Tuesday, June 30, 2009

diagnosis, prescriptions, and sex?

I had my post-round-one-of-tamoxifen consultation appointment yesterday. I learned a lot of interesting things. First of all, long before I started the tamoxifen, I got a p+7 blood draw the results for which took literally three months for the blood lab to return (no explanation given). The results were:

progesterone: 14
estradiol: 84

Dr. L said that the progesterone was in the normal range (over 12), though she would prefer to see over 15 - but the real problem was its relationship to the estradiol, which is supposed to be 1:10. (It's 1:6.) The estradiol was just way too low - she said it should be over 150. (I asked her whether this was a sign of, say, premenopause, and she said it was just a luteal phase defect. Hmm.)

Then last cycle I had a p+7 draw (admittedly I had to guess when p+7 was) and the results were:

progesterone: 19.8
estradiol: 197.8.

That's almost exactly ten times, and both numbers are good. Dr. L was beaming. Rarely do doctors get excited about one's health (I think they're sort of bored of it), and nobody ever says nice things about mine (even when my blood pressure this time was 96/60, the nurse was totally unimpressed. DUDE, THAT'S REALLY GOOD. Actually, she told me not to WORRY because it wasn't "TOO low"!!!), though I can certainly see why not, given what they have to work with.

Anyway, I brought up the CM problems and my extreme dissatisfaction with them. I asked three different ways whether the HSG and SHG, or the colpo, could have caused the problems, and she was adamant that this was impossible. It sounded totally possible to me, but OK. She also said that since my estrogen was clearly higher, I should have had more CM, not less. Nevertheless, she obligingly wrote out instructions for me to take Mucinex (apparently I need to take TWO of my crazy extra-strength pills that I bought), and amoxicillin (apparently I need three a day to do the job). I'm to start taking both on CD11, or four days before I expect peak day (I appear to have ovulated on CD14 last cycle, so maybe I'll start on CD10?). I figured I'd fill the prescription on Friday, which will be CD8.

Her nurse had told me via phone that she does not treat thyroid problems, so I already got a referral for an endocrinologist from a friend and made an appointment for September 3rd - the first slot available. I planned to ask Dr. L whether that was too far off; I'm certainly hoping to have it moved up, since as I understand it ttc is pointless until I get on thyroid replacement, and also I plan to start my diet (that no-artificial-carb diet) and exercise kick as soon as I get the pills. To my surprise, instead of starting with a disclaimer that she doesn't treat thyroid issues, she said I should at least be on some replacement for now, and wrote me a prescription for (I think) thyroxin or whatever it's called. She also wrote a requisition for a full blood lab for thyroid testing, and told me to fill the prescription and start taking the meds when they call me with the test results (unless they advise otherwise). I was going to get the blood drawn tomorrow morning, but as it turns out, she circled "thyroid panel" on the requisition, and my lab has stated that they do not do "panels" and the doctor has to circle the individual tests. So I left a message at the clinic, and hopefully I can sort this out and I can go on Thursday. About a week for the results to come back means I'll be lucky to start on the meds before ovulation, but maybe they'll help anyway. I'm just delighted that she did this already. I did ask whether she could determine a dosage before further testing (my TSH level was 7.04, BTW, and I believe normal is under 2.5), but she said she was starting me on a really low dose. I was startled when she said it was 50mcg. One of my aunts is only on 10 - my mother takes 50! But, I'm not a doctor, and I'm so happy I'm getting something to treat this now, instead of in September after I've wasted months on tamoxifen that won't work and been tired and depressed for longer.

I had one other question about the thyroid blood draw, and maybe y'all can help me with this: does it matter what cycle day I do it on? I know my first one was on p+7, but maybe that's just because I was having progesterone and estradiol done that day already? I'd really like to do the draw as soon as possible.

So that's the story from the doctor's office, but I'm not done. This is the Cervical Mucus Sequel and it makes the first chapter of the mystery sound bland and really unmysterious. So anyway, I'm clearly having an improved cycle (thank you, tamoxifen) - other than the several extra days of cramps I can't medicate away, of course. I had NO tail-end spotting - NONE. And on CD3, when I fully expected the spotting to start, it was practically heavy (normal flow). Unusual for me! Anyway, today is CD5. I started the tamoxifen on CD3 as I was supposed to (though I took it in the late afternoon on CD3 and CD4, and in the morning today). I still have faint spotting today, but I also noticed this morning...slippery. I did the stretchy thing and there was no stretching at all, so I decided that didn't count (since I had a similarly weird interlude last cycle). Then in the middle of the day (this is gross, sorry), I noticed that I had a clear spot on my pad, which stretched almost an inch. Wasn't sure what to make of that, but I wasn't sure that on a pad counted. I got home from work and though I've still got spotting color, this time there's a little bit more slippery (not the drowning-in-CM I'm accustomed to for 2-3 days of my fertile phase EXCEPT RECENTLY, but clearly some), and it stretched almost two inches. There's no ignoring that one.

So apparently somebody decided I should start my buildup to peak (or otherwise have a bizarre day?!) on CYCLE DAY 5. I now have no idea when to take the Mucinex and amoxicillin or even when to fill the prescriptions - or whether I need them at all! And another question that requires your collective wisdom to help me answer (keeping in mind that I'm STILL bloated and crampy): do I have sex with my husband tonight???

I swear all this stuff is designed to confuse me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

the freshman

Driving to Tepeyac today (there's another post I need to write - Gettysburg trip, and information from the RE consultation), I was listening to the local pop music radio station (I'm a country fan really, but I find pop music gives me more energy, so every few months I switch to that for a while). It's supposed to be "fresh" music, but a lot of what they play, while enjoyable, is hits from when I was in high school. Not sure what's up with that. The Verve Pipe's song "The Freshman" came on. I think this song came out after my freshman year in high school, and I haven't heard it since college. For those who'd like to share my trip down memory lane, I found the video.



I sat in the parking lot (I was early, for once) and listened to the whole song before I went in, remembering. What this song so strongly evokes for me isn't my story - it's someone else's. As a freshman in high school my best girlfriend was my next-door neighbor, who was one grade ahead of me. She and her sisters had lived a very hard life already - the victims of sexual abuse by their stepfather. I had only an inkling then of the kind of deep and lasting harm that could do, but looking back at their lives over the years has made it clearer. My best friend (we'll call her S) had a huge crush on a guy in her group of friends (I knew him less well). He was kind of a cutie, athletic, a nice guy, and a darling of the whole gang, so there was a bit of competition for him.

Her crush had an inseparable sidekick. This guy was younger, and entering his freshman year as I was entering my sophomore year. Everybody called him "Frosh" - not only then but for all of high school - maybe because he was so little. My friend was tall, and this fellow was diminutive. He didn't share his cooler friend's easygoing temperament; he was kind of obnoxious. He was also really funny-looking, not in the sense that high schoolers think everyone is funny-looking but three pre-designated people, but really - he had some odd physical characteristics, like bizarrely tiny eyes and crazy hair. Anyway, Frosh had a crush on my friend - he would pine after her and stare at her and whine at her occasionally. Not attractive. She was uninterested in him and made fun of him. I remember this happening a lot that summer - as this song would periodically come on the radio, and we would laugh at "the freshman." Some months after the school year started, my friend confessed that she had begun secretly dating Frosh - already then for a few months. We were all bewildered by her judgment, but moreso by the fact that she had lied about it. She made a show of elaborately apologizing to another friend, and told this girl that she would never keep anything from her again. She pointedly did not say so to me. I said nothing. I decided that I simply wouldn't talk to her until she was ready to tell me she was sorry for keeping a secret (and my friendship was just as important to her as that of her other friend). It didn't happen. Though we had many of the same friends, in the blink of an eye I hadn't spoken to her in six months.

Ultimately I spent less and less time with our erstwhile mutual friends. I became a loner and spent little time with anybody, but most was spent with my own classmates. I took every advanced class at my high school, skipped ahead, took college classes in the summer, and set a school record on the PSATs. I was an uncool kid socially, but I was well on my way to getting out of our backwater town, getting a great education and being able to decide what kind of life I wanted - although I didn't appreciate it at the time. S had once been a B+/A- student. She had stopped studying in her junior year (in my sophomore year, before we stopped speaking) and failed every math test spring semester. Another friend and I stayed up late with her before the final to teach her all the material, and she pulled off a C+ - a testament to the fact that she was pretty bright after all. But she didn't turn things around after that. In fact, she failed her senior year of high school - forcing her to repeat the year with my class. We still weren't speaking, but by this time it was my fault - she had made overtures to repair the friendship, but I would have none of it. I was irritated and, after several years, saw nothing to repair. I'm not sure what I was thinking - I was holding a grudge for the sake of holding a grudge.

