Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's a major award!

It's not really, I just felt like quoting A Christmas Story.  I am very touched that Anne over at The Second Bedroom nominated me for a Liebster Award. Originally, my final ICLW post was going to be about my trip to Belgium and Amsterdam, but I will save that for next week and instead focus on answering the Liebster nomination.  Stole these from Anne, so you know what the rules are:

Ahem.  To the facts:

1.) I have five nephews.  Five!  Three are from my older sister, and two are from my husband, Jeeves' older brother.  They are all so different.  My oldest nephew, Connor, from my sis, is just like me.  My second nephew from my sis, Cooper, has a very severe form of autism.  He doesn't speak.  It took me years to figure out how to be with him, and to accept the fact that he won't say my name.  I now recognize him for what he is - a sweet, observant little boy, who knows who I am and loves me.  And I love him.  
 
2.) The sickest I've ever been, I had pneumonia.  I was 30 years old, and I have no idea how I got it.  One night I got a fever and it didn't go away until I got antibiotics 6 days later.  I coughed so much that I tore the cartilage between my ribs (something I didn't even know was possible to do) and it took months to heal.
 
3.) I moved to NYC almost 4 years ago so I could live with my then-boyfriend, now-husband.  Before that I spent my entire life in the great state of New Jersey.  Like all Jerseyans, I had a car that I sold after I moved to the City.  It was a dark green Honda Accord, and at the time I sold it, it had just over 160,000 miles on it.  Nothing ever went wrong with the car.  It was the best.  I miss it.
 
4.) I'm addicted to seltzer.  I own a Sodastream, and it is magic.
 
5.) I used to be pretty shy and a bit timid and I struggled to feel confident when speaking in public.  Pretty funny for someone who became a lawyer.  In law school, I never spoke in class.  Fast forward 8 years.  Last year in library school I cracked a joke about how I was scared to do something and my professor said, "Megan, I didn't think anything scared you."  That's when I realized I must have changed a lot over the last decade.
 
6.) I love the horror genre.  And I love the adrenalin rush that comes after a scare (a fun scare, like at a haunted house, not a real or serious scare).  But I don't like watching horror movies by myself.  My husband says it's because I hide my eyes and need someone to narrate for me.  This may be true.  I also like horror novels, though, and no, I don't need anyone else to read ahead and tell me what happens.
 
7.) I have terrible posture.  I'm constantly trying to improve it. Unsuccessfully.
 
8.) I love all kinds of music, but when I'm walking around the City, I listen to hip hop, especially 90s hip hop like Black Star, The Roots, Wu Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, etc.  I'm trying to learn all the words to Lil Kim's Lighters Up, even though Kim's early 90s representation of Brooklyn no longer holds true.  It's still a good song.

9.) I love old movies.  Probably because of my parents, who were raised in the 1930s and 1940s.  Personal favorites are Hitchcock, especially North by Northwest, Notorious, Rear Window; Charade; Arsenic and Old Lace; A Touch of Evil; Swing Time; The Quiet Man; To Have and Have Not - the list goes on and on. 
 
10.) Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love the food, but I also like the opportunity to spend time with family and think about all the things I am grateful for.  The day after Thanksgiving, every year since I was in my early 20s, is Leftover Day, wherein I go visit my BFF Kate's family and we share and critique each other's leftovers.  I used to be responsible for cooking the entire Thanksgiving meal for my family, from the time I was 26 until I was 33.  After we got married, Jeeves and I started spending every other Thanksgiving with his family.  I thought that meant I would get a break from cooking, but I'm still responsible for the turkey because I'm the only one who cares about it being brined before roasting.  I'm kind of obsessed with brining turkeys.
 
