn’t need to include the info about Shithead. I guess when you’re dealing with records of immense future historical value, you want to clean them up a bit.
So we’re sticking to the same protocol, and only changing it up by adding Omnitrope, or HGH (Human Growth Hormone), which is supposed to improve egg quality. It’s stupidly expensive and relatively new to the IVF scene, so REs don’t usually add it to the protocol, but I feel like I’m now worthy of all such things. ALL the things!
I start my next round of shots next week, knock on wood, god willing and the creek don’t rise. To say that I can’t wait is an understatement. Maybe we’ll get more follicles! More eggs! More fertilization, more blasts! Umm, not that I’m competitive or anything. Nope….

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Golden Egg

In all of the IVF/fertility groups I belong to online, everyone talks about the Golden Egg. This is basically the belief that no matter where you are on the fertility path, no matter how old you are, if you’re still ovulating (ie producing eggs), getting pregnant is just a matter of finding that one perfect egg. That egg which is surely there somewhere. This is the hope that everyone clings to, through 1, 2, 7, or 17 IVF cycles. Yes, 17. Some people just keep trying – people who are either very rich or have an amazing insurance policy.
I’m in neither of those categories (rich or amazing insurance), so, to say the least, this shit is expensive. So far around $25K out of pocket, and I haven’t done half the stuff I need to yet, like the mock transfer, etc. So yeah, at those prices…..there’s a lot riding on BFU.
Having said that, I had no idea how long the chromosomal testing (PGS) would take, so imagine my surprise when I got a call from ORM on Sunday. Now, the only people who would be calling me on a Sunday would be the embryology lab, because that’s the only thing that’s going on right now: testing BFU. Omg! A call! NEWS ALREADY! What’s the verdict??
I had no fucking clue of course, because they called while I was in the shower. Yes, the shower. Fuck.
It’s kind of appropriate though that I have a history of this kind of thing. It oddly parallels CancerLandia, when I went out with friends the night I was supposed to get a call from my breast surgeon to let me know whether or not the lump was actually cancer. I wasn’t home for THAT call either…..and my answering machine (this was back in ye olden days) cut off RIGHT BEFORE he told me his number at which I should “call (him) back whenever I get in.”
Sometimes, the pattypan gods just like to mess with me.
I proceeded to completely lose my mind, as one would imagine. I left a message with ORM’s answering service. I paced. I watched the clock, thinking of the likelihood of them calling me back. I attempted to use backward induction and a decision tree to figure out if it had been good or bad news.
“If the news was bad, they wouldn’t call on a Sunday, because they’d want me to come in to hear it from the doctor. Unless they just don’t care and are used to crushing people’s hopes and dreams over the phone. But if it’s good news, they won’t call either, because, well, I don’t know. They didn't leave a message, so it must be bad news - unless it's just their policy to never leave messages on the phone. So it could be good or bad. Oh fuck.”
Right, along those lines. Then I pulled out the boozy cherries and started making cocktails, namely one I christened the Cherry Jubilee FTS (aka Fuck This Shit). It was fizzy and cherry and perfect, and helped me get to a state of Zen whereby all my worries floated awa…..oh, screw that, no it didn’t. It was perfect though, and helped me make it to 8PM, at which point I took a sleeping aid and went to bed, like a Dickensian urchin on Christmas Eve, wanting the next day to come as quickly as possible.
Finally, Monday. Unfortunately, I had a 5:30AM call, and it seemed unlikely ORM would be open at that hour. Fortunately, I had a shit-ton of work, so the morning zipped by. But then it was 8, and no call. 8:15. 8:30. Where the fuck are those slackers? Maybe they weren’t calling because no one wanted to be the one to crush my delicate soul?
I called. And of course, all of the embryologists were, well, busy in the lab. Imagine that. FUCK!
Thank god, a lovely woman with a British accent called me a short while later, and we had the following conversation:
Lovely British Embryologist: Hello, is Tasha there?
Me: Yes?????
LBE: I’m calling about….
Me: Yes?????
LBE: Well, I have good news for you, your embryo is norma….