She had continued dating Frosh throughout. In my senior year (his junior year, her repeat senior year), she got pregnant. A mutual friend of S's and mine (who was still speaking to both of us) went ring-shopping with Frosh toward the end of spring semester. Everyone involved was very excited about the prospect of a wedding. I thought he was a disaster for her, but they might as well get married under the circumstances. Who knows what I thought - I was 17. I went off to college. She stayed in our sleepy town and had the baby. Maybe a year or two later, I looked back and realized what I had done. I couldn't necessarily have changed the trajectory of her life, but while she was my friend she was college-bound. After I stopped speaking to her, she took up with a worse and worse group of people. I might not have been able to help, but I never tried. I let someone's life be ruined as I watched, because I didn't care. So I tried to get back in touch with her. Mutual friends gave me some guesses at her email, but my messages went unanswered. Every year or two I tried again. She and Frosh would have been married for years, but he wouldn't know why we stopped speaking and presumably wouldn't get involved. She never responded, and I finally decided that it was her prerogative to decide to drop me, after all this time. She never got out of our town, or went to college. By now, I was in law school. I wouldn't have wanted to talk to me, either.

A year ago, my husband got a facebook account (I don't have one) and used a shot of the two of us as his picture. She friended him immediately, apparently thinking he was me (oddly). She gave him her number and, trepidatiously, I gave her a call. I then learned she had never married Frosh. I don't know whether he ever bought the ring. I did know that he had cheated on her repeatedly over the years, though she didn't mention that. Maybe she didn't know. However, she has three children with him (and none with anybody else). I don't understand how he could have cheated; I don't understand how that kid found one girlfriend. But apparently he did.

Her eldest was already nine. In fact, her younger sister (several years younger than I) had married his younger brother and was then expecting their second! When I talked to her last year, they were planning to get married as soon as his job transferred him back to her area. She sounded so excited, and said how much she loved him. I decided it was too long gone to ask why she trusted him to marry her after all this time, or to be faithful - or why she wanted him in the first place. I never had asked. I guess I'll never know. She did say she couldn't imagine raising her kids anywhere else than the town where we grew up. I thought that was touching. She was right; it wasn't all bad, although I don't remember it fondly. From the pictures, her kids look well cared-for, even though she has to do it all by herself. I can't imagine how hard her life is, or how many lies she's had to tell herself about this guy.

I haven't talked to her in a year. I should probably call her. I would guess they're still not married, and may never be. I imagine they probably won't have any more kids after the three, although she's not even thirty. For a long time, I thought hers was a ruined life. As I get older, I think it may not be that simple. There may be more good there than I see. And she might never have had any path in front of her that was much different from this one. I could never have imagined this story when I was a sophomore in high school - although I bet my parents would have called it pretty close to the mark.

But every time I hear that song, I remember Frosh, and my one-time best friend, and the lives they've lived since I was there.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

thoughts

I meant to post today about our fun Saturday with our friends who are also IFers. I have pretty pictures of our trip to Gettysburg together, which was fun. But, it takes SO long for my pictures to upload (I know, my life with its enormous difficulties), and after we were up way too late last night (people took over our house!), I slept away the day and feel kind of lethargic. So I am not doing that now.

Also, I had a smallish notion that I wanted to share...

What I really want now is to get in shape and buy a house I love (neither of those things is going to happen this month, of course). And as I often do, I was thinking, well, what will I do with myself after I accomplish those things, if I don't have kids?

I have no good answers for this ever (they're either totally unrealistic and not things I want anyway, or woefully inadequate and would make me always sad), and it occurred to me that I might be interested in being a foster parent. Not foster-to-adopt - my concerns about adoption might well be exacerbated by that particular process (not that I would ever discourage anyone else from pursuing that route if they're comfortable with it), and one of the things IF has made me hate far more than I ever did is the idea of being needy and desperate, of there being something someone else (or life itself) could hold over my head. I don't want to want anything that I can't make absolutely sure I can have by my own efforts. My tolerance for failure and disappointment is pretty much gone (theoretically this is one of those places I should be looking for greater humility, but even when I behave better with my suffering, this doesn't abate. I think it's just become part of who I am - perhaps an indelible spiritual defect, to match the defects in my reproductive system), and if I had to deal with a social worker who wanted me to grovel to get her to approve me despite incorrectly-placed smoke detectors or non-ideal square footage, I would probably stab her in the eye. A homicide conviction is not what I want out of the IF journey.

But usually, no matter what option it is, I draw a nice, sensible, attractive picture in my mind, and take a deep breath and tell myself to give it a chance, and I feel this rising tide of anxiety and resistance in my gut somewhere, that I can't overcome. I think I could point to where it is physically. Oddly, I don't feel that about the foster care notion. It seems like a decent idea. Being a foster parent to school-aged kids would mean that (if I tweaked my schedule only slightly) I could work just as I am now, and be home when they were home. We could pay our bills and pay for our house and save money, because we'd have two incomes. They wouldn't be a substitute for our own kids because they would be temporary, but I see that as a good thing - I don't want a substitute for my own kids. I don't want to settle. I want a substitute for what to do with my life.

I went to law school thinking I could be a legal advocate for abused children and those in custody battles. That hasn't worked out career-wise. But I think this would provide a maybe even more concrete opportunity to help abused and neglected children, something that has always been very close to my heart. And instead of feeling like somebody gave me a consolation prize for my barren womb, I would feel like I'd accepted infertility, lived my life anyway, but then taken my free time and extra space as an opportunity to give something to people who needed it. I haven't felt like I've been in a position to give anything to anyone in a long time. I think that's part of the erosion of my personality - I like to be able to help people, and I feel like my career has made me cold and hard and my infertility has made me bitter and defensive. I'm not the person I want to be. Part of this is my own bad decisions about how to spend my time - I guess I could be volunteering - but nothing really leaps out at me. Good decisions should be more straightforward, and I'm tired of beating myself up over my screwed-up life, as if, had I merely signed up for some extracurricular activity, my life would be bliss. It's not that simple.

The foster parenting idea does have some drawbacks. Obviously, it's not the sort of thing I would try to implement immediately - you know, it would be a few years. And, I could be forty or fifty and the foster kids gone and still have no kids of my own. I don't know how I would feel about that. I might be OK; I don't know. I know older foster kids can be very difficult. I feel as though I could handle that emotionally, but heaven knows it would disrupt my social schedule. Having foster kids would carry all the impediments time-wise of having my own kids, except that they would also probably be very demanding emotionally and I might not just be able to bring them over for play-dates with my friends' kids. (Depending on the particular kids.) If I worked full-time and then came home to clean my house and take care of kids, I might just drop from exhaustion. I feel tired now.

And, my DH is looking at a job that would involve a lot of travel. I am very resistant to this (which has already led to several fights, and I have no intention of backing down any time soon) - I want a home more than anything, and intend to find one and stay anchored there; we need two incomes (or at minimum mine - my income potential is higher), and my job doesn't lend itself to traipsing around the globe; and I'm just not interested in living a nomadic life. I would categorically refuse if we had children - I think that's a terrible thing to do to a child, and most of the military and otherwise traveling kids I know have had a really hard time. I was shy and made friends slowly, and I would have been perpetually miserable. With foster kids, I assume, it would be totally forbidden.

I know he has something of the wandering bug, but I think he needs to understand that that is inconsistent with being married and an adult. The man has $120,000 in student loan debt (I have some too, though less), and he signed all those promissory notes. Adulthood carries with it some responsibilities, and that includes giving up daydreams that are inconsistent with a responsible life. I asked him once what he would want to do if we never had kids at all, and he said he would want to travel. Not go on a nice vacation every year (I would be fine with that), but live abroad, and hop from country to country. I would be acutely miserable. I just want to be home somewhere - that's all I've ever wanted. Part of the reason I wanted children so much is because they would be a governing reason for me to build the stable and happy home I never had as a child. I know the kids wouldn't give me stability - I am an adult and responsible to supply it for them. But they would be the organizing principle, a source of order and logic in my world. I was going to win all these arguments with him by default when we had the kids. Because I was right. Now we don't have the kids and probably won't ever. I guess he deserves credit for moving on and finding a new dream. But I refuse to consider that my vocation as a wife might be to wander after him on his travels and smile pretty. I'm not that kind of girl, we could never pay our bills, and I refuse to live with no home or identity or stability. If it comes down to that, he can travel by himself, and I will buy a house and take in foster kids. So much for my bright idea.

Friday, June 26, 2009

yeah, it came back

And yes, I did wonder - totally against my better judgment that said it was clear that this was the wrong time for implantation pain and could be easily and obviously explained by the tamoxifen - whether the funny cramps might not be something else. But when I woke up this morning, my stomach felt just faintly painful, and it was the old familiar - I knew. I had predicted today would be CD1 (for which I'm reasonably pleased with myself - peak day was a total guess because of the screwy CM and missing temps, and I'm on a new medication, but I was still dead on!).