11.) If I could change something about myself, it would be a) I would love exercise; and b) I'd be a morning person.  I guess I like yoga and pilates, but basically any exercise that makes me feel out of breath - blech.  I know it's good for me, so I do it, but that alleged "high" some people get from exercising?  That's never happened to me.  I just vacillate between uncomfortable and miserable.  As a result, I like the Jillian Michaels videos because each routine is only 22 minutes long, which is about all that I can stand.  Also, I hate waking up early - I'd rather stay up till 1 or 2 am, and get up in the late morning.  I wish I liked waking up early, all bright and cheery.
 
Anne's questions for me:

1. What do you turn to for comfort?
 
Usually other people - my husband, my best friends, my dad.  If they are all busy, then I turn to television or a good book.  When I'm not in treatment, a nice glass of red wine goes a long way towards comforting me.

2. Do you have any habits/mannerisms other people consider odd but you couldn't do without?
 
The only thing I can come up with is that I unconsciously cover my mouth with my hand when I'm reading something carefully.  I don't know why.  Someone at work pointed it out, and then I started to notice all these pics Jeeves took of me on vacation, reading guidebooks, with my hand over my mouth.  Weird.

3. What is your favorite thing to cook? Or, for non-cooks, to order in?
 
Oh my goodness.  Just one?  This question is practically impossible. I think I will go with a group - I love cooking soup.  I make my own stocks, and I feel like soup is a really easy thing to make well.  I make a really good minestrone, a good shrimp bisque, a great gumbo, a spicy red curry winter squash.  I also like making turkey chili a lot. It's my mom's recipe.  She was a great cook, but never used recipes, so I learned how to make it by just calling her up and asking what to do.  And desserts!  I am the baker in my family - my sister doesn't have the patience for it.  Probably my favorite thing to make in that area is pumpkin pie, though I also love making key lime pie, any kind of cookie, and fruit crisps.
   
4. It's your day off. No commitments yet. Shockingly, ALL your laundry is clean. What do you wear?
 
If I'm not going out, I will probably wear yoga pants and a t-shirt, and go barefoot.  If I am going out, probably jeans and a nice top and ballet flats.  I used to be a little fashionista, but when I moved to New York and started walking everywhere, I kind of became a comfort nut.  If I can't wear a pair of shoes for a 10 minute walk, then I usually won't buy them. That is such a far cry from where I was 10 years ago, when I don't think I owned a pair of flat shoes.

5. You can have one word or phrase stricken from the minds of humanity--they just forget it existed and you NEVER have to hear it again. What is it?
 
Whilst.  I hate it when Americans use the word "whilst" instead of "while."  Usually I see if it in writing, and it just sounds so damn British (with all due respect to any British readers) and pretentious.  We don't spell "color" as "colour" here, so what's with the whilst?  Just, no.

6. You're a billionaire, hooray! What charity do you make your pet cause?

So tough to just pick one.  My parents were both social workers and both worked for a non-profit that did food, rent, and utility assistance for the working poor in New Jersey.  I think I'd focus on something like that.  Either that, or cancer research.

7. Do you wear socks to bed?
 
Not usually.  I really love being barefoot.  That being said, I do live in the Northeast and it gets cold here in the winter.  So on a very cold night, I might wear a pair of fuzzy socks to bed.

8. I've got a gift card for you! You can't spend it on bills. Only frivolous things. Where do you go?
 
First, books.  I would buy some more books.  Second, I'd go out for a nice dinner.  Third, I'd probably buy myself some jewelry.  I'm an Etsy addict.

9. What one thing that you do on a regular basis do you wish you never had to do again?
 
Ugh, that's easy.  Morning monitoring.  Hate it.  Hate getting up so early, hate taking the subway uptown, hate sitting in a crowded waiting room with other sad sacks.  Hate when all the blood draws make me look like a junkie.  Hate the dildo cam.  The worst was having to go after my miscarriage to track my falling hCG levels - a room filled with hopeful people when you have lost your hope.  Miserable.  On the bright side, it's close to Bouchon Bakery, so I get to stop there for breakfast afterwards.

10. If you were an expert in one area, and people came from miles away just to ask your thoughts, what area would that be?

