The Itching!

So. About a month ago, I was chatting with my mom about the craziness that happens with hormone treatments. She’s had a hysterectomy (an emergency one) and, in the months that followed, had the distinct pleasure of having her hormones all jacked up (I believe that’s the medical term). Her doctors prescribed various medications, different types (patch or pill or shot) at different dosages in hopes of finding one that did not make her crazy but also did not make her skin peel off. Fun stuff like that. She told me about researching weird symptoms like forgetfulness and hot flashes and mood swings and itching.

LIGHT BULB

Something clicked into place and I realized that I could pinpoint the strange itching that I’d been having occasionally (read, at the end of every round of hormones). The last day or so of my treatment, I get intensely and randomly itchy – usually in places that are sensitive but also brush against things. Like my scalp. And my nether regions, ahem. And the back of my leg where I leaned against that chair for two minutes.

It comes and goes. Like I said, it’s usually triggered by something rubbing against it (brushing my fingers through my hair or wearing a headband or going to the bathroom). It gets INSANELY itchy, but if I can bear it for three or four minutes, it goes away. Nothing too terrible, in a world of fear inducing side effects (“runny nose, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, hallucinations, increased gambling or other intense urges, coma, death, or trouble swallowing – seek immediate medical attention for effects lasting more than four hours”), but not particularly pleasant either.

Then yesterday, I decided to write up a little post (it’s about to get meta all up in here) concerning the itchy during a particularly ITCHY bout and came up short. You see, I did a bit of research on the side effects of my prescribed pill and, sure enough, itching was listed. However, much to my concern, it’s actually listed as a rare side effect. You know, one you should call your doctor about immediately.

So guess who called their GYN this morning??? Still waiting for him to get out of surgery so he can tell me if I’m dying or perhaps should just watch out for trouble swallowing.

ETA: Heard back from him! It’s all cool. Totes not dying from itchiness. Whew!

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Can we talk about the charmed lives of men???

(re: birth control and yearly gynecological exams)

My company is currently in the process of changing HR providers. It’s a long, boring process full of forms and sign-ups and deadlines. It also requires that we all make new benefit selections. Yesterday, the new provider sat us all down to go through the new benefit packages.

After some fluff talk about the provider, the presenter jumped into a comparison of our new health plan options. In every option, she mentioned free preventative care. Yay! Free preventative care! At one point, she paused and said, because she’d been burned by it herself, to make sure that you never brought up an issue at a preventative appointment.

“Always make a secondary appointment to discuss any current issues you have. Otherwise, the doctor will charge you for the appointment as it is no longer ‘preventative’.”

[At this point, I should pause and mention that I work with mostly men. I am the only professional female in my office.]

The men look around at each other with baffled expressions before my managing partner finally broke the confused silence on behalf of a significant portion of the room.

“What’s a preventative care appointment?”

…..

What’s preventative care? Are you kidding me?

A second partner caught my eye roll* and chuckle, although he probably had no idea what caused my reaction.

How ridiculous is it that a room full of grown men – men with wives and girlfriends and daughters – don’t know what preventative care appointments are? Are they truly that oblivious to their partner’s health routines?

I wanted to stand up and take them to task:

You do realize that every year, the majority of women have to visit their doctors for said “preventative care” appointments?  Typically they involve a fairly invasive exam of our breasts and genitals. Yes, you have to take off your pants. And probably your top too. And also your bra and panties. Here’s a paper robe.

You do realize that if we want to continue birth control, which, you know, vastly improves the quality of everyone’s life, we have to visit the doctor once a year? Because that birth control comes with a prescription. One that expires every year with no option for renewal.

You do realize that some insurance companies  (including the one we currently have) require that said preventative exams are done once a year and once a year only. But not just a calendar year! Oh no, that would be too easy! They actually mean that if you had your last gynecological exam on September 20th last year, the earliest day you can get your next exam is September 21st this year.