Frankly, I wouldn't have known what to make of a pregnancy this month. I neither deserve nor want to be rewarded for being hopeless and bitter. So while the removal of a possible fun surprise was a mild disappointment, really, it's just as it should be, and life goes on. I'm even in a good mood, which is a bit unusual for CD1. (We shall see whether it lasts.)

And maybe some of you expert-type people will agree with me that (other than the CM disaster) there are mild improvements. Though apparently not to my image-posting skills [IT'S UNREASONABLY TINY AGAIN - ARGGHHH!]. I would say "check it out," but you really can't see this and it doesn't appear to have linked to a larger version of itself (!!!):

Thursday, June 25, 2009

bits and pieces

I ADORED this commercial when it originally aired. The "centerpieces...mantelpieces..." was the most fun part by far.



A selection of small things have been wandering through my mind...

As of today, I can finally tell that my cold is really pretty much recovered and I only have a few symptoms that are hangers-on. But MY SNOT stretches four inches. (I found this out by accident, obviously.) This enrages me slightly.

*****

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night with cramps. Maybe 4AM. That never happens - they go after me about when I normally wake up, sometimes, but never wake me up at night. They were definitely menstrual cramps, but maybe only at 60% strength - I could actually have worked a whole day (if very unhappily) without medicine. But I assumed they would get worse, so I immediately took two Aleve. Then I went back to bed. Aleve usually takes half an hour to kick in - but I laid down for five minutes, and they went away. I didn't take any more Aleve, and they didn't come back all day. And my period didn't show up either. This tamoxifen business is weird...

*****

I was really good and called my previous-previous OB/GYN to make sure they'd sent in my records, yesterday. They hadn't, and today I faxed in the consent, and they faxed the records to Tepeyac today! So Dr. L will have them on Monday. That's the last of my outstanding medical records!

*****

Today, I was even better - I set an appointment with an endocrinologist. A nurse friend recommended a good one at the super-close-by hospital, but this woman is apparently in such high demand the first opening was in September. Ordinarily, I would have given up, but I made the appointment anyway and figured I could shop around for someone else if Dr. L thinks I should. But the scheduler said I should send in my lab results and if the deficiency is serious enough, they might fit me in earlier. So maybe that will work out!

*****

I can't buy this house, but somebody ought to! It's not a 1910 Victorian that just makes my acceptable architecture cutoff, people. It was built in 1830. And it's gorgeous. And it has 15 acres. It's just too far away. Well, and I also couldn't afford it.


*****

Yesterday, I got home early and decided to go to Mass, it being the feast of St. John the Baptist. But when I got to my neighborhood ethnic parish (where Mass is entirely in a language I don't speak), the church was PACKED. No room even in the back. I stood across the hall from the church itself, where I could still see everything. A wizened little grandmother - well over seventy and about 4'9" - who is always trying to get me to do things (get in line to put a rose in front of our Lady, for example - she'll see me, and gesture vehemently for me to put myself forward. I'm kind of an obvious ethnic outsider there), saw me and gestured I should go into the packed church. I smiled and shook my head. Obviously, she didn't speak any English. She went in. Phew. I already felt annoyed and uncomfortable, and decided I would probably go home in a few minutes. But a minute later, she was back. "I have a chair for you," she said in perfectly intelligible English. That just plain wasn't possible - there was barely standing room. I smiled and said, "That's all right, thanks," but she ignored me, and reached out and took me by the hand. I have to give her credit - the only form of persuasion I wasn't prepared to politely rebuff. She marched me down a tiny aisle; I had to hold my handbag to prevent it smacking the wall on one side and people on the other. She got me to "my chair" - in the middle of an aisle of people, packed in so tightly I couldn't see the empty chair at first. She didn't let go of my hand until she had actually gotten me into the aisle. It was so narrow I tripped twice on chairs and stepped on people. I don't know whether they were amused at me being led around by this doyenne of the group, or felt sorry for me, or were annoyed at being stepped on, or paid me no attention at all. But packed into the middle like a very white sardine, I couldn't go anywhere, and I stayed for the whole Mass.

Maybe somebody up there is looking out for me, after all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

hara-kiri

My eggplant are eccentric.

After the first two rounds completely died off, I bought another packet of seeds ("black beauty" this time, rather than the unnecessary artisan mix I started with), used real potting soil and deeper starter pots, and started again. My results really did improve; they sprouted earlier, more numerously, and taller. Disturbingly tall, in fact. Their itty-bitty scrawny stems grew almost four inches tall, with the two original sprout leaves perched at the top, slowly growing larger.

Unfortunately, all they ever did was grow taller - and then, at some mysterious point, something awful happened, and each of them, in sequence, would keel over; and slowly, in that position, they would wither completely and die. When the first few started doing this, I researched the source of eggplant blight, and discovered that they need to be really warm. I promptly put all the pots on the windowsill, and sure enough, substantially more sprouted within just two days. Unfortunately, however numerous they are, their ultimate end is in no real doubt.


My goal this whole time has been to see just one eggplant sprout move on to the next stage of development, and manifest some growth other than just those two initial leaves. Then, I figure, it will be reasonable to plant outside. I had my highest hopes for the oldest, largest, and tallest (surely it would move on first?). The day before yesterday, I saw a tiny notch-looking thing at the bottom of its stem. Yesterday, it flopped itself over, and its stem went from opaque green to whitish transluscent. I propped it up with dirt, but I recognize the beginning of its slow suicide ritual. It will never recover.

So, yesterday, at the Home Depot, I bought their very last potted eggplant. The pot is broken and the plant even looks a bit the worse for wear, and it cost as much as four or five eggplant fruits. But it is at least alive. (Why didn't they have these when I was there weeks ago?!) I also bought another basil plant (I killed the last two in a single week) and a rosemary plant (since my last round never sprouted at all) - they didn't have rosemary when I was there last, either. Hopefully, all three of these plants will grow majestically.


The misbehavior of my produce is evocative of other of life's mysteries. For several days this week already, I've had teaser cramps - faint twinges, there and gone, which I'm used to experiencing only a few hours before the real thing sets in, bringing with it CD1. It has concerned me mildly each time, because based on my previous luteal phases, CD1 should be Friday or Saturday (and I've scheduled my CD1-3 consult appointment on that assumption). The tamoxifen shortening my luteal phase would be something of an annoyance. But all other evidence indicates that CD1 would not be that day - today, yesterday, or the day before. No pink tinges, and my temperature is still high.

Of course, the first incidence of this tease phenomenon was within hours of an idiotic thought, one of those that one thinks in spite of oneself: I could go for my consult on Monday and my OB/GYN could laugh at me, because I could be pregnant after all. Sure I could. With octuplets. Kittens. No normal CM, and the tamoxifen was intended to treat low progesterone, which I turn out not to have (does it treat low estrogen? Does hypothyroidism mean that once I take thyroid medication, my FSH will go righ through the roof?). Sure, this is the cycle. So the teaser cramps wander in and out, mocking me, deriding my stupidity, heartlessly scoffing at my pregnancy pipe dream.

It's not happy to admit, but since the dismal SA episode, for reasons that I can't entirely explain, whatever habit of prayer I had has fallen off a cliff. I practically never read my daily prayers in my once-treasured Magnificat, and going to daily Mass seems pointless. I missed an entire week of daily Masses (went only on consecutive Sundays) for the first time in almost nine years. Lots of different things have happened in that time, but that's always been important to me.

And it would be hard for me to say why this has made the difference. Or why, given that I have so unbelievably little hope of getting pregnant, given that (although I am, albeit forgetfully, praying along with GIMH's St. Anne novena) I feel it's wrong to ask God for a child when I feel I am just flouting His will (why would I want a child if it isn't foreordained that I have one? What if I get a three-headed baby for my troubles, or a serial killer, or get to be pregnant just long enough to watch the child die, when I was intended to be spared that? What do I think I will accomplish? I can't phrase the intention strictly enough to get a happy, healthy family of seven or twelve with no hideous disaster sufficient to make it better they had never lived), why my interest in prayer would change with some minor if grotesque IF treatment setback. What does any of that change? God was ignoring my prayers and He still is; I was responsible to work out the morality and prudence of treatment on my own with no heavenly guidance, and I still am; I was angry with God over my barrenness, rather than embracing whatever His plan is, and that is still true.

I don't know. I don't. But today, I forgot the Blackberry en route to work, so I forced myself to dig the Magnificat out of the handbag. The words of the prayers seemed as dead as I had been expecting, though the hymn was to the tune of On Jordan's Bank, an Advent song I love, and that made me smile; and today is the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Not a bad day for an infertile girl to return to her prayers, if in fact I stay returned. I thought for a moment about whether I see that as a sign that I, like Elizabeth, she who was called barren, will see the joy of the birth of a child. In a more innocent day, I used to see feast days and prayers and scripture as portentous for all the significant things in my life. They made me hopeful, and more prayerful, and a deeper thinker, I think.

