Sunday, October 14, 2018

Next Installment, Verse 999.2


Continuing the story...

Yes, I paid the 2018 frozen embryo storage fee.  Against my husband's wishes.  And then I put it aside.

In early February I came home from my three-month deployment to Houston and went about life.  The first thing we did was meet with the Foster Care folks for our final home inspection. We sailed through it and although they said we have room for 10 kids... we told them we'd place three, unless there was a sibling group that we felt right about. Our licensing caseworker apologized that it had taken a year and a half of bureaucratic stalls between state agencies to get to this point (again, a frustrating story for another day) and reminded us that there were a lot of kids in need.  She said she'd have all the licensing paperwork wrapped up by February 15th, which would push us through to placement.  Satisfied that we were finally getting somewhere, we marched forward.

In early March, I had dinner with some dear friends.  There of four of us and we call ourselves "The Flying Wasabies". We met many years ago in my old town, as we volunteered together in our church leading 25-40 young women ages 12 - 18. For over five years, we prepared gospel lessons each Sunday...met every Wednesday night for uplifting social activities and service projects, and took the girls camping for a week every summer. Young women have it tough in today's world so as leaders, we became really close in thinking about their welfare and how to be good role models.  Even after three of us moved from the area and moved to different congregations, the four of us would still get together every few months to eat sushi and catch up. I hadn't seen them since before my surgery so when I came home from Houston it promised to be a long night.

All three of these friends are professional women, with beautiful families... so I just kind of sit in awe at their lives when we meet, soaking it all in.  One is an uber talented interior designer and fierce advocate for special needs children, thanks to her own beautiful child with Downs Syndrome. She just had her third baby and somehow balances it all.  Another (whom we call "El Presidente") is the mom of teenagers and she fills us full of wild laughter from this stage of motherhood. She teaches us everything she learns from the high school which is both frightening and fascinating at the same time.  The third, oozes creative genius as a hair stylist so she keeps us looking good and full of excitement as a law enforcement spouse. Her husband just joined the Air Force Reserves and she also has two young children, so never a dull moment there. 

I love these women and they've been my lifeline through the years more than they'll ever know.  So in March when we met, I was filling them in about my breakdown in the hospital parking lot, right before my surgery (which sounded oh-so funny in the playback)... when Mrs. Law Enforcement stopped me and said, "J - you have danced around the story of Colton for years.  If you feel comfortable sharing it with us... what exactly happened?"

So I told them.

All of it.

Even the shameful parts, like not knowing I was in labor and having a baby in the middle of the night at home in the bathroom.  More specifically, in the toilet... which has literally taken me 10+ years to say out loud. I've honestly had to work up a lot of bravery for that detail and I don't think I've ever been so vulnerable in a conversation in my life.  But I'm glad someone finally asked, and I'm especially glad it was my friends. By the end of it, we were all crying in our sushi and these women loved me even more through it.

I also told them all about Foster Care, which I still hadn't heard back from despite the February 15th licensing commitment.  They shared in my frustration and kept me focused and moving forward with their support. Once again, it was a much-needed dinner.

By May, we still didn't have any movement with foster care so another old friend from college decided that she was going to become my "Baby Manger".  Licensing still hadn't come through and despite multiple attempts to reach out via email and phone... this friend (unbeknownst to me) decided to start a private Facebook group on my behalf.  Her idea was that adoption and foster care sometimes require a network of friends keeping their eyes and ears out. I'm a private person by nature so this was really hard for me (funny, I know since I have this blog!) but I said okay to the FB group.  What the heck - it couldn't hurt, right?!

In June, I still hadn't heard anything from foster care despite upwards to 15 attempts to get in contact and find out where we were.  February 15th came and went. As did March, April, May and the first part of June.  Through the five months, I had left voicemails and email with no result.  Nothing.  Not even a return phone call or email saying, "thanks - got it.  Be patient.".  Nothing.  So on Friday, June 8th I left a message that went something like this...