I think ORM’s Lovely British Embryologist is probably still deaf, but oh well, it happens. We then had a wonderful conversation, because I could tell she was genuinely delighted for me, where I tell her that I’m planning on more IVF cycles so I don’t have everything pinned on just this one embie, and during which I found out that my little BFU is……..a boy. Though as I told her, at this point BFU could have been a hermaphrodite and I’d say okay, I can work with that.
Omg. A boy. A normal baby. Omg.
In case anyone still doesn’t get the import of this, let’s put it in terms of me being the Queen of Bizarro Odds and Shitty Percentages. My chances of getting breast cancer at my age were .06%. My chances of having a normal embryo at my age?
Then the chances of finding that one good egg on my first IVF cycle?
Conclusion: I have one badass fucking unicorn on ice. Clearly.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Team BFU for the win!

To update the tens of readers out of my nineteens of readers who aren't my Facebook friends.....

There I was yesterday, fretting and pacing and imagining dire scenarios as to why the embryologist at ORM wasn't calling me. Clearly she was hesitant to give me the bad news that she knew would crush my soul, that my little BFU hadn't made it to blastocyst stage.

Or maybe she was taking an extra-long lunch, totally oblivious to my anxiety. Psycho.

Or maybe....oh, phone!

Me: Okay?
Shannon, Embryologist: So we've been watching that one embryo...
Me: AND?
SE: And the little guy grew like gangbusters (or maybe she said like a gangster, I'm not sure)...
Me: AND??
SE: So since the embryo made it to blastocyst stage....

I think Shannon, Embryologist, might still be deaf from my shriek of joy. Shrug. It happens.

I was so relieved that I completely forget to ask what grade BFU was or anything else relevant, such as how long it would take to get results from the chromosomal testing (aka PGS). But that's where one cell went, while the rest of BFU has been frozen for hopefully future use.

The wait begins anew.

But in the meantime, whew. Big whew.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

BFU Watch 2014

So last Friday I went into egg retrieval as usual: with a pan of homemade brownies to give to the nurses, so that they don’t accidentally kill me. Okay, chances of this might be slim, but it’s worked so far with all my surgeries, so why mess with success?
And I knew it would be a great day when I walked in and saw the whole of ORM decorated JUST FOR ME. Oh sure, some people mumbled things about “Halloween” and “always decorate,” but I know the truth.
Anyway, things got off to a great start, when Awesome Nurse started telling me about the procedure and afterward.
AN: …..and then take it easy when you get home, no driving or operating heavy equipment, and no drinking for 48 hours…
Me: Wait, what? What fresh hell is this? It’s going to be a stressful weekend, and I was planning on having a jar of boozy cherries at my side the whole time.
AN: Well…..I don’t…..
Me, firmly: Boozy. Cherries.
AN to Dr. Crankypants: Dr. C, do you think she can do 12 hours instead of 24?

Now, at this point Dr. C. had not yet been christened Dr. Crankypants, but that was because this was all before we had the Versed discussion.
Dr. C: I suppose 12 would work. Now, let’s talk anesthesia.
Me, with my standard directive: No Versed.
Dr. C, nonplussed and stern: What? Why not?

I go into my usual explanation of why I hate the stuff, that in my first surgery I was given it and was thereby deprived of my witty banter, etc. Usually the anesthesiologists accept this willingly, because hey, why give out more drugs than you have to, right? No.

Dr. C: I don’t understand that. You know you’ll still be put under for the surgery, right?
Me, patiently but impatiently: Yes yes, that’s what we want for the surgery. Not beforehand. I don’t want to be awake and not remember it.
Dr. C: As long as you know you’ll be out for the surgery.


We hit our second snag when Dr. Hesla comes in – not my usual doctor, but hopefully he’s been warned. Or not.

Me: So, I know I have 6-9 follicles, but I’d really like to see 13 eggs today, m’kay?
Dr. H: Heh heh.
Me: I think 13 would be a great number. Please make it happen. So it has been spoken and all that.
Dr. H: Uhh, I’m going to go prep now.
Me, cheerily: Remember, 13!

He seemed very eager to go off and prep, or have some brownies, or something.

The surgery goes smoothly, though Dr. Hesla failed in his mission and only got 9 eggs. I shake my head, but there’s just so much I can do. And at least I remembered to ask the important questions afterward.

Me: So… do we guarantee that someone won’t be walking along and oops, trip, and there go my eggs?
AN: We have tight security and locks and etc and so on…
Me: That’s great too…..but what about the clumsy people? How do you screen for that?
AN: …..
Me: This has been giving me nightmares, you know. Someone carrying my eggs in one hand, a brownie in the other, then tripping and deciding to save the brownie.
AN: …….
Me: And oh yeah, what happened to Shithead? Did we get rid of him?
AN: Let me ask. (to other nurse) Say, did we get rid of that cyst? You know, Shithead?
Other nurse: Yep, no more Shithead!
So I have that going for me.