Without any effort to convince myself either way, I don't see that now. There are feast days for martyrs and nuns and bishops and kings, and I'm not those things; and today is the feast of someone's birth, and that won't happen to me either. It's just a day, not a sign. But I did, at least, feel like smiling with St. Elizabeth, considered a failure as a wife and mother by her generation, giving birth in her advanced age (unbeknownst to her skeptical neighbors) to one of the greatest saints who has ever lived.

Monday, June 22, 2009

it's the small victories

I just knew there would be an answer to my TV dilemma, and I was ever-so-chagrined at myself when I realized I had completely neglected my old stand-by, Craig's List. The thought finally occurred to me yesterday, and sure enough, as soon as I took a look, I found a few dozen TVs for sale in NoVA, including several that were right near me, $50 or less, decent-sized, in good condition, and in fact a step up from our old model. I emailed a fellow yesterday and my darling heroic husband nipped out to get the (very heavy) item this afternoon. When I got home it was already comfortably installed on its perch. Behold, our new addition:


It's 27" (but looks bigger because of those speakers on the sides - good thing the guy with the 32" model didn't email back, it wouldn't have fit on our stand!), it's a step up in brand names from what we had, it's silver instead of black, which I like, it has a flat screen (not a flat panel, mind you - just the glass in front is flat, so a wee bit more modern), and it even has its own remote! Believe it or not, its two predecessors didn't have remotes. It didn't even occur to me to ask this guy whether his had one - I'd just grown to accept that changing the volume is a hands-and-feet process. No more!

Of course, I would rather not have spent $50, since we already had a TV that was fine (until its electrical outburst, obviously), but I'm very pleased with the new addition. For whatever reason (because my mental age is five, obviously), this is making my evening - though if I had not exercised discipline during my grocery shopping and had bought the hummus on the BOGO sale this week, that would really make my evening. But, I've had brief interludes of cramps anyway (hopefully not to become full-blown for a few more days), so clearly, what I really need is CHOCOLATE. And, a TV.

OH AND ALSO: this makes perfect sense to me because we have internet but not cable (cable is bad news - we watch TV by ourselves for hours and never speak to each other), but THIS IS FABULOUS. They have Spice Up My Kitchen! And Design Star! And Designed to Sell! And Color Splash (David Bromstead's totally gratuitous shirtlessness is admittedly a bit much, but his designs are tons of fun)! And you can watch them all, for free, whenever you want, on your computer!

Life is, indeed, replete with small joys.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I feel pretty - and a TV?

We went to meet my in-laws for a few sessions of a conference this afternoon. We figured it was somewhere around business casual, so I decided I would get spiffied up - but not in a suit, 'cause it's not a weekday and I don't have to. This is a preposterously self-glorifying post, but even if I like what I'm wearing (rarely unreservedly), I never feel like I've pulled off a solidly good job. But I looked like a million dollars. Sure, the black dress pants were loose when I got them and they're good and snug now, but they fit, and the shirt I got from a thrift store recently (it's so pretty! It's a silk sleeveless cowlneck, in this nice taupe color...) and paisley cashmere scarf from my sister were an elegant pair. Plus said baby sister recently divested herself of extra makeup, and I am the lucky beneficiary. (Now I'll be able to spend $10 on makeup for the next ten years, like the last ten!) Last night I dug out the whole collection to play with, and so today I found a perfect neutral lip and accurately created a gold-toned "smoky eye." I am not usually good with makeup, so this was quite the coup. And for whatever reason the rainy weather was perfect for my rather pathetic hair - it was neither flat NOR frizzy. Even my toes were elegantly trimmed and painted wine-red under the cute flats I just bought (at a thrift store for $6.99. I'm a rag doll; I guess it sticks with you for life. Even when you have a salary). Even other people said I looked great, and I felt glamorous all day! My husband looked particularly handsome as well (he's been on a kick to lose a few pounds since he quit the cigaretts - ALMOST TWO WEEKS!!! - and he's doing quite well), so we were quite pleased with ourselves.

On an unrelated note, apparently I know nothing about televisions. This is a rare item that I see the point of owning (sort of) but have never purchased myself. I can give a good primer on buying a car, laptop, crock pot, dresser, suit, wedding present, box of resume paper, cookbook, and five pounds of chicken, for a good price and at good quality (and I'm pretty good with intangible goods too, like rental houses and insurance - terrible at dentists, though), but I cannot tell you how to buy a decent TV. I figured it would just be instinct, since I have the talent in general, but apparently not.

I decided that I wanted one from a thrift store (this worked like a charm with my microwave, when I destroyed the old one with the power hose attachment - still not going to tell that story), and that I would spend $50 (less if possible, of course. For a USED TV!). I got my DH to agree it didn't have to be replaced instantly, but now that we're sick, he's whiny about it, so I need to step it up. I figured for $50 I could have a decent-sized (not huge) one from a thrift store that was in decent condition and looked of reasonably recent origin. I'm not that picky. The ones I thought were acceptable were over $70, and a bit more abused-looking than I thought necessary. (Of course, thrift stores in NoVa are ridiculous and they have all raised their prices recently. This strikes me as very odd, since in a recession, what a place with a pretty flat overhead needs is a high sales volume, not a high profit margin, and I fail to see how increasing their prices will increase the volume of sales. Unless donations are down, and margin is all they have to work with? Hmm.)

So I figured I'd take a look at a deal mentioned by a colleague, a 19" flat-screen at B.estbuy for $99. I think he meant $249, now that I've looked. Also, 19" is kind of small for that money, right? I know, flat-screens were $1000 or more when they came out, but I was patient and waited precisely so I wouldn't have to pay that. I looked at the "tube" models, too, but those aren't really much cheaper, so I might as well stick with the thrift store, where I can have basically the same thing for less.

Now, I know that with any purchase, there is at least one secret lode of discount: either a place to look, or a thing to look for (already heard of vizio), or a technique to use. I don't know what it is with TVs. But I know somebody knows. If you are that somebody, please share! I will trade my bargain-finding knowledge on any topic you request (if I have said knowledge, of course).

Friday, June 19, 2009

sickly

Last Saturday, we went to dinner at the home of some friends who have two small ones and one on the way. They scheduled dinner to start at 5. I've never heard of dinner around here starting earlier than 7, and sometimes 8 or 9. In retrospect, it would have been easier for everyone if they had had people arrive after bedtime, rather than before. Among other issues, their 3yo spend the evening coughing, each time reminded "Cover your mouth!" It didn't take.

Fast-forward to Monday afternoon...at work I can tell my throat feels funny but neglect to start swilling tea. By evening I am clearly sick. I rustled up enough medication to attend a two-day conference without sneezing or coughing on anyone, barely. Of course by Tuesday my husband is sick. We now live in the quarantine residence, and I don't believe it's flu season. Of course, DH is melodramatic: he has decided we have the swine flu. Sigh.


You know what else is unfortunate? While I hauled myself out of bed last Saturday to take my temperature at 7:30 (my usual time - and it was still low, 97.8), I forgot to do so Sunday, and then Monday I brought the thermometer with me into the bathroom but then forgot to use it until I got out of the shower! At that point I didn't even bother - that's not a waking temp. Of course Tuesday morning it was 99.6 - not exactly an ovulation-related spike!

So not only did I have no reliable or even remotely sane CM (admittedly, all even faintest signs of slippery eventually vanished, which is sort of reassuring, I guess), I didn't have any temperatures to go on for when peak day was, because it was due somewhere in the five-day period during which I either forgot to test or had a fever. And I had a requisition for a p+7 draw. I finally decided that I would just assume that ovulation day was peak day and ovulation day was seven days after I stopped taking the tamoxifen. So this morning I went in and had my blood drawn. I waited until I got a waking temp that looked post-ovulatory (98.3 - check), and then a non-feverish daytime temp (98.7 - check).

So I did indeed ovulate, and somewhere in the vicinity of on time. I tell you what, my body is stubborn. It takes abuse, and bits of it disintegrate totally at the edges. But it continues to slog along on its little menstrual hamster wheel, essential systems and organs all the while falling to the left and right. It's going to march itself right into oblivion. Maybe it would enjoy a break from regular menstruation, while it got its spiritual, er, corporal house in order and prepared itself to have, well, whatever normal hormone levels would be for me. (I still don't understand how I could have normal progesterone levels! There must be some mistake.)

