Sunday, July 24, 2016

Our Own Personal Gethsemane

Every three months I have a biopsy to see if the cancer cells are growing... shrinking... have moved beyond the uterus... or have completely vacated it.  

I always hope for the later. 

But we've been at this for 2 1/2 years now...with little progress of shrinking or vacating... so I started the day in preparation for this biopsy, a little emotional.  For me, cancer diagnosis and treatment has been 2 1/2 years of a personal Gethsemane.  Every day has been a challenge as I take my daily dose and try to maintain hope and heart towards my desire for motherhood.  Some days I've handled it with grace.  Often times, I fear I have not.

I started the day playing over the conversation I would have with Dr. Z.  When is enough... enough? At what point do we move on to the next step - total hysterectomy?  Have we done all that we could do?

It was an interesting dialog that I had with myself in the bathroom mirror.  There may have been a few tears shed as the quiet corners of my mind told my heart the answers I have generally feared since I heard that unexpected word, "cancer".

I never feared death.  Not once.  I only feared it taking my chance of motherhood away. 

So after a morning of quiet contemplation regarding our reality... which has really been many mornings regarding reality, I was calm and ready when I had the actually conversation with the doctor.  She greeted us in her typical warm and friendly way.  She always shakes my hand with an extra pat and looks me in the eye as she asks for the truth of how I'm really feeling.  I'm blessed with a doctor like that - one who has impeccable kindness and good bedside manner.  She is everything an oncologist should be. 

As she reviewed my chart, she hit the high points out-loud.  Diagnosed in February 2014 during what was to be of a frozen embryo transfer.  9+ years of infertility in which multiple rounds of IVF and FET have been unsuccessfully pursued.  Patient is currently 41 years old. Patient has 8 embryos still frozen, awaiting possible transfer.  Since February 2014, lab results, every three months, historically show little-to-no cell shrinkage from treatment, yet at the same time - no growth... yada, yada, yada.      
Which is when I quietly interrupted to ask, "Dr. Z - how long do we do this?”

At that, she looked up, kindly tilted her head to one side and said, "JaLae... I've been waiting for that question."

"My job has been to give you as much hope as possible, dealing with the realities before us. In truth, it hasn't gotten better.  Yet at the same time, it hasn't gotten worse.  I will tell you that in most patients like you, if we see success, it is in the first year. I haven't been able to find a case in any medical research or journals that saw success extending beyond two years...."

I quiet stated, "But we've been at this for 2 1/2.  Do you think it's time to move on?"

"If we don't see what we need to see from these lab results - then yes.  I think it's time to move on with other, more aggressive, treatment options." was her reply.

And so it is.

I wait.

I wonder.

And I prepare my heart for what the quiet corners of my mind told it yesterday morning, as I looked myself in the mirror.

Gethsemane is where Jesus suffered.  He did it for me - He did it for you.  But in suffering for us, He still left us a little portion.  For me, the process of losing this particular dream, just happens to be mine.

(Special note: this is not the place to ask if I've thought about adoption or foster care...)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Patience - The Virtue.

Once upon a time, I thought a two-week wait after an embryo transfer was the longest wait of my life.

I was wrong.

The longest wait is actually when you have been fighting cancer for two (very looong!) years and you have the hard conversation with the oncologist about what's next.

Then you have to wait for the biopsy results to determine if you get to walk through Door #1 ... or Door #2.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Forward Without Fear

Nine years.

I've been unsuccessfully trying to have a baby for Nine. Whole. Years.

I've been trying to wrap my head around that statement for a few weeks now. I've thought about all the friends that I've met in the trenches over the years ... and how they have all gone on to successfully have at least one child in one way, shape or form.

Except me.

It feels like I'm the last one standing.

But not for lack trying.

I tried to count how many IVFs, FETs and procedures that I've endured over the last nine years in the name of infertility. I honestly couldn't recall. The number is amazingly HIGH.

I tried to think about all the money we've spent trying to have a family of our own. I lost track at $50,000. (Funny how we thought the medical route would be cheaper than adoption...)

Nine years of insanity over a dream. And what remains? Two years of cancer.