I'm not sure if this question is asking what the reality is or is aspirational.  If it's reality, then it would probably be New York's sanitation laws.  I have to know them for my job.  I get asked questions about recycling rules a lot.  I jokingly refer to myself as the Garbage Queen of New York.  If it's aspirational, then I'd like to be a dinosaur expert.  I've loved dinosaurs since I was little, and that was the first career I wanted when I was little - a paleontologist.  I still think dinosaurs are really cool and I wouldn't mind being an expert in that.

My nominees:

Sigh, there are really only 6.  I read A LOT of blogs.  But most of the blogs I read have already been nominated for this award.  So I have 6 here, two of which already got nominated recently, so whatever.


And now to my questions for my nominees!
  
1.) What is your guilty pleasure movie/music/book/TV show?
2.) The best vacation you ever went on?
3.) If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
4.) Time travel is a thing, but you can only go back and observe - you can't change anything.  What time period would you want to witness?
5.) What would you choose as your last meal?
6.) The best book you've read in the last 5 years?
7.) What do you love about where you live?
8.) What's your biggest pet peeve?
9.) What makes you laugh out loud?
10.) Who was your favorite teacher in high school and why?
11.) What was your bravest moment?

Oy, long post.  Thanks for hanging in there.

Friday, September 27, 2013

To speak or not to speak

"A tiny, urgent voice of reason told her to slow down and keep quiet.  That what she was about to do was probably a bad idea.  But since when had she ever listened to reason?Reason was for suckers and Presbyterians."
- Libba Bray, The Diviners

For the first year and change that we were trying to get pregnant, we didn't tell anyone.  Well, almost anyone.  I told Kate and Wendy and Dad.  Jeeves told no one.  We had watched people announce plans to start trying, and then felt the awkwardness as it then took them awhile, or as they ultimately struggled with infertility.  So we figured we wouldn't say anything.  When it became clear we needed help, I confided in G, because if anyone could understand my fears, it would be a fellow infertile who has been through the rigmarole far longer than I have.  She was a huge support for me.  

Last Thanksgiving, after we had gotten our diagnosis from Dr. M but were still digesting it, we spent some time with Jeeves's nephews.  His oldest nephew, J, and I had the following conversation.  For context, J was 7 years old at the time of this convo.

J: When are you and Chacha (that's the Hindi term for father's younger brother) going to have kids?
Me: Well, why would I want kids when I have you?
J: Maybe you want your own kids?
Me: Maybe I can just buy you off your parents.  How much do you think they'd want for you?
J: A lot.  Like, $500.
Me: That's a bargain.  I'm going to talk to your dad about it and then you'll have to come live with us.

J thought this was very funny and because he was 7 it was super easy to distract him from his original question.  But as I pointed out to Jeeves, J didn't come up with this on his own.  He probably heard his parents talking and wondering about it.  So despite our best intentions of keeping people from speculating, people were speculating anyway.

Not long before that happened, Phil had arranged for us to have lunch with another clerk that we had worked with, M.  M showed up at Phil's apartment and she. was. very. pregnant.  I had not known she was pregnant.  Phil knew, but hadn't told me because he thought it would be a fun surprise.  And then, then M started grilling me about when I was going to have kids.  I hemmed and hawed and was like, "Oh, heh heh, ya know, ummm, some day?"  I couldn't be mad at Phil for not telling me about M - he had no idea that Jeeves and I were having problems.  Because we didn't tell him.  Then M went off on a tangent about how women start worrying too early when it takes some time to get pregnant (even though she got pregnant right away) and the reproductive medical industry was a racket, and on and on, and I wanted to climb under the table to eat my lunch.  But I kept my mouth shut.  I just want to add that M is a lovely, caring, funny, smart person and I love her.  But hoo boy, on this day? She was a little tough to take.