Despite feeling like a total dud today (my day off), I did drag myself around to accomplish some things - a load of laundry, mostly weeded my garden, the grocery shopping, bought needed accoutrements for my car, went to two thrift stores to look for used TVs (ours went nuts the other day), the post office, the bank, and bleached the shower curtains and the shower itself. That leaves the rest of the bathroom, all the sweeping, and straightening a room or two tomorrow before I feel as though humans may view my home, which I consider a pretty big achievement for an invalid. Next frontier: I may actually get some exercise again for the first time in, approximately, eternity.

The good news, sort of, is that I have spent the entire first week of what would I suppose have been a 2ww mad, unclear where I am in my cycle, or distracted by illness. This next week, I am just waiting for my period (and my consult on the 29th to find out what the heck is up with my reproductive system), so there's really no w-ing. If I somehow wind up with a BFP, you watch, I am going to name that child Irony.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

family

I may have mentioned, just in passing, you know, that my family is crazy. My mother is actually schizophrenic, and my dad...decided that he would rather throw a tantrum at the audacity of his oldest going nuts and getting married than have a relationship with her (although I do try), so there's that. My nuclear family grew up far away from extended family on either side, so I think of my family as just parents and siblings. As a matter of strict accuracy, however, this is not so.

For one thing, I have four maternal aunts (I just didn't see them much growing up). When I predicted that I would have hypothyroidism (which is before I found out I was hyperthyroid, before I realized that the result really meant hypothyroid after all), I called my mom, who, I remember, told me she was diagnosed in her late twenties, after she started feeling tired and sluggish all the time. (Hello - my life. Though not nearly as dramatic as Sew!) She told me that she didn't remember a thing about it (she used to repeat the story like a mantra) and couldn't help me. So I called two of my aunts. Turns out that not only my mother and her mother are hypothyroid (I knew that), but all of my aunts, with the possible exception of one who just might not be telling. Pretty conclusive, eh? (You know, in addition to the TSH test.)

Anyway, the aunt I got, as it turns out, also had trouble conceiving (I had heard rumors of this but certainly not from her). She spent ninety minutes talking to me about her experience and asking all about how I was doing and saying over and over she was convinced my chances were good and that my DH and I would make wonderful parents. Words I'll never hear from my parents...not because they don't believe it, necessarily, but they'd never say that. We'd never even have that converstaion.

My aunt was the only one of her sisters with fertility problems, and she said she'd never heard of anybody in the family having endometriosis (that means I'm just special). But almost thirty years ago, she was taking clomid (and later, perganol - sp?) daily for two weeks a cycle - for four years for one kid and three years for another. And being ultrasounded every day. Before they did transvaginal ultrasounds, so she had to drink 32 oz. of water before 6AM and wait in line to be ultrasounded. She has three beautiful, healthy girls, and she said it was all worth it. Which is nice to hear (I mean, I've never heard anyone who graduated from IF say it was not worth it, but still).

But I can't imagine cycle after cycle of clomid for years. I've been ttc for almost four years, but mostly unmedicated, and even now that I'm being treated, I'll switch protocols every few months or so until I run out of them, and then move on with my life. I don't have the patience to medicate every month, and cry every month, when it didn't work last month or last year or three years ago. I literally do not know how she did it.

Last tidbit: she referred to the crying over your period every month (is it reassuring to hear that these experiences are not merely universal to all us IFers, but timeless as well?), and said that she decided that every month when it came she would buy herself something - not something huge, but something she would not otherwise have bought. She developed a list. So although she was sad every month, if she got negatives for x many more months, she could have all these things on her list...I thought that was hilarious. It's just how my brain works also.

Monday, June 15, 2009

weirdness

So despite a mild case of the Errand Lethargy recently (you know how you have five phone calls to make during lunch hour, and you should really make them all Monday but then it's Friday at 5:15 and you've made one of them and you realize you need to wait till the next Monday again? I get that pretty badly, a lot), I've actually been pretty good. I got most of the way to getting the car title reissued for my baby brother (lot of good most does him, but then we found the original), and I cancelled the SA and I called the RE and the rotten lab that wouldn't pass on my p+7 blood test results from two cycles ago.

Sparing y'all the really mundane parts of the story, my RE's nurse is awesome. She stayed on the phone with me last week for almost half an hour answering questions (I'm pretty sure she answered some of them wrong, but some of them were unfairly technical), and agreed to call in the new tamoxifen prescription so I can get it filled before my next consult. Because she's awesome. She also called the blood lab (sic 'em on each other - works every time), and they finally coughed up the results - from a blood draw on April 27. Typically (I think), they drew progesterone, estradiol, and TSH.

The misfit's prediction: progsterone will be low. This is kind of a gimme, because I have endo (which is linked to low progesterone), I have two days of normal flow and then five days of spotting every period, my luteal phases are short-ish (12 days?), my temperature increase in the luteal phase is noticeable but not large, and sometimes the temp drops back below the cover line. Also, I've never been pregnant. In other words, I have all the symptoms of low progesterone. Estradiol will be high - because that runs in my family, and it seems to me to make sense with high FSH (we know that's the case) and low progesterone, doesn't it? Also, if it were usually high and the tamoxifen moderated it, maybe that would explain the lack of CM? Finally, although this just occurred to me last week, TSH will be low. My mother, grandmother, and some of my aunts are hypothyroid and have been since their twenties, and the constant mild depression and mild lethargy I've felt for months that I chalked up to just being old are probably something simpler.

Actual results: progesterone is normal (and I was tested on p+8, actually, because p+7 was a Sunday. I have noooooo idea what to make of this - now what?); estradiol is low (what??? And what does this cause?); and TSH is high. So, I should have no CM (in that cycle - this cycle is something else again, OK?), never spot, and be hyper all the time, skinny, and constantly hungry. Hmm, not so much.

Anyone have any wisdom to share on this anomaly? I need to visit Dr. Google, but I'm totally thrown for a loop here. (I wonder whether it makes the tamoxifen completely pointless.)

UPDATE: Apparently high TSH is diagnostic of low thyroid, so I may be hypothyroid, after all. (This makes more sense to me.) Apparently, fatigue is a symptom of both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism, so I guess that's a wash.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

couldn't ask for more

So I may have mentioned I was taking my first-ever hike in the Shenandoah today. I had been whining about how we had to go for months and finally the DH and I and another couple we're friends with settled on this weekend. I was a little slow getting the information together and sending out the email, so I wasn't sure anyone was really coming, but ten minutes after we pulled into our McDonald's rendezvous point (and despite the fact that google betrayed me on its location and I had to call everyone and reroute them before they arrived), there were nine people there, plus a doggy!

We started high up and hiked down (don't recommend this, but more on that later). The views were spectacular:


We got to hike around a number of waterfalls (and some members of the party, who shall remain nameless, even hopped in):


Doggy particularly enjoyed all the water diversions.

Look at that view!


We got all the way down to the swimming hole at the bottom - but unfortunately, not being forewarned about a swimming hole, we didn't bring swimming gear. (Next time - plus we'll bring a priest so we can have Mass on the mountain, instead of everyone scrambling to find an evening Mass that's late enough! My DH and I went to Vigil on Saturday, but admittedly I only let people know we were going about noon on Saturday, so it wasn't easy for everyone to do that...)

I also tried to snap a shot of the local wildlife, but unfortunately the doe was not waiting around for her close-up.

Some funky mushrooms I found were more obliging:


Unfortunately, by the time we got to the bottom, we realized the trail didn't loop back around to our cars. We had already been hiking for hours (and gone about three-plus miles), but we had to go back - uphill. I jog and I'm really not totally out of shape, and it wasn't hideously steep, but the hike back took over two hours and it almost killed me. I lagged behind everyone else, after I realized that I just couldn't avoid stopping all the time unless I went at my own unimpressive pace.

All told, we were out there over five hours. It was a fabulous day - perfect weather and great people to go with. A smashing success! So we're planning our next ventures. (Possibilities: camping trip in the park with our married couple friends - we have a tent that never gets used!; a hike on the Billy Goat Trail some time soon; another hike where we go uphill when we get there and downhill after we're tired; tubing down the Shenandoah all day when the summer gets really hot (this sounds so fun).) We're already talking about going to Gettysburg with our buddies in two weeks (next weekend we're headed back to MI for a visit).

I felt so good about the massive amount of exercise I got - almost eight miles of hiking, half uphill! - but then we ended up going to this Italian place to eat. All I wanted was a chicken sandwich and an ice cream cone...but even though I passed up the pasta dishes with the heavy cream sauce, I left with my tummy in hideous pain from putting too much into it. What is wrong with me? No room at all for an ice cream cone. But, I have decided that I'm going to start using the gym at work and at least doing some stuff with weights - maybe the discipline with jogging will somehow follow. I want to look in the mirror and see fabulous, and I'm not there. Maybe I'll start doing step aerobics at home? OK, that's not likely. But I may try that fruit-veggies-and-protein diet (as long as dairy is allowed! Is it?).