And on top of that, birth controls prescriptions, at least for the pill and many other daily/weekly/monthly options, are typically for a year only. But actually less than a year because a “month” to the pill is actually only 28 days. So let’s put the last two items together and figure out that math. Need exam to get prescription. Exam has to be 366 days after previous exam. Prescription runs out at 336 days or 364 days, depending on your doctor. So for those last two days or possibly even a month I’m supposed to do what exactly??????


 

Men.

Although, to be honest, the real entity that I’m frustrated with is the medical community, which requires yearly visits for something as essential as birth control. Yes, I know it’s a prescription, and that I should be evaluated before beginning a new regimen. But it’s honestly so frustrating to have to go in year after year for the same prescription. And yes I get that the gynecological exam is important because you can’t exactly see your organs to know something’s wrong, but for low risk individuals, the yearly invasive might be a bit overkill.

And even more frustrating was our insurance company who limited me to single month pickup for birth control. I could no longer pick up a 3 month supply from the pharmacy. The max they would allow was 1 month.

In a way, makes me happy to be done with birth control for a while. Now if only I could single-handedly convince insurance companies to start covering infertility treatments.

*Eye roll brought you by the letter P for Progesterone or also Power-of-crashing-hormones.

Worn Out

Have you ever had one of those weeks where there’s nothing that goes wrong exactly and you have no moments that you can pin blame on, but somehow the week just knocks you over? A week takes you down and leaves you exhausted, frazzled, and in dire need of a vacation?

I’m having one of those weeks.

It’s Thursday afternoon and I honestly feel like I’ve lived through four mini weeks already. I sent a follow up email this morning, referencing the original email as being “sent early last week” and was shocked to discover that I actually sent the original Monday afternoon. ….. Whoops. And also yikes! The days this week have been so bogged down in tasks and meetings and to-do’s that I’ve barely managed to catch my breath. I know it’s short today, but I have another trillion things to do this afternoon. Perhaps next week will be better? Or December? Possibly next year?? How’s 2022 look for you???

Le sigh. Thanksgiving can’t come soon enough.

Happy Birthday to me!

Luffy and I celebrated my birthday over the weekend. He picked up a bottle of my favorite champagne and got all  my favorite (and his least favorite) flavors of macaroons (lemon and pumpkin)! Plus I got full control of the TV to binge-watch my current favorite guilty-pleasure show (Gossip Girl). All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. And I got it because I learned a very important lesson about relationships.

You see, when I was younger, I always thought that birthday surprises, among other things, just happened. And I don’t mean that someone didn’t have to plan it. More that Person A automatically knows what to plan out and how to celebrate Festivity B with their partner, Person C…… and that was slightly convoluted. Let’s try again. I thought that when I found my lobster, he would just know how to celebrate my birthday or Chistmas or our anniversary. SPOILER ALERT!! That’s not always how it works. Some people, like Luffy, need direction.

Luffy’s just not a big celebration guy. I’m not sure if it’s cultural (the Chinese have very few holidays and rarely give presents that aren’t cash) or personal. You would never find him decorating for Christmas or gushing about his “birthday week” (lololol). Truth be told, he doesn’t even have his birthday listed on Facebook and actually chided me when I posted a happy birthday note on his wall the first time. (True story – his boss texted him happy birthday this year and his legitimate FOR REAL response was – how did you know it’s my birthday? He was very disappointed to learn that apparently his work’s HR program reminds bosses when their employees have birthdays.) This is what he wants, so I respect it. True, I tell him happy birthday about 500 times (in person) on the day, because I am genuinely glad that he’s around and I love him to pieces, but I’ve stopped any sort of public declaration of love and devotion and OMGEES IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – I always thought that having to dictate your own celebration would make it less special, less exciting. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out this weekend that it did not. Not one bit. A couple of weeks ago, I said I’d like champagne and cupcakes and a day of doing nothing (Luffy had wondered if I wanted a present… and, you know, what to get). Luffy took those marching orders and delivered my favorite champagne, and a cupcake, AND macaroons, AND excellent girly TV, AND my favorite lazy meals (brunch out and cheese/salami/fruit plate). It was fantastic. And, on Friday night, as he was detailing out our plans for Saturday, I was over the moon excited and couldn’t wait to begin.