Kim then drove me to her place, after which I drove home and worked the rest of the day – you know, like self-employed people have to do. Oh, and then since it was Halloween, the girls and I had cocktails and pelted urchin trick-or-treaters with large candy bars, and everyone was happy.

Since then, I have spent the last 5 days highly medicated. And by “medicated” obviously I mean “with a jar of boozy cherries at my side at all times.” I found out the next day that out of my 9 eggs collected, 8 were mature but only 4 fertilized. Grr. But after all I do just need one baby unicorn, right? Then of course that one embie will split into 3, and voila, The Damians! Hey, dream big, right?

- - - - - - - -

So today I got the call from ORM, updating me on the status of the Fab 4. Of which only one seems willing to go to blastocyst stage, so basically all of my hopes and dreams are now resting on a clump of stubborn cells which have been christened BFU: Badass Fucking Unicorn. BFU is hanging in there, and according to the embryologist is looking “chunky,” which is apparently a good thing in EmbryoLand.

Then if BFU makes it to blast stage tomorrow, a cell will be sent for chromosomal testing. Still a long road ahead, basically. But at least it’s not over……

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bitter is the new Tasha

I was going to write an amusing day-by-day description of the hell that is shooting up every day during the IVF process, but the truth is…’s not that bad. Oh sure, on my first day of Menopur, immediately after the injection I felt like I was being eaten alive by fire ants – which led me to google “Is the Menopur shot supposed to hurt?” Which led me to an array of articles, most along the lines of “Menopur, the shot of extreme pain, fear, and loathing.”
So there’s that.
But otherwise, one gets used to them, especially if you’re not the least bit needle-phobic, which I am not. A good thing, too, considering it took a stalwart 7 tries the other day for my every-other-day blood draw.
But I digress.
Follicle Watch 2014 has proven to be interesting. The bottom line is that Shithead the Cyst is still in the fucking way, squishing together the follicles on that side and preventing them from growing. So that leaves around 6-7 follicles on the other side, which ain’t a lot, kids. This past week, as I’ve driven to ORM every other day, I’ve had a touch of PTSD as it’s recalled for me the early days of CancerLand, when I was still desperately trying to figure out a treatment plan, and went to each new appointment shiny and optimistic, only to leave completely crushed. One time in particular I went to see a renowned oncologist, who told me all sorts of wonderful things about my tumor being in a shitty spot and thus “your breast will never look anything like a normal breast” and so on. I left there and drove home like a madwoman, screaming the whole way, railing against god, fate, life, everything.
So yeah, déjà vu.
On those long drives home, I get to contemplate such things again, ie life, fate, the whole shebang. And I wind up with a little black cloud of bitterness swirling over my head, in true Schleprockian fashion. Yes, I’m bitter about the stupid choices I’ve made in the past, the twists of fate, the bad decisions, the idiot people who I let suck up too much of my time and energy, and so on.
But I also have that external bitterness. At, for example, idiot doctors of the past, who don’t really do their jobs. Like when I asked my gyno some SEVEN years ago if I should do fertility testing, and she scoffed at the idea – “what will you do with the info that you get anyway?” Well, dumbass, maybe if you had said “Yes, that’s a good idea, because your chances of having a child go off a cliff after 40,” then I would have done something. Same for the tests I actually did do several years ago. Maybe the doctor then should have told me that yes, even though I had rock$tar test results, that doesn’t mean jack shit when it comes to the age of your eggs and how viable they are, or aren’t.
Then there’s a whole slew of other people to be bitter about. The women who pop out kids without a second thought and then don’t take care of them. The people who seem to have completely lost their sensitivity chip. Those who make asinine comments like “having kids and getting cancer are really a lot alike – you don’t know beforehand what to expect or what you might be getting into.” Oh sure, they’re exactly alike. Except in one you have, you know, KIDS – and in the other scenario, you face death. Otherwise, totally the same. Yes, that’s really a comment someone made. Go figure.
The downward spiral here started when I tried to look up how many women of “advanced maternal age” actually tried IVF each year  - and while I couldn’t find those figures, I did find how many women of my particular age have been successful with IVF. Any guesses as to the number? Anyone? Bueller?
There’s been one. The unicorn of fertility treatment, lauded in medical articles.
I brought this up with Most Awesome Dr. Barbieri, my RE, and she kind of looked at me sympathetically, as in “yeah, I tried to tell you, dumbass.” At least that’s how I interpreted it.
Me: So my solution is that I’m just going to boycott the internet. No more Googles.
Dr. B: Excellent idea! And whatever you do, don’t google celebrity pregnancies either.
Me: Oh yeah, I HATE them!
Dr. B: They’re terrible! They all use donor eggs but no one says anything!
Me: Jerks!
Dr. B: Exactly!