We did an IUI and had a chemical pregnancy, but we still didn't tell anyone. We did the second IUI and it failed and we didn't tell anyone.  I just lurked on blogs and forums.  We started the third IUI and I told Jeeves, dude, you need to tell your mom what's going on.  Because if the third IUI was a bust, we were moving on to IVF and I felt strongly that his mom should know about IVF. He finally told her and she was very kind and supportive.  

Then we got pregnant and had the missed miscarriage, and suddenly I didn't care anymore who knew.  People would ask me what I had been up to or how I was and I would be like, "Oh, well, I had a miscarriage.  We had a really hard time getting pregnant.  So it's sucked."  I blogged about it, and some friends who still subscribe to my blog read about it there. Eventually I calmed down in my zeal for dropping the emotional bomb, I started to realize that hey, not everyone needs to be told this information in the middle of a nice dinner.  But that was that.  Infertility treatment and miscarriage have been the major events of my life this year and to hold it back seemed dishonest.  I love my friends, and I think I can trust them to be cool with this information.  And the idea that I was trying to spare myself from people saying dumb stuff like "just adopt" or "just relax" - well, people were saying the dumb stuff without even knowing we were struggling.  And for the record, none of my people have said anything dumb since they found out what's been going on.

I know there are a lot of other reasons to keep this stuff quiet.  I totally understand and respect why some men and women choose not to tell anyone, or only tell one or two people.  But for me, I just didn't feel the need to keep it quiet anymore.   And what's more, opening up about it has made me feel less alone.  I'm not ashamed about infertility and maybe being open and honest about it will help a friend or a friend of a friend some day, just the way G's honesty was a lifesaver for me.  I realize being "out and proud" about infertility isn't for everyone.  And it's not like I walk around wearing a t-shirt.  No one at my job knows.  And there are still some friends we haven't told because the timing wasn't right. But I'm glad I no longer feel like it's something I have to keep secret.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal."

I've come up with a list of things to do during my two week wait, goals if you will, to get me through the time.  It wasn't so hard waiting when we were just trying on our own, but since starting the IUIs, it's gotten tougher.  I can usually make it through the first week okay, but I start getting really impatient around the start of week 2, and then of course I either get depressed when my temperature starts dropping around 11dpiui, or I nearly jump out of my skin if it doesn't.  So this time I'm setting some goals.

1) Make Concord grape freezer jam

My CSA keeps giving me lots of delicious Concord grapes, but we keep not eating them.  They have seeds, and that makes eating them a little annoying.  I found a recipe for a freezer jam and I think I might do that so as not to waste them.  This activity has the benefit of being very time consuming as you have to remove all the damn skins from the grapes first.

2) Make something pumpkiny

I love pumpkins, and it's finally pumpkin season!  I haven't figured out what I'll make yet.  Muffins?  Bread?  I don't know.  Just not pie, as I will have to make a lot of pumpkin pies around Thanksgiving time.

3) Read two new books

I've done the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone reread and I think it's time I went back to my reading goal for the year.  To that end, I got Antigoddess by Kendare Blake and Looking for Alaska by John Green out from the library.  I know, I know - for someone who talks about John Green all the time, how have I not read Looking for Alaska?  It's a sin.  One I plan to rectify in the next two weeks.  The former book is by Kendare Blake who wrote Anna Dressed in Blood (and its sequel, Girl of Nightmares).  Most people I know don't care for horror, but if you do, Anna is pretty wonderful.  And it's not that scary.

4) Take Dad to chemo

Dad starts his new chemo protocol next week, so I will take him.  Rajeev has requested that I bring a cookie pie back from the suburbs.  I will definitely bring back some Taylor ham.

5) Buy new jeans

When I was a very thin teenager, my thighs did not rub together when I walked.  Now I'm older and my thighs produce plenty of friction as I walk around town.  As a result, my jeans tend to eventually develop holes in the inner thigh area.  Sigh.  I don't own many jeans that fit me anymore, and last week one of the few pairs that does fit me developed the aforementioned thigh hole.  God, that sounds so gross.  Sorry.  I need new jeans.  I hate shopping for jeans.