I didn't think about being infertile once (although the endo I thought about - a five-hour hike is a challenge for the digestive system). I did briefly think about all our friends who would have loved to come but couldn't leave the kids home...

Friday, June 12, 2009

all that's lost


So I thought maybe I owed the internet (which lives for my ranting, I know) the information that I have not completely lost my mind. At least, not irretrievably. Had a chat with an IRL IF friend; she really wanted me to consider going out to Nebraska to see H.ilgers, which I'm not willing to do (don't get me wrong, he seems great, not just his expertise but also his approach - I want a doctor to talk not only about treatment but about when to stop and apparently he does - but I have long since decided that the line of how much normalcy in my life I'm willing to cede to IF treatment stops before traveling to a doctor in a different region of the country), but it was still good to talk to her, maybe just for its own sake. Talking to a real human being (who talks back - sorry, blog), my anger and rebellion remain, but maybe the level of defiance tones down just a touch. (Also, she's in the DC area, so maybe another one for the DC Catholic IF support group!)

And I got to put another "i" on my chart (twice in three days beats twice in a month, and assuming I had a fertile phase at all and it's around now, that's actually a decent number of attempts total, right? We'll put up a few more "i"s just to make it look good, of course), and I realized that we're actually enjoying sex week. Which I didn't really expect. My husband finally threw out the cigs after cutting down - smoked his last two on Monday. Impressive, no? He didn't even tell me that until today (I think he thought I knew...?). It had two immediate and palpable effects: first, his awful heartburn that's prevented him sleeping more than four hours straight as long as I've known him is practically gone, even without the antacids he popped like candy before. That's huge. Second, as we discovered when he briefly quit once before, the sex drive goes way up. Good timing for sex week, eh? Especially fortunate because the quitting makes him quite cranky, so there needs to be some motivation to cooperate!

CM is still a disaster and I'm still angry that all I did was submit to some testing - not even do anything that had a risk attached about which I had to make an informed decision - and I've done in the system. Took my second and third M.ucinex pills today (one every twelve hours-ish) and other than a brief and minor apparent improvement this morning, no difference; maybe it's even worse. Who knows. My slightly raised temperature yesterday was a fluke, though - I'm back to 97.7 today, so luteal phase temps aren't here yet. A few more days of sex week. (This is a late ovulation for me - presumably due to tamoxifen - but as is now obvious, that's not a harbinger of plentiful CM just around the corner. I guess I just ask my doctor what it all means, since trying to treat it is useless...)

As I was dutifully maintaining my 30 minutes of knee-chest position (such a reflective time, you know?), an odd emotion ambushed me. I found tears seeping out of my eyes and realized that though I've cried and yelled, rebelled and rationalized, been bitter and afraid and angry and despairing and devastated by turns, I've never just let go and mourned that the healthy and still lovely (even if I do want to trim the hips and maybe the tummy a little) body of an adult female that I can feel under my fingers is not healthy. Hiding in my apparently relatively normal abdomen is a circus of disfigured organs and exhausted systems that should not be there. And I've never just sat there and cried for one of life's many tragedies, for nothing more complicated than a good and beautiful reality that should be and is not. And it's worth the mourning. Sickness, like death, is not part of God's design; it's my lot, by His will or His allowing, but engendered by the fall, a blight that no young woman was ever intended to endure. Rather than running away, and fighting everything, and shaking my fist at the heavens, at least sometimes I should cry, for the artlessly happy life I could have and should have had ("be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it") but will never have.

There's another post lurking in here, about future things, and small things with great love, and vocation, and a worthwhile life, and childlessness and career, but it's not worked out in my head now, and this is long enough. I'm so tired, and I want so much for all of this to be over, but I will still live to fight again tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

rebellion: update - FURTHER rebellion


Last night, I remembered that in one of the bottles of A.leve that I keep everywhere (home, purse, office), at some point I stowed some amoxicillin pills I had left over from an ear infection, I think in college (and I graduated in 2003!). I kept them because my ears always got so horrible before I even made it to the doctor, but in the ensuing years I've been able to stave them off with su.dafed. I think when I was moving I didn't want extra bottles, so I put the pills together because I knew I could tell them apart...? This morning I dug through all the bottles and found them. I had three.

I have no idea whether penicillin products lose their effectiveness (or turn into poison!) over time, and I am not even going to look into whether this is the case, because I don't really care. I am also not going to look up the timing and dosage of amoxicillin for CM, although I believe it's explained in TCOYF. Instead, this morning I took one of them. Tomorrow I will take another, and the third on Saturday. I do not expect an improvement (actually, if there were one, it would make it difficult to determine why). There certainly has been no improvement in the few hours since I took the first one.

Maybe I'll get a yeast infection - never had one of those, so I can add it to the list. Maybe I'll die. Too bad. I have a tiny sliver of power - the medical community inadvertently left me with a few unsupervised antibiotic pills, and I am going to use them to maximum effect. Or, whatever effect is available.

UPDATE [please ignore lack of returns, blogger hates my update and won't display them]

I recognize my prior post might indicate that I'm opposed to more treatments and drugs. I dislike both treatments and drugs (also doctors), but I am willing to deal with them, or at least under protest. My true complaint is that the more treatments are necessary, the less they are likely to work. Shinejil is of course right: the wild emotion comes from a loss of control. (I actually said this on a comment on another blog. See, great minds!)

I don't think the problem is actually my RE, BTW - I am sure she is capable of analyzing and coming up for a treatment for CM problems. She already told me to schedule a consult after my first tamoxifen cycle and I am sure she will take note (especially since I will be hysterical on that subject). The problem is that I want to stop being extra-defective RIGHT NOW. Infertile and riddled with adhesions, with constant indigestion? Yawn. I am willing to deal with the fact that I am sick. With serenity (OK, comparative serenity, some of the time), I accept that my cysts have always been larger than anyone ever told me and I have more of them; that I was diagnosed with adenomyosis years ago and never told; that I have cervical lesions; that I have a polyp I never knew about and that will be an additional surgery.

But there are some things I won't let go and for whatever reason this is one of them. I have been this sick for years and I have always had healthy normal CM and I am not willing to let it go. Won't accept it. Not negotiable. I also would not accept it if I stopped menstruating. Rational responses are not adequate, and I am taking control back or so help me I will die trying. I am well aware that this is unhealthy and spiritually unsound but I have been healthy and spiritually sound enough and if all the crap I've dealt with peaceably hasn't been sufficient then that's just too bad.

So in addition to the amoxicillin (took the second one today!), I've kept taking the B6 and I walked over two miles each way in the heat to the store last night to get some M.ucinex...1200mg extra-strength slow release. Sounds powerful, right? Also, I ate about a quarter-pound of baby carrots (I'll explain that one another time).

It has helped...almost not at all. In that I can tell the difference from before, fine, but three months ago, I would have charted today and yesterday as "st" and not even considered "sl." So, I found out there's a store in the area that sells pre-seed - apparently you don't need a prescription. Maybe I'll send the DH for that today. I am aware that my efforts are counter-productive because the goal is not the semblance of health but health. Again too bad...health itself is unattainable anyway, and I endured an HSG and an SHG and a colposcopy that were awful and supposed to be diagnostic and one or all of them has apparently lacerated my cervical crypts? This is my reward for being brave and doing what I was told. Unacceptable. This afternoon, I shall scour the internet for more treatments for CM deficiency, since in the last week I have taken all the ones of which I am currently aware.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

remind me to stop

To preserve my sanity - and because waiting till the next, no-procedures cycle to see how things shook out was the only thing to do, really - I told myself for the last two cycles that the practically nonexistent (and non-consecutive) fertile CM was because of the HSG and the SHG - and that it was just the immediate cycle that was messed up.

I bury my head in the sand and pretend that problems aren't problems all the time. But this time (as, I believe, with the pap smears), I think I did the right thing. I could have been frightened, and what good would it have done? But now is the new cycle and I am not deceiving myself successfully any more. The day (Monday) I said I could tell it was my fertile phase - I was wrong. The next day, Tuesday (that's yesterday) I saw my first fertile CM since the weird episode (once) during my period. So I thought the rest was coming, right? I mean, not to be graphic, but it's always been unmistakable before. It didn't. I did manage to establish with the little bit I got hold of that it stretched slightly. I had decided we should have sex yesterday at the latest so we did. And I waited for the transition to fertile CM after the SF today.

The swimming in CM - didn't happen. At the end of the day I finally found an almost invisible bit that stretched two inches. Never done the stretching thing either. That was a line I wasn't going to cross, because it was gross, and unnecessary. But now I have no taboos left - I'm desperate to believe I'm not getting worse, inexplicably worse, pointlessly worse. My husband laughed at me about the stretching and I cried. I don't even cry about my period coming. I know you can take pills to get your CM back. In theory, I could take a pill for every single thing that's wrong with me, but there's a limit.