So yeah. Never be afraid to ask for what you really want. He may be my husband, but he can’t read my mind.

Changing Topics

Whew – my ovaries have been front and center for the past …. scrolls back …. keeps scrolling …. keeps scrolling … well, several weeks. I think we’re in dire need of a topic change around here. So:

Thanksgiving!

It’s just three weeks away people! Woot woot!

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. There are several things going for it (1) food, (2) lots of food, (3) a legitimate excuse to stuff your face with lots of food, (4) none of the present-buying pressure of Christmas (but all of the cookies), and (5) a legitimate excuse to open wine around noon (we have Thanksgiving lunch in my family). It’s the BEST, in my personal opinion.

Luffy and I head to my parents’ house, usually the day before Thanksgiving and then stay through the weekend. My mom and I bake up a storm the entire time and we both help make Thanksgiving lunch happen (so that one of us isn’t chained to the kitchen the entire morning). We always have fun planning our menu and finding new dishes to try (the only “traditional” thing we serve is a turkey). Last year, I introduced my family to my amazing cauliflower mash. It could pass for mashed potatoes and indeed it DID pass for mashed potatoes until my brother’s girlfriend spilled the beans. My dad was affronted that I had managed to sneak vegetables to stealthily past his radar! Good times.

Along with all this fantastic eating is the general laziness that comes whenever you visit your childhood home. Does this happen to any of you?? I’m a perfectly capable adult and yet when I go home I revert back to this teenage self. I don’t want to make breakfast for myself and I’m just fine with letting my poor, overworked mother clean up after lunch. I’m happy to sit and watch TV all weekend and barely get out of my pajamas by noon most days. It’s glorious.

I’m counting down the days to turkey time.

Five Little Words

Shortly after I posted yesterday, my doctor called with the results from my blood tests. He said everything looked good and the tests didn’t indicate any problems. Which is good news! But also puts us back to a giant question mark re: my ovaries. He said that he’d push the results to the practice’s online patient portal for me to review and to, of course, let him know if I had any questions.

So I took a look at my labs online. They were within the specified ranges, although you can be sure that I’ll do more research about what those numbers actually mean in the coming days. As I poked around my own profile (checking on prescriptions and drug allergies), I clicked on a tab labeled Problems. As expected, my chronic bronchitis diagnosis, that I told them about when I joined the practice, was listed. However, just above that, a new issue had been added as of yesterday:

Female Infertility Associated with Anovulation

Its status was active.

There’s no denying it anymore. I’ve officially been labeled as Infertile by my GYN. This doesn’t change anything, obviously. It’s not like the label made things worse or my outlook any darker or less optimistic. But somehow, those five little words just make it so much more real. Infertile. Me. At 27. Trying very hard to do something that seems to happen so easily for thousands of others.

Rinse and Repeat

I had my follow up appointment yesterday afternoon. There hasn’t been any change since my initial consultation. Absolutely no sign of ovulation in the past three months. I’ve relied on progesterone pills to trigger a period each time. So. We move on to the next step: Clomid.

For the uninitiated, Clomid is a drug that induces ovulation in women who don’t ovulate on their own (or occasionally prescribed to trigger a super-ovulation in women who do ovulate). I take it five days, near the beginning of my cycle, then watch for ovulation using test strips for the next several days. If no ovulation occurs, it’s back to progesterone to trigger a period and try again. Rinse and repeat.

Yesterday, as my doctor was laying out this next step in the process, he offered to go ahead and refer me to an infertility specialist. He said the specialist would likely prescribe Clomid as a first step as well, but being there (rather than with my GYN) would give me a jump start on the process should we need to take further steps after the Clomid. He told me, in all honesty, chances of conceiving on Clomid aren’t great. Of the women who take it, only 70% will actually ovulate. The chances of conception are slim because (a) the chances of conception in any given cycle of even a perfectly healthy couple are low (around 25% I believe) and (b) doctors typically limit you to about four to six cycles of Clomid back-to-back which isn’t always enough to overcome the odds from (a). So, basically he thinks it’s likely that I’ll be referred to a specialist eventually and I could go ahead and start that process now if I wanted.