"Amanda - this is [Mrs] Thompson. Again. I've left you about 15 emails and voicemail messages since we didn't hear back from you in mid February.  As you may recall, we met on February 6th when you came to our home for the final home inspection . It's now June 6th and although we've been really understanding of high caseloads and busy schedules... at this point it's been a two year process for us and we haven't even received any reply communication from your office. That leaves us with two impressions:  1)  We didn't qualify.  If that's the case, we understand and thank you for your time.  ... or.... 2) there really isn't the urgency or need for foster care parents, despite what we heard in training and from DCFS.  Regardless, if we don't hear back from you by next Friday, June 15th, we'd like to withdraw our volunteer application to become foster care parents and we'll go in a different direction.  Thank you." 

I'd like to feel bad for that stern message because if anyone understands bureaucracy and red tape - it's me.  I live with it every day in my line of work with the federal and state governments.  But at this point, not even a return phone call or email was inexcusable and I was incredibly frustrated.  But wouldn't you know - in my inbox the next Monday morning, I had a copy of our foster care license (backdated to May) with a message saying that we were now being referred to the third state agency that oversees foster care placement in my state. (Oy vey! If this is hard on foster care parents - imagine what the poor kids have to go through!). 

About that same time I receive a call from Mrs. Law Enforcement saying that she wanted to talk. Expecting it to be another sushi date with the ladies, I was very excited. 

But when I showed up, it was just the two of us.  And she had something she really wanted to talk to me about...

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Hope Rekindled (Verse 999)

hope
hōp/
noun
  1. 1.
    a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.


  2. 2.
    a feeling of trust.
verb
  1. 1.
    want something to happen or be the case.




Wow.  I've left this space alone for the last year because I really didn't have anything to say.  There was one post a little over a year ago when I went through my radical hysterectomy (compliments of uterine cancer). I shared that pivotal experience just to get it out and in written form.  Then there was a follow-up post 6 months later - last February 2018 - to basically say, "no worries - I'm spinning a little... but I'm okay".  

And that was supposed to be it.   

I recovered.  I was - I am - okay!  But when I dig deeper into this space, I marvel in the story that has unraveled over the last 12 years. It reminds me of an experience I had as a child...

As a big family, we didn't take many family vacations but when we did, we usually went camping. I'm a morning person like my dad, so I vividly remember cold mountain mornings by his side.  We'd get up at dawn and the air would always be frigid.  He's wrap me in a blanket, tuck me into chair that sat around the ring of the fire pit, and then he'd to go work on the dead, lifeless campfire.  

What was raging the night before with dry timber and dripping marshmallow...was now a cold, darkened pit of blackened sticks and white ash. By all appearance, it was dead.

Only it wasn't.

My dad would stoop down and start blowing. He'd gently blow. And blow. And blow. For what felt like was forever to a little girl - he'd just blow and blow. With his face down by the fire he'd persistently blow... and eventually those dark coals in the middle of that white ash... would have tiny specks that would strangely turn pink.  And with more gentle blowing, those little specks of pink... would turn red.  Then finally, a tiny column of smoke would emerge.  Then... he'd lift up his hand and he'd feed it with a small piece of dry grass... and a tiny flame would eventually spark.  

Which was... Just. Enough.  

By the time everyone else wandered out of bed, my dad and I would be enjoying another warm burning fire. My brothers and sisters probably never gave it a thought, but I never took for granted how much time, energy and incredible patience that it took to get that tiny spark, from something that was virtually cold and dead.

Right now, I can relate to that. 

I started a fire.  The hope burned big and bright for a really long time.... but eventually, nighttime came and hope dwindled.  It got cold and quiet.  Pretty soon... only lifeless ash and darkened dreams remained.  And when I thought there was nothing left, along came an unexpected gentle breeze that started stirring up the coals. 

Today, I just want to pause in the possibility of that hope rekindled.  

In my last post, I told you about starting the process of foster care. I say "process" because to date, it has been a long, hard and frustrating process. More than I ever anticipated. But that's a story for another day.  This post is going to speak about another spark - one called Surrogacy.  

(Bear with me.  This could get long, so you're getting it in installments.)