6) Work on Kate's baby shower

I realize working on a baby shower for a friend during the two week wait might seem a little masochistic.  But reading catering menus is kind of fun, and I think it's better to work on it now than if this cycle doesn't work.  Either way, this research needs to get done, so best to do it now as a way to take my mind off of things.

7) Make ice cream!

Kate got me a copy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and it has so many amazing flavors, I can't wait to make some.  Jeni breaks the ice creams into seasons, so I have been focusing on the Fall selections.  How about some maple ice cream with salty buttered nuts?  Buckeye State ice cream (honeyed peanut ice cream with dark chocolate freckles)?  Dark chocolate peppermint?  Bourbon ice cream with toasted buttered pecans?  I guess I can't really have the bourbon one, but whatever!  Ice cream makes me so happy.

I realize this list is really food heavy!  Oh well.  Cooking is one of the primary ways I "meditate" for lack of a better word.  When I am anxious, down, grumpy - cooking takes it all away and allows me to only focus on the task at hand.  Plus, in this scenario, it has the added benefit of providing yummy things for me to eat - either as a celebration after a successful two week wait, or as a way to drown my sorrows if this cycle doesn't work.  Any additional suggestions for how I can pass this two week wait are much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Old Man and the Me

Nurse Mary: Do you have any pain?
Dad: You mean other than this one here? [gestures to me]

Yes, I definitely get on the old man's nerves sometimes.  Tuesday was CAT scan results day.  I found out later that Dad was quite nervous, but he never told me that.  I was feeling pretty calm, but I was definitely afraid the results would be bad.

Before I go further, I'll say that the moral of this story is that if you or a loved one is over the age of 50 and has not had a colonoscopy, then they need to go get one.  Colonoscopies save lives. Fact.  And if my dad had gotten one when his doctor first started nagging him about it all those years ago, we probably wouldn't be in this situation.  I promise this is not a sad post, but if you're not up for reading about an old man with cancer and his bossy ginger daughter, I get that.  Here's a picture of some donuts I ate in Portland to reward you for reading this much, and I'll catch you on the flip side:


Short time line of my dad's illness - one day in May 2009, back when I was living with him because I was trying to save money, I found my dad in bed in intense pain with a distended belly that made him look 6 months pregnant.  A week before that, he had gone for his first colonoscopy, but the gastroenterologist couldn't get the scope past a certain point in his lower colon.  In retrospect, I strongly suspect that the doctor thought Dad had a tumor, but he probably didn't want to scare us.  Instead he referred Dad for a scan, and on the day he was supposed to get the scan, he woke up with the aforementioned pain and distension.  I took him to the emergency room where they took a scan which revealed that he had a large tumor obstructing his bowel.  Throughout the day we would slowly learn more, including that the tumor had spread to his lymph nodes, pelvis and liver.  Dad had emergency surgery to remove the obstruction from his colon.  I happen to think that we actually got lucky here.  If Dad's tumor had been caught a little earlier, they probably wouldn't have done surgery, they would have put him on chemo, and I think removing the largest tumor has given him a lot more time.

Since the surgery, Dad has been on four chemotherapy protocols.  That is a lot of protocols. He still has metastasis to his lymph nodes, liver, pelvis, and a few tiny ones on his lungs.  But most days he feels quite well, and people tell me all the time that they can't believe he has stage IV cancer.  

The long and the short of it is that I have spent a lot of time over the last four and a half years learning about colon cancer and its treatments.  I'm a big believer in being an informed patient.  Dad does not like to read anything about it.  So it's my job, and it's one I take very seriously.  I love Dad's onco team, but trust me - I check every medicine they put in him, and I come prepared with questions.  