Because if there's one thing wrong with you - say you don't have enough progesterone - you can take supplementation and you'll get pregnant, like Newt. If you have two things wrong it will take longer to find, but they'll figure it out eventually, maybe you'll have to have surgery first, and you'll get pregnant, after a while (I'm drawing a blank on an example here). If you have three or four things wrong with you it's a crapshoot. They can "fix" them all - cut out the endo, change your diet, put you on hormone replacement, stimulate your ovaries, whatever else it is that they do - but the system is delicate, it's complicated, and they can't necessarily fill in huge gaps in correct function. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won't. I already have two kinds of cysts, adhesions, adenomyosis, elevated FSH, low progesterone, a uterine polyp, and an ovary that's fused to my uterus. Also it's indeterminate whether that fallopian tube is open, but we'll call that a package deal. It would be shocking if they could fix all of that. Even with surgery. Even with drugs. Even with a miracle, because I've asked, and no miracle is forthcoming.

But infinitely improbable as it would be to address everything that's wrong with me, it's literally impossible if every time they try to address one thing, another thing that was working collapses. And if I have to have some medicine or procedure to support every tiniest detail of my cycle, I don't have a chance. For the love of all that's holy, I didn't have a chance before. And I menstruated every month. And ovulated. Every month. Fertile CM, biphasic temperatures, and all. With FIVE CYSTS. And I couldn't get pregnant. What now?

It's funny. I've said more than once that my heart is no longer set on a baby. I'm not even sure what I've done with that emotion that I had that was attached to a little bundle of my own; I've forgotten what that feels like. But I'm still attached to being cured. That sounds irrational, because of course I would be cured if I were pregnant and not otherwise, but it's not the baby I want. It's to stop being a decomposing shell of a former female human being. Because that's what I feel like. And though I can't lay claim, just at this moment, to the yawning emptiness being faced by my blogging sisters who are now trying to make sense of the serious possibility of life with no baby, I am staring down a frightening possibility of my own: life with no cure. No realistic chance of anything working, and each thing suggested being monumentally more invasive and harmful, with vanishing odds of making any difference. My wretched beleaguered body getting feebler and sicker even as the horrible doctors plague me with instruments, pills, and an endless supply of condescension.

My husband suggested it might be the tamoxifen making me weepy. Hell, I'm on hormone drugs, maybe they're making me sad. But I don't feel hormonal, and I don't think that's it. I think it's fear - fear that I am actually watching everything fall apart. I've done the math meticulously. I've told myself that if I was supposed to ovulate 7-10 days after Friday, I could ovulate as late as Monday. Peak day could be even as late as Sunday. First day of serious CM, by my previous standards, could be as late as tomorrow, even Friday. It could be that I've just noticed what little I have so far because I've been paying attention; that I'd have missed it before until there was a lot of it. (That would make this cycle heavier on the CM than previous ones. Hah!)

So, if tomorrow I find myself visited by abundant CM, I chose too early to give up hope. There might still be a chance of a cure, and there's at least some vague point to the sexual marathon that we will (still) be pursuing this cycle. But that's not really going to happen. And when it doesn't, please remind me. I already know it's over. I don't need more medicine and I don't need surgery. I just need to let go.

Monday, June 8, 2009

wanted: picture of you

Interesting things today. Manolo for the Big Girl, which I have previously noted that I enjoy, has started a fascinating project among its readers: "finding and creating an authentic personal style." While I lack the qualifications to superintend the discovery of a personal style by others, I think the first assignment in this project is intriguing on many levels. It's creating an "inspiration board" using Mr. Internet.

Here's how (I've streamlined Plumcake's instructions slightly): go to the mosaic maker and make a 4x4 mosaic. Then, go to google images and find images that you like. (You do this already for your blog but) open the full-sized image, right-click and select "Properties," then copy the URL in the Properties window (usually ends in .jpg) and paste it into one of the sixteen blanks in the mosaic maker. Repeat until you have sixteen. Then check to make sure all the pictures loaded, and save the mosaic to your computer.

If you have strong opinions and decent google skills, this will sincerely go very fast. After I looked at the boards readers posted in Plumcake's comments and realized how clearly I could tell whether I shared ideas and temperament with the inspiration board's creator just by looking at the images, I had to make one of my own.

Voila:


I think the things I like have a certain quality of old-world loveliness. I chose each picture on a specific impulse to include that thing (several have stories) - and I think the overall effect is a very accurate impression of what I like in the aggregate.

Now, one of my life lessons is that nobody has to do what I say, but if anybody else wanted to do this too (it's fun! Really!) and tell me in the comments where I could find their inspiration boards, I would just love that.

In chatting with my house-shopping buddy, I also discovered this ridiculous house.


"My" house, if you recall, is a 1907 white clapboard Victorian in lousy repair with 4 bedrooms and 1 bath and, you know, some of the siding falling off, just .2 acres, great neighborhood, a two-story back porch that I like, not even a driveway. And then there is this house. It has been on the market over 400 days (so, less long than my house!). Its sticker price is substantially less than that of my house (though mine is priced well above what the market will bear). It really is as big as it looks. It has 5BRs and 3.5 baths. More than four fireplaces. Hardwood floors. An outdoor pool and hot tub. A two-car garage. A library. Built-in bookcases. A sauna. A second master. A gazebo. That's really red brick, and it's really a Victorian - built in 1900. And it's on an acre of land. It's about 10-15 miles from downtown DC (just outside the beltway, though) and I think we could actually pay the mortgage. What's more, my DH is adamant about brick houses (I like siding just as much), and a huge yard (I like them but I try to be realistic). And he's nuts over pools. And bookshelves (our home is overrun with books).

I swooned. I rubbed my eyes. I considered seeking professional help, for my delusions. Then I started looking up the local churches and finding the metro and bus routes. Looked at aerial photographs of neighboring houses.

And found some locality statistics...it's in the ghetto. In DC, where everything is obscenely expensive (obscenely), more households in the town make under $30,000 than over $75,000. It's less than 10% white - not that my neighbors have to be my clones, but in the US, a white minority is a socioeconomic indication. The house is a mirage, and I can't have it, because it's not in a safe place to live. Even looking at it, I was thinking, five bedrooms isn't insanely huge. But I see that picture. That house has wings. I don't need a house with wings, and I never will. I knew it wasn't reasonable for me to have this house. But how I would have loved it!

Finding those statistics felt like a revelation too. In an instant, I looked back on my feverish research, and saw my silly delusion. I know better than to think that magnificent things can be had for affordable prices in high-demand areas. I have a lot of natural common sense about matters microeconomic, and I knew that there would be a catch. I was just enjoying not having found it yet.

Maybe because I have an almost preternatural obsession with home, this struck me very strongly. It was, I don't know, a something.

Last revelation for the day: I can feel my cervix! Not just when it's crampy, which is an easy one. And I can actually feel the CM, not just when it puts in an exterior appearance. I bet this is standard stuff for everyone else who's charting, but I never connected the dots before. So, anyway, I know now that in an hour or two, there will be the CM, and then, after that, the BD. By which we begin Sex Week. (I called and cancelled the SA today.) Wish us luck...

A day of epiphanies, I tell you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Enough with the funny stuff.

This is directed at you, cervical mucus. So listen up. As you (probably) know (do y'all communicate down there?), CD1 was Saturday May 30th. So yesterday, that would be Friday, June 5, was CD7. A day when I am usually still spotting (a little), and we're business as usual this cycle, apparently. At least, on that score. Because last night - OK, so it was about 4AM, and I don't drink, and, since you must know, I was up watching my husband and a group of guy friends play Risk at that hour - I have, well, still faint color, so that would be spotting, but serious slippery CM.

Whereupon my brain (somewhat taxed from lack of sleep, but not alcohol) tries to do the math. I have had spotting blend right into my fertile phase before - strikes me as sort of defective, so I'm not a fan, but it does happen. Hasn't happened the past few cycles, so I was hoping it had stopped, but I haven't made any real improvements that would mean a permanent change, so it could happen again, I guess.

EXCEPT.