Hope Rekindled, Verse #999

In November 2017 I left for Houston, Texas as soon as I could get doctor's release post-surgery.  As some of you may know, I'm in the field of disaster management, so it was a deployment long overdue. I stayed in Texas for almost three months helping my organization transition from Hurricane Harvey response to recovery.  In December, I came home for the holidays and saw something in the mail that I honestly thought I was prepared for.

Only I wasn't. Not by a long shot. 


From our IVF clinic, I received the annul embryo storage bill. Gah!  This year, it felt different .  Payment information was in one sentence at the top but the rest of the document outlined the other three options we had if we didn't want to pay for a fifth year of storage...  


1. Discard
2. Release to Research/Lab Training/Quality Control
3. Donate Embryos for Use by Another Couple

It was a no-brainier.  Or was it?  I discussed the options with Mr. Thompson as he drove me to the airport for my return flight to Houston.  He patiently listened, and then he laid it all on the line. "Honey" he said, "there is only one option, and you know it.  We have to donate those embryos to another couple. We have put SO much money into this through the years and we can't do it any more.  There is nothing left.  Nothing. Surrogacy is NOT an option. It's at least $75,000... and we don't have that. So you have to let it go. Do not pay that bill.  I repeat... Do. Not. Pay. That. Bill." 

And with that, he dropped me off at the airport and I got on a plane back to Houston where I could go back to the thing I am really good at - my profession. Only.... I bawled the entire way there.  Playing on my headphones was Never Enough by Loren Allred (The Greatest Showman) and is struck a very tender cord.  So, I did what every sane woman would do and replayed it a million times, crying the entire way. 



I felt that song, like I've never felt a song before in my life.  I felt it in my bones.  In Houston - I was at the top, directing a major operation which was finally starting to go well. At home... it wasn't enough. 

So I did what every bad wife does... I didn't listen to my husband.  I paid the bill with my own money and punted the ball downrange.  I couldn't handle the decision in the middle of what I was desperately trying to hold together.  So I didn't.  Then after that decision, I did what every horrible wife does... and I made a post on Facebook (blocking my husband of course), asking my friend's advice on my new moral dilemma.



The moral dilemma of what to do with unused embryos was something I NEVER imagined as part of our IVF journey - never even considered it.  So this post was part Public Service Announcement for those considering infertility treatment.... and part appeal for advice from my very sympathetic, smart and supportive network. 

I bamboozled my husband... listened to all the good advice from my friends... and then closed the door thinking I would worry about the details when the new bill came in December 2019. And that was the plan. 

Or so I thought. 

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Learning To Swing From The Chandelier

Confession:  through the peaks and valleys of our journey these last eleven years, I've struggled with this blog space.  It started as a cathartic experience ten years ago as I started walking down the path of recovery after our much-desired baby boy came way too soon.  I kept writing as a journal of sorts, as we soldiered on amid all the twists and turns, highs and lows, and peaks and valleys of ongoing infertility.  I tasted a miracle once with Colton, even if it was for a very short moment... so surely that would happen again. Right?  Assisted Reproductive Technology did everything that it could to try and help our process.  First, Clomid and too many pills and injections to count.  Second, Intrauterine Inseminations (IUI) - again too many too count.  Then, 1... 2... 3... long and expensive cycles of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), always followed by frozen embryo transfers (FET) because if there was one thing my body did well, it was produce a lot of beautiful eggs.

Unfortunately, they just never stuck where they were supposed to.

And when they did, my body couldn't do it's part.  Even at 24-weeks.

But then came cancer.  And it's timing was horrible as we were in the final stages of our last (and very hopeful) frozen embryo transfer.  To give us the best chance, we had (another) Hysteroscopy procedure done that Christmas to scrape away the slough from my uterus and prepare it for what we hoped would be a really good sticking ground.  I was extremely hopeful that there would be an October baby at long-last!  Unfortunately, the cells that grew back in it's place were not the things that reproductive endocrinologists handle.  Only oncologists touch that.

So another twist. Another turn. More peaks and a lot more valleys.  My feet continued stepping forward one direction, then another...  and although it killed me inside, I tried to put a smile on my face and one foot in front of the other.  I tried not to let it kill my spirit and make me lose my faith in God. After 3 1/2 years of walking that path, the oncologist finally called "Uncle" and I had a radical hysterectomy that took... everything.  And then a little more.