The problem over the last year has been that one damn pelvic mass.  It's not on any organs so in theory it's not that dangerous, but it continues to grow and that is bad.  The most recent protocol, the Stivarga, was keeping the liver, lungs and lymph nodes in check, but that damn pelvic mass kept on growing.  So, today it was decided that Dad would switch protocols again, which means he's going back to regular infusions, not just oral medications.

Here is the kicker.  While we're sitting in the exam room, going over the results with Dr. T, it comes up that Dad has a growth on his chest that he neglected to tell me about.  He told Dr. T about it last visit, which I didn't go to because I was on vacation.  I was not happy.  Dr. T is pretty sure it's a cyst, but he's sending Dad for a mammogram (which he is being a big baby about) to make sure.  When we left, I pointed out to Dad that he never told me about the chest growth.  "I want to feel like I don't have to be with you at every appointment.  But when you withhold stuff from me, I feel like I can never miss one."  Dad admitted that he didn't want me to worry, so he didn't tell me.  And he claimed he'd do better about telling me stuff like this.  I never cry about my dad's cancer around him.  Frankly, I almost never cry about my dad's cancer period.  I'm not in denial about the seriousness of his illness.  I know my dad is going to die someday, and that it will probably be a lot sooner than everyone else's dads.  But I think I stuff down a lot of my stress and sadness about it because I feel I need to be steady for him.  So the fact that he withheld something serious regarding his health from me troubles me - it makes me feel like I am not doing a good enough job of being solid, steady, optimistic for him.  

It makes me sad that he didn't tell me he was so worried about the scan results.  He told my sister that he was worried.  My sister, who has never been to a single doctor's appointment with Dad, and who could never in a million years rattle off the names of his chemo protocols.  Jeeves thinks that Dad told her because she's less involved, less likely to think anything of Dad's worry.  Dad knows all about our infertility and the treatments, and he's constantly telling me to not stress or to no overextend myself because he thinks it's going to impact my treatment.  So maybe that was part of it.

I've thought a lot about the relationships we have with our parents as they get older.  I worry about treating my dad like a child and I try to treat him the way I would want to be treated if I were 78 and my annoying 35 year old kid were taking me to the doctor and force feeding me Ensure.  But it's hard.  As Dad would say, "Getting old is not for sissies."

I'm 2dpiui (that's two days post IUI to my non-IF readers).  Ovulation pain was pretty strong on Monday, and totally gone yesterday, so I feel good about our timing.  Obviously this Dad stuff took up all my brain space yesterday.  I'm trying to make a list of other things I can do as distraction during my two week wait.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reading is life

"Reading is one of the main things I do.  Reading is everything.  Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person.  Reading makes me smarter.  Reading gives me something to talk about later on.  Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself.  Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real.  Reading is grist.  Reading is bliss."
- Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck

First off, thanks for the lovely comments and well-wishes for my IUI.  You guys really make this craptastic scenario more bearable.  It went fine, but it was a little stressful in the morning due to super slow subways and a very crowded waiting room.  We'll see what happens. As for Dad's scan results, it was a mixed bag, like most things in Cancer World.  Long story short, they are changing his protocol, but I'm just really glad we still have a protocol we can switch to.

I swear I won't start every post with a book quote, but right now I keep finding ones I want to use that pertain to my posts.  So, I started off 2013 with only one "resolution" and it was really more of a goal than a resolution. I wanted to read at least 52 books - one book for every week of the year.  Last year I read around 48 or so, so I felt confident I could do it.  Right now, I am at 42 books for the year, and I'm pretty sure I can knock out another ten before January 1, 2014 rolls around.  I like to read all sorts of books.  Fiction, non-fiction, genre fiction, it doesn't matter to me.  If it tells an interesting story and has strong characterization, there's a good chance I will like it.