Whenever I try to bring my little sister into my pity party she looks at me squarely in the eyes and says "Get up!". It's her way of reminding me that I can do really hard things, because our people do really hard things.

Our people, once upon a time, walked across the plains. With nothing but the clothes on their back and a few poor provisions in their hand-cart, they walked. And walked. And walked. From east coast to west coast. They couldn't even afford a horse. Yet after all that walking... they eventually made it and built beautiful lives in the western wilds with nothing but hard work and faith.

I have a great aunt, my grandmother's sister, who buried 9 babies. Nine. And she never did go on to have a child of her own. I have no idea how Aunt Lottie did it because I weep buckets over one tiny grave. But she did.

Another ancestor had to birth her baby on the kitchen table. By herself. Her husband was gone and she fell off the horse in the rain one night as she tried to go for the doctor when something was going terribly wrong with her labor. She was wet, and muddy, and after the hardest night of her life alone on that kitchen table... she then had to get up to bury her baby before her other small children woke up.

So for nine years, my sister has emphatically told me to "Get up!" because I can do this. My line of women are strong and I'm no exception.

It's the reminder I always need to move forward without fear.

I have no idea where this journey is going. Today, I'm just trying to get through my chemo meds One. Day. At. A. Time. It's really hard, but I still have a thread of hope. It's a really thin thread mind you... but there is a thread none the less.

As I was getting my hair cut the other day my friend looked down at me while she was washing my hair and asked if we would eventually do the frozen embryo transfer (FET) which was halted with cancer two years ago. I replied, "I don't honestly know."

"Why?" She asked.

"Because I'm 41."

"So what!", she said.

When I looked a little stunned by her abruptness, she went on to add, "Have you seen the news?! Women - and I mean a lot of women - very successfully have children later in life. If you want it - keep going for it."

And that, was that.

My beautician just told me to "Get up!".

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Big Picture

Sunday morning, I woke up early. I put the teapot on for my morning cup of tea, lit the fireplace and got comfortable in my oversized chair to watch dawn break.  As snow fell and daylight eventually emerged, I just sat there in peace.

It was the blissful time of day when I was so happy to be like my dad.  Early to bed, early to rise.

Eventually, I picked up my journal. That old leather bound friend that has been unintentionally put away, until I found it last week in a mover's box.  Opening its dusty pages, I flipped to the last entry and realized just how long it's been.  

June 19, 2014.

Had it really been that long? 

Apparently, so. 

This was surprising because I've faithfully kept a journal since I was 12 years old.  I've documented every boyfriend, breakup, fight with my mother, growing pain, professional success, personal loss and everything in-between on those pages. Volumes and volumes of my life's story.

Except, perhaps, the most important part.  The last 1 1/2 years.  The years that I've been challenged beyond what I ever thought possible, and unquestionably learned the most. 


So I opened my blog hoping that there was something three I could convert over.  Nope.  Only 8 posts in 2015 as opposed to 196 in 2010.

So I grabbed a pen, put on some light music and tried to catch up.  It was an impossible task, but after 2 1/2 hours I had made a start. 

I laughed, I cried, and I even muffled a few sobs writing about the loss of my beloved grandmother last July.  Watching her die changed my life. Forever.

And in the end....

I felt relief. I felt peace. I felt like I was back home.  Right where I belong because journaling to me is a form of meditation, reflection and release.  It's how I somehow make the puzzle pieces of my life fit together into something that resembles a larger picture.

So I'm back.

Thanks for hanging in there with me because I can't tell you how much your kind words of encouragement and support has meant throughout this entire process.  It's a benefit that I honestly never expected when I started The Daily Dose all those years ago.

But it's one I've grown to love.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Mother's Heart

Tonight's Downton Abbey episode made me cry like a baby.

You know the part...

When Anna was talking to Mary and she said with a deep devastation, "Some people can't have babies, and I am one of them."

I understand her pain.

The next scene finds Anna crying in the servant's quarters. Alone. In the closet.

And unfortunately, I understand that too. 

Later in the episode Mary takes Anna to a specialist. The specialist explains to Anna that she has lost her previous baby due to "cervical incompetence".

And that just seems so cruel. Because I could be Anna.