Not to brag, but apparently I have great ovaries.
That’s what I was told on my first visit to see a fertility specialist. Probably the weirdest compliment I’ve ever received, but hey, I’ll take it!
The first time I met with my oncologist, he told me I should look into getting some of my eggs harvested because there’s a good chance that chemotherapy will make me infertile. This alone was hard to hear, but it was the first of many tough conversations I was about to have.
The next day I met with a doctor specializing in reproductive endocrinology. He walked me through the steps of egg harvesting, talked about the success rate, and overall, it seemed like a fairly straightforward process. Then we talked about pricing.
I would need to pay for the various medications and hormones, the actual procedure to have my eggs removed, the monthly storage fee for my eggs, and eventually, going through the in vitro fertilization process once I’m ready to be a mom. Each of these things were thousands of dollars. Just the medicine alone would set me back about $9,000. He told me an estimated ball park total cost and once the number came out of his mouth all I could remember were tears pouring out of my eyes. There’s no way I could afford this. On top of that, I’m not even in a relationship and I’m expected to make a huge life decision like this all by myself. He told me there are programs that I could apply for that would knock a few grand off of the price, but still, that’s a LOT of money. I left feeling like I just got kicked while I was down.
My mom came with me to this appointment and had an idea. I’m 25 years old and still covered under her insurance for about four more months. She gave her insurance company a call and it turns out, they cover just about all of the expenses of this procedure! Even the clinic was shocked to hear this. They told me they’ve never seen an insurance company cover so much of the cost before. Now of course, I’ll still need to pay the co-pays, the monthly storage fee for my eggs, and I’ll no longer be covered under her insurance when I’m ready to use the eggs, but I’m so grateful that this financial burden has been lifted for the time being and I’ll figure out the rest when the time comes. In this very unlucky situation that I’m in, I felt like I hit the jackpot. I still can’t believe that I got so “lucky” with her insurance and the timing in my life. Now that I knew I could go ahead with the procedure, it was time to move forward with this whole egg harvesting process.
My doctor walked me through what would be expected of me over the next couple of weeks. I had to take hormones on a pretty strict schedule. There were specific time windows that I had to stick with in order for this process to be the most effective. Also I would have to get blood work taken every 1-3 days along with an ultrasound to monitor how my body was responding to the hormones. It didnt sound too bad so we went ahead and ordered the medication… which came in the form of injections. Wait, injections? Were they telling me I’d have to come in every day to get multiple shots? Nope- it was worse! I’d have to give myself the injections! No, no, no, there has to be another way! I’m the type of person that looks the other way when someone else gives me a shot or draws blood. If I can’t even watch someone else stab a needle into me, how am I supposed to do it to myself?
I had to take a step back. There are so many women out there that can’t have children. There are women who aren’t given the option to have eggs harvested and there are women who simply can’t afford to. I needed to focus on the bigger picture. I wouldn’t call myself lucky, but in an already unfortunate situation, things could certainly be worse. I also realize there are people that need to give themselves injections or draw blood on their own every single day and I only had to do it for several weeks. I can do it. I had to give myself some pep talks, but I got this.
When I got the injections in the mail, I prepared the shots as directed. I had to give myself two injections a day in my lower abdomen between 5-7 PM and eventually it would go up to three injections a day. The syringes were filled and ready to be used by 5 PM, but I put it off until 6:45 because I was so nervous. I FaceTimed one of my good friends who works as a paramedic in Cheyenne, WY who helped to calm me down and walked me through it. He gave me some advice: jab the needle in as fast as possible and don’t hesitate! Umm, that sounds awful, but OK. Then he counted me down: 3, 2, 1 go! Nope I didn’t do it. He must have counted backwards from 3 about 20 times. Finally, my two hour window was coming to a close so I had no choice but to just go for it. He counted backwards from 3 one last time and in the needle went.
My first thought- “wow, that wasn’t bad at all!”
Time for my second injection. I’m basically a pro at this point, this is easy! …Or so I thought. My friend counted me down again, 3… 2… 1… Ok, this one hurt a little bit more and when I squeezed the syringe I could feel every bit of liquid going in. It stung! I learned from this point forward to do the more painful injection first to get it over with and then finish up with the less painful shot.
By about the 7th day I was starting to feel really bloated. My ovaries were swelling and I constantly felt full like I had just eaten a large meal. Speaking of eating, I would get through about 4 bites of food and not be able to finish a meal! The doctors told me that was completely normal because of how swollen my ovaries were. There just wasn’t a lot of room for food in my stomach. I also wasn’t supposed to do any kind of physical activity. I was so ready for this process to be over.
Three days before my egg removal, I started to really feel the effects of the hormones. It was a Sunday which meant I had to get up and go to work that day. Right after I got done with our morning show, I went home and slept for the rest of the day. Once again, I could barely get out of bed on Monday for work, but somehow I made it through the show. Again, I went home and slept all day. I was so uncomfortable and kept waking up in a lot of pain, but I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Tuesday morning was the day I was scheduled to get my eggs removed. I couldn’t wait! I wasn’t nervous about the procedure at all and really just wanted this entire process to be done. I changed into an ugly hospital gown, got hooked up to an IV, ad then I was wheeled into the operating room. I remember the anesthesiologist walking me through each medication she was adding into my IV. Then she added one that would make me “feel a little sleepy” and that’s the last thing I remember. I woke up about an hour and a half later and waited in my hospital bed for the anesthesia to wear off.
When the doctors retrieve eggs from a patient, they hope to get between 8-10 eggs. The nurse told me they got 21 eggs from me! I guess they weren’t lying when they said I have great ovaries!
I’m sitting in bed right now writing this because the procedure was done this morning. The after effects of it have been pretty bad so far, if I’m being completely honest. I’m in a lot of pain and I can hardly stand up. They said tomorrow I’ll feel even worse, but after that I should slowly start to get back to normal. I still can’t do any physical activity for 2 more weeks, but I’m glad that I don’t have to give myself any more injections!
Overall, the process wasn’t too bad until the last couple of days. If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would. I had a lot of factors working in my favor for me to be able to get some eggs frozen: My mom’s insurance covering most of my expenses, my age which allowed the egg retrieval to be so successful, my job for being so flexible and allowing me time off for the procedure and my almost daily blood draws and ultrasounds, and my oncologist who allowed me to hold off on starting chemo for about a month so that I could go through this process. I’ll say it again, I’m the “luckiest” unlucky person… if that makes sense 🙂
My next step is to get a port surgically implanted and then it’s time to start chemo. I’m so ready to get this over with! Stay tuned!