I was told by my RE that I would faithfully ovulate 7 days after the last day I took tamoxifen. (Or did she say 7-10? Does somebody else know? Anyway, at least 7, I think.) That would be next Friday, June 12 (since I finished the tamoxifen yesterday! Yay!). (Or later if 10 days.) I usually have 3 days of slippery and sometimes 4. I can see how with the B6 I've been so good about taking (and perhaps the tamoxifen has an effect?) I might have, I don't know, 5. But my brain slowly comes to the realization that there are some arithmetic problems here. So these questions are for you, CM:
  • If I ovulate seven days after finishing the tamoxifen, that doesn't mean I'll ovulate later with respect to my peak day than usual, right? I mean, if my peak day is usually about 1-2 days before ovulation, it still will be - right?
  • Assuming I ovulate about the normal time with respect to the CM, ARE YOU SERIOUSLY SUGGESTING I COULD HAVE AS MANY AS SEVEN DAYS OF FERTILE CM? Because if so, I don't believe you. Nobody has that much. Certainly not me.
  • Ovulating June 12 would be slightly later than I usually do. But I've only had spotting blend into fertile CM on cycles where I ovulated early. WTH?
  • When should I start having sex? And how often? Because we're looking at potentially seven or eight days, and I don't know if we're up to that.
  • I have to cancel the SA next Friday, don't I? Why didn't I realize that that just wouldn't work because you can't have an SA during sex week? What is wrong with my BRAIN?
  • Late-added question: so when I woke up this morning, I had NO CM. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN TO ME - other than the last two cycles with the HSG and SHG problems, but we're not going to talk about those. Once I have CM in spades, it stays put - all day, for several consecutive days, and then goes away completely. JUST LIKE IT'S SUPPOSED TO. SO WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME NOW?
  • So I didn't have sex with my husband today, and I have a friend coming over anyway. WHEN DO I HAVE SEX? Geez.

I await your response.

Signed,
Confused in the Cervix

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

stayin' alive


So, did anybody else notice that I totally forgot to do something special for my 100th post (despite the fact that I noticed it coming and was planning at least to remark on it)? No, of course not, how would anybody else know? This is my 102nd post. My 101st, somewhat appropriately, was June 1. A nice "1" kind of day. Something else, huh? I'm still a newbie around here, really. My blog isn't even six months old!

So I've now taken three days of the tamoxifen (two more to go). I feel as though I'm in the home stretch. My period is looking fairly normal. I feel pretty normal too. I feel maybe just a teensy bit more - endometrial? - than usual. I don't have crazy cramps (wrong time in my cycle for my usual ones), and of course I do have digestive issues, but I feel just a little puffy, or just a little sore, in the endometrial area. Not enough to upset me or even really distract me, just enough to know it's there. Which, for a long time, except for an ovary pinching once a week or so, I didn't feel. In the past few months, I only feel the digestive symptoms (but I feel them so much that I hardly feel like a non-endometriosis patient!).

So, this is OK with me. Maybe the tamoxifen is increasing the endo symptoms (or maybe this is a coincidence), but not really doing me any harm. Does it compound? I mean, if I take it next month too, will it be twice as bad? Also, should my scrip have said that it included refills? Because it said it didn't, even though Dr. L said I would do this for 3-6 months. Sigh. I need to listen to my voicemails and then call the clinic again. I called from the pharmacy and left a message, and I was cranky. I always feel panicky about treatment stuff, and then I realized, hey, I could get this refill thing adjusted any time in the next few weeks. I could chill out.

Anyway, I am waiting with interest to share with the whole darn internet how my CM is on my modified B6 intake. Most likely, with as little as I'm taking, and how I usually have pretty normal CM anyway, it will make no difference. But I have to take something, because my CM was practically nonexistent the last two cycles (first cycle: HSG; second cycle: SHG), and even though the procedures are an obvious explanation, I'm just so afraid that the only thing my body was doing right is gone. I want to cry just thinking about it.

Oh, and. I was looking at my charts on CD1 and realized that this past cycle, my husband and I have had sex once every two weeks. I mean, we knew we needed to get into more frequent habits for what I've dubbed the upcoming "sexual marathon," but we got worse. I mean, that's a record for infrequency, even for us. (And I LIKE sex! I mean, I can see how people wouldn't believe that.) Anyway, I brought this up with my DH, and I asked him what he thought we could do to really give this the old college try. (I stopped picking fights about sexual frequency when I went on my hiatus from treatment, but I can easily see that if we don't have sex at least twice during my fertile phase, I will scream and cry. I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Why do I have to be so defective? In every imaginable way?)

Anyway, he was really good. He had some suggestions, and pretty much he suggested communication. He pointed out that I always blindside him - it will be 2AM on a Wednesday, and I'll say, "It's the second day of my fertile phase, you were out last night, and you're leaving for a trip tomorrow morning." Or, I'll tell him, "Peak day was yesterday, and we haven't had sex in a week." I realized that I do this because I'm actually trying to sneak-attack him: he's supposed to be keeping the chart, in theory, and he (STILL!) can't even remember the difference between fertile phase, peak day, and ovulation. So I say things to point out that he's not paying attention.

He had a revolutionary suggestion: I should actually keep him up-to-date! It's an idea, let me tell you. Because, let's be honest, I could predict most of this stuff several days out (whereas he is clueless), and I never share my information. His other suggestion was that we actually make the sex a scheduling priority. So I have been giving him updates every few days, and worked out that fertile phase would probably be next Monday-Friday, and I'm planning to buy some nice chocolate on my grocery shopping next week, and get home at a decent hour, and try to seduce him before I do everything else I have planned for each evening, maybe even wear some interesting underwear. You know. Put some effort into it.

It won't work. But at least I will have the bizarre, pointless, perverse, nonsensical satisfaction - the only thing I'm earnestly seeking in these cycles - that I have done what I was supposed to do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

toilet terrorism


First of all I would like to note that - perhaps because I was raised in a quasi-Jansenist Irish family - Things That Happen in the Bathroom are not discussed. Sex? Maybe, in the proper context. Flatulence? As a joke, maybe, rarely, brought up only by the menfolk. Actual digestive issues? Are not discussed. And frankly this is an ethic that I live by. I think the adult world flows smoothly - more smoothly - if it includes all sorts of information, but not What Happens in Potty. Unless you're talking to your doctor, and even then, he should maybe ask you to fill out a form. Not describe what happens in the bathroom, because, well, really.

And I'm going to try to preserve as much of that ethic as I can in this post (and I preserve all of it in real life, or do my best to), but it did occur to me that I have been entirely at a loss for some time over the proper etiquette for such situations, and here, on teh internetz, there are many other young women (proper ladies all, no doubt!) who have suffered with endo too. So they must know. For those who've never had endo - well, this post may sully your Potty Innocence. And I'm not sure whether you can unring that bell. So, you've been warned.

Anyway, today is CD3 and also my first day of tamoxifen (since my endo-style cramping/digestive issues hadn't totally subsided yesterday, I should probably have waited till evening to take the tamoxifen, but I took it in the morning, anyway. Also, BTW, I took two 50mg B6 yesterday and I feel no different. I'll take another two today). And, whether due to the tamoxifen or not, my digestive system is insisting upon frequent use of the facilities. The sort of use for which one hopes that no one else will have had that same thought at the same time. Unfortunately, as in many workplaces, potty is corporate - there are two stalls, in this case, and I believe just the one ladies' room for the whole hallway. If I can tell someone else is headed potty-ward, I just do something else until they return. But that only works for the ladies in my office proper (of whom there are currently SIX. Which kind of limits my solo-potty odds, and I can tell you I don't appreciate that).

I have always been a little unhappy with corporate potty opportunities. But, during my healthy years, potty was always used in public for one reason: too much soda, or some variant thereof. It's only as my digestive system has broken down that I might want to use potty in public for something else.

(It suddenly returns to mind that my father used to sing a little song, of his own composition, "One BM a day will do, it's the same for me and you..." I think this was brought on by the fact that my brother, as a young child, would announce it to the family if he had had diarrhea. Anyway, I never knew if there were a medical basis for my father's little ditty, but if so, well, it doesn't work with endo, in my experience.)

And I have to say that I consider the use of potty for something else to be a tad antisocial. I mean, generally, others do not want to be there. You don't want others to be there. So of course I can wait until the bathroom is unoccupied. But sometimes you can't tell, and sometimes someone comes in while you're there! The nerve. Anyway, although I never thought I would be *that* kind of person, I did at some point take on a habit of waiting out the competition. Sometimes even if I was there first. I developed several time-buying measures, including elaborate nose-blowing. But it has a few times occurred that the other party appeared to be trying to wait me out as well. Once I realize there's a contest on, I always win. But sometimes I think, "What in the name of all that's holy am I doing? I don't recognize her shoes, but what if she recognizes mine? What will she think of a person who would do such a thing?"

I am a grown woman, occupying a workplace restroom in tense strategic silence, waiting out some other adult woman who probably has a stomachache too, so I can assume the territory of the restroom all to myself. Really, I never saw myself ending up here.

And is this what I should be doing? I mean, what's the proper response? Does one address the other toilet-occupying party, and say politely, "Excuse me, but I have come here to [insert explanation]. I estimate I need [] minutes of solo potty time, but I would be happy to take them at another time. Should we arrange to alternate our toilet usage? You can have the first turn."