Almost six months post-surgery, I now find that I'm still on a path - but I've stopped and I'm turning around and around in circles.  Somewhere along the way, I apparently lost my compass so I'm looking around wondering "where am I?".  I've noticed the trees... I've noticed the sky...  I've noticed the road that goes every which direction... and I want to keep moving... but I'll be honest and say that I don't know in which direction.  I'm a little like Dorothy right now wondering which is the right way to Oz, and it's really disconcerting.

So I'm just kind of standing here.

Waiting.
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Two months ago, I received my annual bill from our fertility clinic asking me what to do about those eight grade-A embryos that have been sitting in a freezer for the last several years.  They are stalled and waiting too.  Do I ... donate?  ... discard? ... wait for a miracle to fall from the sky by way of a very cheap surrogate?

I didn't know what to do so I cried a lot and just paid the outrageous bill for another year. When in doubt (or denial) take the easiest way out, I guess.
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Two weeks ago, we completed our final home inspection for foster-care.  Will the phone ring?  And when it does, will it be for a minute?  For a week?  For a lifetime?

I don't know.
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So here I stand.  But while I stand, I've decided to at least paint a pretty little picture.  I had a recent annual physical with my primary care physician who has been with me for years.  Eleven years ago she referred me to a specialist when we weren't getting pregnant.  Ten years ago, she embraced me when we transferred back from the post infant-loss.  Through the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, I have faithfully gone back to her every November for my annual physical and warm embrace.  A few months ago, I carried a piece of paper for her to fill out verifying that I'm in good health to be a foster parent.  And with that she handed me a box of tissue and said something really powerful.  I still cry just thinking about it...

"J - I want you to go home from this appointment and open the door to your sad room.  You know, that sad room in your house that has sat empty and dark for the last eleven years because it was supposed to be something else - a nursery.  I want you go in, open the curtains and finally let the sunshine in.  Paint it. Decorate it.  Hang a chandelier.  Take everything that has been quietly tucked away in your hope chest over the years and turn that space into something truly magnificent and beautiful.  Turn it into a space where dreams can finally flourish.  Create a nursery - an amazing space - where the neediest of children can feel absolutely cherished and loved.  And then wait for the phone to ring because I am confident that it will. Years ago that happened for me with a call that came in the middle of the night.  I was unprepared, but you shouldn't be.  So I'm giving you doctor's orders to un-pack the quiet corners of your heart and create something magnificent.  And when it's done - send me a picture!"

And like that... something that has been sad and painful... turned into joy and fun.

So although I am standing here, looking about and feeling a little lost at this juncture of my journey, I have a really nice chandelier hanging above me, in a space that is no longer quite so sad and dusty.


Perhaps, I'm still moving after all.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

May I Please Have An Order of Heartbreak, with a Side of PTSD?

Where do I begin? I don't even know where... or with what words.

I guess I'll start with the fact that I'm "okay". Whatever "okay" means. I'm home from the hospital and I've weaned myself off pain meds. Every day I feel a little stronger physically, although I know it's going to be a long road ahead. I actually laughed when they told me 8-weeks ... but I'll probably be lucky to regain my strength in 8-weeks. Surgery was much more painful than I expected, but I'm working on that.

Emotionally and spiritually, it's a different story.

Something happened last Wednesday that I still can't wrap my head around or explain. I was incredibly calm during the 45 minute drive to the hospital. I woke up that morning calm. I had work to do so I distracted myself at the computer with work until 15 minutes before I was supposed to leave. I rushed in the shower. I rushed packing my bag. I got in the car calm. Autopilot worked...

Until we pulled into the hospital parking lot.

Mr. Thompson had spent the night before on the couch. He was very detached watching TV all night and slept in through my relaxed morning rush. He jumped in the car when he was supposed to and we drove to the hospital in quiet silence listening to the radio. Nothing was really wrong ... yet nothing was really right. He was on autopilot too, I guess.