I took a moment to think this through and I turned down his offer. Going to a fertility specialist seems so extreme. I’m 27 (although I’ll be turning 28 in a few days) – I’m young. Why should I go to extreme lengths so quickly? As I told my mom last night, I don’t want to come at it with a cannon if a pea shooter will do. Plus, once I go to a specialist, both Luffy and I go. Right now, the problem is clearly with me. True, Luffy could have some issue that we don’t know about, but right now, it’s completely my problem. I’m not ovulating. Period. There’s no need to involve him yet.

At this point, my doctor asked me how I was feeling about the process. I brought up my research about thyroid disorders and he quickly assured me that we could test for that (which we did). I told him that I too was frustrated because I don’t meet many of the criteria/signs for a thyroid problem, or for PCOS, or any of the primary causes of anovulation for that matter. I’m not overweight. I’m active and young. I eat well. I’m not pre-diabetic. I don’t have acne or problems managing my weight. My metabolism and appetite appear appropriate. All these little things that I’m so proud of or thankful for just mean that we’re less certain of what’s causing my anovulation. So we’re testing my thyroid and prolactin levels. It’s unlikely to yield anything, but at least we’ll be able to definitively scratch something off the list (unlike PCOS which just looms overhead).

Yesterday was the first time he used the term PCOS in relation to me. He said that it’s unusual for a woman to present with PCOS without being overweight, diabetic, or having cysts on her ovaries. However, it’s certainly possible and he couldn’t rule it out. Unfortunately, there’s no test for PCOS – no needle prick or x-ray or scan to decisively diagnose PCOS.


My birthday is coming up this week. I’ve been thinking about my birthday last year, when we had just started trying. I was probably on cycle day 38 or 39 at that point. I remember feeling so frustrated with my body, upset that I wasn’t pregnant, and wondering when my period would show up. I ranted to a friend that we were “still” trying and that I obviously wasn’t pregnant yet (I was drinking whiskey at the time – a clear sign that we hadn’t conceived). I mean, it had been a whole month already – why wasn’t I pregnant?! (please note the very sarcastic tone) Of course hindsight is 20-20 and all that. I realize now that the road to a baby isn’t something you can plan out with precision and that, even when you’re doing everything right, sometimes your body just has other plans. More importantly, I think – I hope – I’ve developed more patience. For myself. For things I can’t control. I can help, but ultimately, we’ll get pregnant when/if we get pregnant. Rushing won’t help. Impatience won’t help. Fury and outrage and frustration won’t help. I’ve stopped looking towards future events and saying to myself “maybe I’ll be pregnant by then” or “if I’m pregnant, I won’t want to do x.” It just puts a bookmark in my head, on the event, so that when it comes around, I can’t help but remember that I thought I could be pregnant by now. I’ve started talking to my mom more, rather than trying to keep the whole thing a surprise.

I’ve also started to react to other women’s pregnancies better. We found out over the weekend that a college friend’s wife is pregnant with their first child. She’s ten weeks along. We’ll end up seeing them when she’s six months pregnant. When Luffy told me, I immediately felt that sharp pain of anguish – you know the one that hits you right in the stomach and clenches up your muscles so that you feel like you can’t breath. I immediately told myself to shut that down; I don’t want to feel jealousy or hatred towards her. I have no idea what they went through to conceive that baby. After a few moments though, I realized that it’s ok to be sad – as cheesy as that sounds (we watched Inside Out last night – can you tell??). It’s all right to be upset and to process that feeling. I left Luffy in the living room and took a few moments for myself in our bedroom. To collect myself, as they say. I was sad and upset that this process hasn’t been going well. I shed a few tears. Then I dried my eyes and joined Luffy again. A few hours later, when he asked me, I could honestly say that I was ok and that I was very happy for them and looking forward to seeing them.


Breath. Remember this. It’s just Luffy and me, no matter what happens.