Suffice it to say that if this works, it’ll be a true miracle. Not as in “blah blah the miracle of birth blah fucking blah,” but rather an honest-to-god-walk-on-water miracle. In short, when I go in for my egg retrieval on Friday, I need to be the unicorn.
I really hope that Stan, my bowling, chain-smoking, beer-swilling guardian angel, is paying attention these days.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The canning undergound

One would think securing canning jars for one’s modest canning endeavors would be a simple enough process.
One would think wrong.
But, intrepid person that I am, yesterday I decided to try to score a large stash of jars from a woman who posted an ad on Craigslist. After a brief conversation with her son, I was off to get my beauties! What could possibly go wrong?
_ _ _ _ _ _
The road to Sweet Home, Oregon is long and lovely, and as I was driving the hour and 20 minutes there, I decided to put my (ahem) Wharton education to good use to calculate just how much I was saving by going on this quest. And while I’m not the most mathy person, I pretty quickly figured out that this was a stupid fucking idea. Really. When you add in gas, a breakeven at best.
Of course, I also used my Wharton education to apply some cognitive dissonance, and rationalized this trip by pointing out to myself that I’ve gone much farther for much stupider things. So there.

It was only as I was a couple of miles away and turned the corner onto the seller’s street, onto a road that was dark and foresty and where the only houses I saw were shacks (complete with dirt yards and chickens and scrap wood and tin holding them together), that I had another brilliant thought: that mayhap arranging to drive out to bumblefuck to someone’s house where I only knew them from Craiglist was not the best of ideas. I spent the next 2 miles coming up with ways to work lies into the conversation: “Oh, so my FB Canning Group was so excited that I’d be coming to this exact address for all these jars” and “Sorry I can’t stay long, my friends have calculated exactly how long it’ll take me to get home from here so that we can go out for libations.”
The house that I pulled up to looked innocuous though….and then The Brothers came out. Obviously the woman’s sons, who for some reason immediately brought to mind the movie Deliverance. They directed me to the backyard, behind the house, and I figured what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound, no?
At which point I met the Canning Jar Maven, and immediately thereafter her husband, who totally looked like Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard. After the standard pleasantries, he was the first to speak.
Uncle Jesse, booming: So where’s your husband and why didn’t he come out for some target practice?
Me: ……
Yes, in a total breach of etiquette I failed to keep up my end of the conversation, because quite honestly, I had no clue how to respond. If I did have a husband, why in the world would he come with me to get canning jars? And what would he shoot at, where and why? Do people assume that if you’re going to Sweet Home you’re going to shoot at things?
Luckily, we quickly turn to the jar situation, and The Brothers (who are perfectly polite and helpful and lovely) start packing them up for me into my boxes and bags. Then things take another turn towards the odd.
Canning Jar Maven: So do you know anyone interested in those old or antique jars?
Me: Yes, me! I love them, try to pick them up whenever I can.
CJM: Have you heard of the Red Book?
Me: Umm, no.
CJM: It’s like the Blue Book for cars, but for canning jars instead.
Me: Okay…
CJM: I have hundreds of old jars that I’ve looked up in the Red Book.
Me: That’s great, can I see them?

They all fall eerily silent. It’s weird. Finally CJM speaks.
CJM: Well……I don’t really like to let strangers know about where the jars are located.
Me:  Okay then…well, how much do you want for them?
CJM: Each one has a different price, they’re all different.
Me: Okay so…. (not sure why she’s telling me about the jars if she doesn’t want to show them)
CJM: They’re worth a lot so I have them all in a special place.
Me: Well what kind do you have? Can you show me a couple? Give me an average price?
CJM: They’re all different.

We seem to be at a stalemate here, and Uncle Jesse and The Brothers have remained silent. I think they know better than to involve themselves in CJM’s canning jar negotiations.