Until we pulled into the hospital parking lot.

We couldn't find a parking space. That's how it all started. And like dried up neglected timber, one spark was all it took. He lost it. I lost it back. And there we stood actually screaming at each other at the top of our lungs in the far corner of the hospital parking lot. Over a parking space.

Yeah, not our best moment. Not by a long shot.

I told him to leave and walked inside by myself. I diverted to the main bathroom and muffled my cries in the handicapped stall. On my knees, with hands covering my mouth, I started to break. In a bathroom. Out of control...yet strangely still in control. When I pulled it together, I wiped my eyes and walked out... down the hall to the registration area... I checked in... and started massaging my chest. Those pains from the previous post were back. So I sat there, rubbing my chest and glaring at my husband who sat on the other side of the waiting room. In my head, I said I was going to divorce him and I was 100% serious. How dare he be so insensitive! How dare he yell and act so irrational! How dare he scream and curse on my stressful day, without abandon or control! (Never mind that I was doing the same thing).

They called my name.

I finished registration.

They handed me a restaurant-type waiting device. I text my sister and told her to call my husband in 30 minutes and offer to switch him spots, which I knew he'd gladly accept since he didn't even want to be there.

The buzzer went off. I got up and walked in the back to the clinical pre-op area. Mr. Thompson reluctantly trailed in silence.

The first nurse weighed me and took my vitals. She asked me basic questions. "Any chest pain?"... "A little, but I think it's anxiety." was my reply.  Big mistake. She looked at me weird so I amended, "I'm sure it's just anxiety. I'm really nervous. No chest issues."  I figured she didn't need to know that I had just collapsed to my knees in a bathroom stall.

They took me to a pre-op patient room to start the process. Mr Thompson stood in the hallway refusing to come in - refusing to leave. I wanted to hate him. A phlebotomist came in and took blood. A newly assigned nurse introduced herself, took more vitals and asked me about the anxiety. I clarified, kept control and continued straight ahead.  I changed into a hospital gown and Mr. Thompson reluctantly decided to come in from the hallway to sit while we waited. They inserted my IV pic line and I welcomed the pain because it strangely brought a little relief. Finally, I had something to manifest externally how I was feeling internally. I welcomed the pain of the IV as it sat on a nerve in my forearm.

I sat. I cringed. I waited. I thought. I remembered.

Oh boy, did I remember!

The nurse came back. Made them change the pic line to another spot. Asked me yet again about the anxiety... and with tears beginning to pour out my eyes, I explained that I hadn't been back to that hospital since the night I lost my son 9 years ago. How do you explain that you once had a baby in a bathroom and then had to go through the very painful process of loss, which happened to occur just down the hallway from where I was currently sitting? For as long as I'll live - the trauma of that experience will never go away and this exceptional hospital just served as the unfortunate (and very big) trigger. 

The second I verbalized that, Mr. Thompson reached over and grabbed my hand like a man drowning. It finally made sense. Shame on me for not even thinking about the hospital when we scheduled the procedure - I had different hospital options, I just wanted the best. But the best unexpectedly came with a price I hadn't even considered. Emotions totally out of the blue, but with a depth I'll never be able to explain or understand, surfaced. They quickly bubbled to the top, from the very moment we once again pulled in the parking lot, in a really irrational way.

And that's when the crack in the dam started to became an uncontrollable break.

The nurse sympathetically said she was sorry for our loss and then brought out the paperwork. Quiet drops continued to leak out of my eyes and my chin began to quiver as she discussed it all in very scientific terms. "A radical hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy".  The removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, the upper portion of the vagina, some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.

Tears poured down my face and with a shaking hand, I signed. Still maintaining control - yet totally out of control. I didn't have enough fingers and toes to keep the leaks in the dam plugged, but by goodness I tried!

I looked up at Mr. Thompson and saw a tear drop out of his pained red eyes. Red? Was he crying in the hallway? Another hole I couldn't quite plug...

Next paper. And with a matter of fact voice, she stated "this is the consent you sign, which states that you understand that from this point forward you will not be able to bear any children".

