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….