CJM, relenting: Okay, I guess maybe I can show them to you.
Me: I’m trustworthy! Really! TOTALLY trustworthy! People love me!
Uncle Jesse: Well if you weren’t you wouldn’t tell us, now would you.
Me: Okay, so you have a point.

CJM is walking slowly towards what looks like a shed. She stops though, hesitates, looks at me. I smile brightly and trustworthily, and she continues walking.

CJM: If we get robbed we’ll know who told them where to look!

So there’s that. And now I’m in a dark shed with CJM, and while most people with canning jars have them tossed into boxes and will quote a price per box, this Is far from our situation here. Oh no.

Because to CJM, each jar is a special snowflake, wrapped in newspaper and carefully nestled into a box, the contents of which are unknown. Because I’ve expressed an interested in blue jars though, CJM starts going through every…single…box. Sigh.

Eventually we wind up with a little box full of jars, that now we need to price. Individually. Because each and every jar has a yellow slip of paper in it, showing in painstaking detail all sorts of information about said jar. Except the price, of course.

We head back into the house, and Uncle Jesse pulls out a chair for me at the dining room table. He also offers me a beverage, and is then kind enough to remove his gun from the table as well. Yes, the gun. That’s normal, right? CJM and I get down to the serious business of haggling over canning jars….and I very quickly realize that this is not going to be a quick endeavor. Because she takes these little yellow slips of paper – and on each one is a number that corresponds to a list she has on many other small pieces of paper (I have no idea why this extra step), and then from that we can look at the corresponding page number in her Red Bible. Why she didn’t just write the price down as well initially, I have no idea. Because yes, when she gets to that page and finds the entry, there’s a recommended price. But in between she’s explaining all the nuances as to why one jar is a particular number as opposed to another (“see, the script on this one is slightly more slanted” “this one has a bubble” “this jar has a 13 on it”) (for that last one I suggested that might be a bad thing, since wouldn’t it be unlucky?) (I don’t think she liked that).

The first jar takes about 20 minutes.
So to recap. I’m in the middle of nowhere with jar lady and her gun-toting family and it’s getting dark.

This does not seem to be a recipe for success.

Somehow I manage to convince her to just forego the middle step, that of her sheets of yellow paper, and go right to the Book. Plus there are some jars where I figure it’s just not worth the bother. Her book system works well enough – some jars are pretty cheap, and others are stupidly pricey, but it’s kind of evening out – until we hit a glitch in the system.

CJM: Oh, I really like this little blue one. I’m sure it’s worth a lot.
Me: Yeah, sigh, I really like this jar too (figuring there’s no sense downplaying that, since we’re going by The Book here).
CJM: Let’s it is…..what?? $1-2?
Me: Oh wow. Well, it’s in the book!
CJM: NO, that can’t be right.
Me, cheerily: But we’re going by the book, right? That’s our system!
CJM, determinedly: No. $3.
Me: But…..but the price in the book! What about the book?
CJM: No.
Me: But..
CJM: No.


In the end we come to a deal on 9 jars and I pay her a stupid amount of money for my preciouses, but I’m getting some cool jars, so there’s that. And there’s been no target practice in the house, so that’s a bonus.

I’m getting ready to leave, when she proudly shows me some of her own canned goods.

CJM: See, and here are my green beans…

Uh oh. Green beans? We all know what that means.

Me: Oh wow, green beans. You know The Truth About Green Beans, right? That right there is basically botulism in a jar.
CJM: What? How’s that?
Me: Every time you read about people getting botulism, it’s always green beans. Nope, I don’t trust ‘em.

For some reason I’ve now segued into speaking with a folksy patois. I apparently have been assimilated.

Me, hitching up my dungarees: Ayup, don’t trust ‘em a’tall.

With that last salvo, I take my box of special canning jars, and bid them all a cheery toodle-oo.

On the way home, my GPS routes me to the “scenic route,” and other than worrying that I’ll hit a deer (I see one on the side in the trees making its way towards the road), it is indeed supremely lovely and bucolic, with covered bridges, and my experiences at the gas station I stop at. The 2 younger guys who walk up to my car are laughing their heads off; I suspect I know what they’re laughing at, and sure enough…

Gas Station Guy: Hey, that’s an awesome bumper sticker!
Me: Yep, sums it up nicely, doesn’t it?
GSG: That’s for sure. Very true!

He later asks if he can take a picture of it, and I of course tell him to feel free. Because yes, it sums it up indeed.

A day well done, to be sure.