Ummm... what?! I wasn't prepared for that. I mean, I was inside... but not through a stark, cold, legal declaration. 

Woosh! Dam broke - get out of the way.

A sob escaped. Then two. Quivering became an uncontrollable body shake. Then a barrage. Bawling, howling, shaking, take-everyone-by-surprise noises started coming out of my body, for which I had absolutely no control over from that point forward. The water burst and there was no stopping it. It took me by surprise - It took everyone by surprise, but I honestly couldn't have held the tsunami of grief back if I tried. It was the moment when a broken heart shattered into a million, tiny, little pieces.

I think Mr. Thompson said something like, "Please give us a minute. We've been at this for 11 years so it's a bit rough." All I know is that the nurse left, the door quietly closed and I cried like I have never cried in this life. Broken heart doesn't even begin to define it. I don't know what does ... but it was a physical, emotional and spiritual pain like I've never experienced before and never want to experience again. Through even the worst of it, I've never felt that.... broken.

So I cried for all I was worth in my husband's arms, while he soothed and silently cried in mine.

Now, I realize that the insensitive screaming match in the parking lot that I thought I would never forgive him for, was just a sign that I wasn't alone and he was feeling it too. My dear husband felt the same sadness and pain. He followed the ambulance to that hospital when our world ended.  He parked in that same parking lot. He sat in the waiting room knowing his child had died and thinking his wife was going too as well. He bargained with God inside that hospital and there he was ... doing it again. I didn't know it or understand it, but now I know it's why he slept on the couch the night before, why he was so silent on the drive in, and why he totally lost it in the parking lot over a parking space.

As I bawled and emptied my reservoir, he eventually got down at my eye level and told me I didn't have to do it. We could just walk out of the hospital and go home. No surgery. But then he also told me about his fears. His fears about cancer, that far surpassed infertility or our failure to create a family outside of the two of us.

So he said a prayer out loud for both of us, and with a trembling hand I signed that horrible paper.

After that, I laid my head back on the bed and just closed my eyes. Something died. A flame. A light. A dream. A hope. It just broke and died.

He went and got the nurse and things were very, very gentle after that. They wheeled me up 3 floors, we kissed goodbye and they wheeled me to the operating room. It wasn't ready so the CNA parked me in the hallway outside the doors in a little alcove.

Tears kept silently leaking out.

Someone eventually walked by me (a doctor, I think). She walked by, smiled, passed... took three steps back... and with the kindest, bluest eyes - asked me how I was and if I was getting everything I needed.  I had just been talking to my grandma in my heart and when I looked at those beautiful, kind eyes I knew my grandma - my messenger from above - probably stopped her. Sounds dumb ... but that stranger, paused, tenderly pulled the blanket up around me like my grandmother would, smiled, patted my face and then as quick as she came, she continued on her merry way whistling down the hallway. I smiled. It was a mere moment - but it was a moment of a stranger's kindness that was so big and needed. It was a rare little burst of sunshine, and I knew she was sent by an angel that I have always called my sunshine. When skies are grey.

Eventually the anesthesiologist came and with a trembling smile, I asked him to give me an extra dose and put me out good. He promised he would and I felt a peace that I was going to be okay.

I waited a little while longer.

And then my doctor strolled up. With a smile. She walked up, looked at me and said, "Hey you. I'm not going to ask how you're doing because I can see it in your face. You want me to talk you out of this, don't you?".

I said, "yes".

She reached down, wipe another tear away from my eye with the edge of the blanket and said, "yesterday during the pre-op appointment (in her office), you wanted me to talk you out of it then too, didn't you?"

"Yup".

She wiped another rolling tear and told me that she purposefully didn't see me for the pre-op  appointment and made her nurse practitioner do it... because she was a coward. I smiled. The last thing this intelligent woman is, is a coward.

