Finding Normalcy

I’ve spent a lot of time researching PCOS over the course of the last week, which has been an incredible eye opener.  I thought I had done a fair amount of research when I first started my IVF journey, but it turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg.

PCOS affects each woman differently.  Here I had been so convinced that while I had PCOS, my PCOS wasn’t “that bad”.  That’s not necessarily true; how my PCOS manifests itself is completely different from the next person.  My symptoms aren’t as visible as many other sufferers.  But they are most definitely there.

My depression, that seems to appear out of the blue.  My anxiety, that started rearing its ugly head in my late 20s.  The insomnia that comes in fits and starts.  The incredible fatigue that plagues me so frequently.  And my weekly headaches.  Here, I had been so focused on the visible symptoms of PCOS such as acne and Hirsutism; the symptoms I didn’t have.  “Surely, my case can’t be that bad, because of X, Y, Z.”  False confidence is a sonofabitch.

I came across a website in which a woman claims to have treated her PCOS enough to fall pregnant naturally.  While my PCOS isn’t the primary cause of our fertility issues, I figured trying to treat my PCOS and reduce my symptoms definitely wouldn’t hurt.  After all, our doctor said it wouldn’t be impossible to get pregnant on our own.  Not probable, but not impossible.  Cue my best Lloyd Christmas impression….

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The more I’ve researched PCOS, the more enlightened I’ve become about the different  types of PCOS: Insulin resistant, immune related, environmental, post pill, or perhaps, even a combination of all four.  We know I’m insulin resistant, and one of the best ways to cure insulin resistance PCOS is to lose weight.  Well, I’ve lost about 25 pounds, and yet there’s been no real change in my symptoms.  I’m still regularly irregular.  I say that because I am fortunate in that I ovulate regularly, it’s just in an irregular time frame.  Women who ovulate normally typically ovulate every 21-35 days, whereas I ovulate every 36-42.  See?  Regularly irregular.  And yet, despite that, I consider myself fairly lucky.  There are some women who go MONTHS without ovulating.

Hindsight being 20/20, I’m not surprised that my menstrual cycle didn’t become more regular with weight loss.  I’ve always had longer cycles, regardless of whether or not I’ve been at the target weight for someone of my height.  So, there’s got to be something else that’s also affecting my cycle.

My next thought is that perhaps, my PCOS is the result of immune related or environmental issues.  As such, I have an appointment with an allergist today to get my first allergy test done in close to 30 years.  My mom has been pushing me to have an allergy test for quite some time, and now that I’ve hit my insurance deductible for the year, it seemed like a good time to do it.  YOU’RE WELCOME, MOM.

In all seriousness, my mom has been an advocate of allergy testing for years.  I was the child that was allergic to everything as a young kid.  I grew out of a lot of it as I got older, but I randomly break out in hives and rashes somewhat frequently, so it might finally be nice to see what causes these outbreaks.  It’s possible that an undiagnosed food allergy could be producing a hormonal imbalance, which could affect my cycle.

Finally,  I’ve joined a PCOS challenge.  It’s a 30-day challenge that teaches you how to treat PCOS with diet and lifestyle changes. It starts November 17th, and offers meal plans, recipes and shopping lists to help with the overall success of the challenge.  The best part is that the first 9 days are spent learning how to implement the changes.  The implementation of the diet doesn’t start until day 10, so I’ll still be able to get weird with some turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing on Thanksgiving.

I’m excited to implement these changes over the next few weeks to see if they make a difference. For some women, these subtle changes can result in immediate relief from their symptoms.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I end up falling in that group as well.

 

The Follow-Up

We had a follow-up appointment with our doctor yesterday to discuss what, if anything, they noticed that would have contributed to an unsuccessful cycle.  I’m putting it quite mildly when I say I didn’t want to go.

It’s hard to believe that our cycle ended a little over two weeks ago.  It seems like so much longer than that.  The bruises, both physical and emotional, have faded and we’ve been so busy with getting back into the regular swing of things, that our IVF attempt almost seems like a dream; the kind of dream, or in this case, nightmare, that immediately fades from your memory the minute you wake up.  I wasn’t looking to relive that nightmare.

I know this sounds a little cliché, but I’m so glad we went.  We now have some answers and can use them to determine our next move.

First, the good news.

I responded incredibly well to the stimulation and our doctor said that it was obvious based on our testing, that we were taking the medications as prescribed.  It seems like that should be a no-brainer, right?  Dr. Corfman said we would be shocked to know how many couples do not.  My endometrial lining was also right where it needed to be; ready for implantation.  My uterus was healthy, my fallopian tubes clear.  And my eggs were great.

Women are born with all of their eggs.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true.   And naturally, as we age, so do the eggs.  As the eggs age and are introduced to illness and toxins, they become abnormal.  For a woman my age, it’s expected that 40-60% of my eggs are now abnormal.  There are a lot of other factors that go into egg abnormalities, but it’s not uncommon that when couples suffer from infertility, it’s because of egg abnormalities.  That was not the case with us.

At our retrieval, they extracted 25 eggs.

20 were mature enough to be used for IVF.

19 were considered healthy enough to fertilize.

12 fertilized normally.

Those are incredibly good numbers.   This means my eggs are on the higher quality end of my age bracket.  I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

However, as Dr. Corfman stated, that means the sperm are the problem.  Yes, Lee’s sperm are a little lazy.  Or as Lee put it, the good ones are like gingers with blue eyes; incredibly rare.

This might sound odd, but to me, this is great news.  It’s so much harder to work with bad eggs than it is to work with a lower quality sperm sample.  And his motility hasn’t always been as bad as it is now, which tells me that if we make some changes, we can get back on track.  We can work to fix his sperm quality.

I’m not going to lie; he’s going to hate it.  No more processed foods, no soda.  Just whole, organic, hormone-free foods.  And I’ll be pestering him to hit the gym with me again.  It’s not going to be easy, but it to boils down to whether or not he’s willing to incorporate lifestyle changes to increase our chances of making our adorable, incredibly rare, blue-eyed ginger baby dreams a reality.  And while I know my husband might shed a single tear over saying good-bye to some of his favorite foods, I can guarantee that he wants this family as much as I do.  If there are things we can do to improve our chances, I know he’ll do whatever is in his power to help.

We’re still going to take the rest of the year to relax and enjoy ourselves, but there are plenty of positive lifestyle changes we can start working toward immediately.  Doing so will only make us more successful when and if we decide to start the process again.

Before I end this update, I want to personally thank Lee for allowing me to share our results from yesterday as well as our entire story.  It takes one hell of a strong man to not only feel comfortable with what I share, but to encourage me to do so.  You continue to amaze me every day.  ♥

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20 lbs. Down!

I’ve had this blog post ready to go for about a week now.  Naturally, I didn’t want to publish until the title became factual, but now I can unequivocally state, I have lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the year.

That might not seem like a huge feat, but when you’re insulin resistant, it can be so incredibly hard to lose weight.  Even with diet and exercise, it’s an uphill battle.  One “cheat” day can set me back a couple of pounds, which is incredibly unfortunate because sometimes all I want to do is get weird with some buffalo wings.  Not drinking has definitely helped with an increase in weight loss over the last three weeks, and I suppose the gym regularity hasn’t hurt either.

The bottom line is, I feel great.  And I’m back to my wedding weight!

If you need me tonight, I’ll most likely be celebrating my accomplishment with an ice-cold non-alcoholic beverage while relaxing in my wedding dress.  Because I can.

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