Then she told me why. With kindness and absolute truth - she level set with me like never before. She told me we were in a deep danger zone. She told me that in a lot of years of practice, I've been the patient that she's mulled over, worried about, and tried her hardest for. She's a mom - she gets it. She's talked to Dr H - she knows how hard we've tried. She knew what was at stake. She's read medical journal after medical journal.  She's scoured the research.  She's pushed medical limits on my case - dangerous limits - for three years to look under every rock, nook and cranny,  She admitted that she's waited longer than she should have to help me with my goals. Three years longer than most oncologists ever would have. (Which was why Dr H, my reproductive endocrinologist sent me to her in the first place. If I had a chance - any chance - he knew it was with her).  She was kind, but she was very, very honest.

She ended with, "J - you can put this off longer if you want... but as a doctor, I cannot in good conscious support it.  We gave it a good college try you and I, but at this point, it's beyond what was reasonable or medically advisable."

So the dye was cast and with that, the door calmly closed.  Fear and turmoil, were somewhat replaced by peace and trust.

A pathologist was in the operating room looking at everything under a microscope and I gave permission to go as far as she needed to go. And in 3 1/2 hours, they went further than they originally thought they would have to based upon what that microscope found.

I came out our recovery like a vengeance.  At first it was peaceful.  I was leading the best disaster relief operation of my life!  I had it all under control like a superhero. Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Jose... the western wildfires... I was at work in a command center and whipping them all into shape. However, as I was directing everyone around a large map, there began an insistent voice (the nurse) who kept calling my name and interrupting my work (she was trying to get me to wake up). Oh boy was I was mad! I actually came out of anesthesia reprimanding the nurse for interrupting an important operation.  Ha! (Guess we dream what we think about, although my self confidence in that incident management situation still astounds me. Apparently, I'm very competent in my sleep! Ha. Hope I have a fraction of it in real like.)

And then I woke up... first, dazed and confused... and then like a bucket of cold water to my face, shocked reality. I started hyperventilating and lost it.  Again. The heart squeeze was back and I thought I was going to have another heart attack. Anxiety.  I've only had two anxiety attacks in my entire lifetime - one going into surgery and one coming out. Not fun, either one. Until the day I die, I'll never judge someone ever again when they say that they're having an issue with anxiety or a panic attack. I'll only have sympathy and love.

They gave me something to calm me down and retrieved Mr. Thompson in the hopes that he could calm me down.  He got a special pass into the Recovery area where I made him earn it. He of course calmed me down in the way that only he can, and there we sat in Post-Op Recovery for another 3 1/2 hours while they worked on physical and emotional pain management.

From the Recovery Room they wheeled me to the 11th floor and there waiting was the best sight of my life!  My three sisters. True to my text, my little sister called Mr. Thompson and just knew something wasn't right. She was his first desperate 2am phone call 9 years ago (after 911) and she did now, what she did then - which was rally the troops. My three sisters had all been waiting for 7 hours in the waiting room and oh boy, did they start to put me back together quickly.  They took over (from a grateful Mr. Thompson) and I can honestly say, from that point forward The Three Sisters, just like those immovable Oregon mountains stood talk and strong as they mothered me, cared for me, rallied me, bound me up and buoyed me from/for the storm. Because of them, I can honestly say that I haven't looked back.

Yet.

There will come a moment in the near future when I know I'll need to redefine the journey forward, and continue the hard discovery of what I want next. That will come in time (and Xanaex) but for now, The Three Sisters have been the very best medicine for my sad heart. They stayed with me in the hospital and for a week they've been with Mr. Thompson by my side.

I've learned so much in this process, but perhaps the very biggest lesson is that when you go through the hard things in life, you need an amazing support system. Luckily, I have one and it's one I'll never take for granted.

I was discharged two days later and after arriving home, the detailed pathology report came in. Unfortunately, the cancer spread.  Consequently, I'll have to go back in for a little more surgery to take another part, which we'll discuss in my appointment in a few weeks. Prognosis is now excellent ... but thank goodness people helped me power through the heartbreak instead of allowing me to walk out of that hospital like I so desperately wanted to. 

Dr. Z was right - there was a danger I didn't understand until that moment of raw honesty outside the operating room, which I appreciate being on the other side of now.

However, next time you can bet that I'll schedule the procedure at another hospital. Infertility's heartbreak will hopefully be a little more passable with time, but I've learned that infant loss's side order of PTSD should be avoided at all costs!