Last year, I discovered much to my surprise that I actually like high (or epic) fantasy as a genre.  I had sort of always assumed that people who read high fantasy dressed up as wizards, played Dungeons & Dragons, and lived in their mom's basement.  And if you do any of those things, I'm not judging, but it's just that I don't do any of those things and therefore thought I did not like high fantasy.  But then I took a genre fiction class and I learned that "high fantasy" encompasses some of my very favorite books/series, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and A Song of Ice and Fire (aka, Game of Thrones). So once I realized that, I stopped shying away from high fantasy, and read some really great stuff, like Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  I also read the first book in what is going to be a 6 or 7 book series called Throne of Glass (TOG) by Sarah J. Maas.

In TOG (side note - fans of fantasy love to abbreviate series names... See, e.g. HP, GoT, LOTR for all my above favorites), our heroine Celaena is serving a life sentence in a horrible salt mine. She's an assassin, but she was betrayed and caught and now she's probably going to die a slave in the salt mine.  Except that a year into her servitude, she's offered the opportunity to compete for her freedom.  The catch is that if she wins, she'll have to do the bidding of the a-hole despotic king who threw her in the salt mines in the first place. The first book is about the competition.  It's super fun, populated with interesting characters and strong world-building.  Even better, it has a heartfelt female friendship, which is sadly lacking in a lot of fantasy novels.

The sequel to TOG, called Crown of Midnight (COM) came out at the end of August and if you follow any book blogs or regularly read book reviews, you might have heard of it because it is getting baller reviews.  I was super excited for COM, and I bought it right away and started reading it as soon as it was released.  It's split into two parts and the first part is fabulous, romantic, swashbuckling, and if I hadn't already thought Celaena was a total badass with a wicked sense of humor, well, then COM just proved it.  And then part one ends and something terrible happens.  Don't worry, no spoilers.  And I started part two and quickly became so upset that I had to put it down and I haven't been able to pick it up since!

It is a testament to Maas's skills as a writer that I was so wrapped up in her characters that I got upset, really upset, about stuff that was happening to them and how they were behaving.  I would have arguments in my head with these characters.  I know that I will pick up the book and finish it soon.  But for now I just can't deal with the emotional turmoil!  I told Wendy about this, and how I have been struggling to find a book that won't upset me during a time when I really need to be cheery, and she said it reminded her of when she read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (aka HP 5).  So. True.  It's just like that.  Dark stuff is happening, our hero is acting like a brat, it's all just so hard to take, even though you know it makes sense in the context of the overall story arc.


Wendy said that when she was feeling the way I was feeling, she liked to go back and re-read old favorites.  Normally I would be all over that, but see aforementioned book reading goal for the year - it needs to be new books that I haven't read yet.  But after talking to Wendy, and remembering a comment Anne at The Second Bedroom had made about how much she loves to reread Harry Potter, I decided that it probably wouldn't really set me back on my book reading goal for the year if I let myself re-read an old favorite.  To that end, I've picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (HP 1).  It's my first time re-reading it in many years, and I'm so, so glad I did.  There is something so comforting about reading a good book where you know the outcome.  I don't know the outcome of this cycle, but I know how Harry Potter ends, and I need that comfort right now.

What are your go-to books that you return to when you need comfort and stability?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Talisman

Indeed, I am as skilled as any alchemist, but instead of turning lead into gold, I turn my fear into daring, and assuredly that is a far greater trick.”
-Robin LaFevers, Dark Triumph

I am not a big believer in good luck charms.  That being said, I own two necklaces – one a silver wishbone that Kate gave me when I got accepted to library school, and the other a bright pink ceramic acorn that I bought for myself in Portland last year – that I once thought of as “lucky.”  Unfortunately, I was wearing the pink acorn on the day we got our 4th and concerning beta result, and I was wearing the wishbone to the first inconclusive ultrasound.  So although I still love them and wear them all the time, I won’t wear them to any of my RE appointments anymore.

After the D&C, I decided that I wanted to get a piece of jewelry to remind me of the bean every day, so I got a ring.  But I also wanted an untainted necklace, something that I could wear into my next IUI that would remind me of where we’ve been and maybe bring us a little luck.

The Saturday before the final missed miscarriage diagnosis, Pablo and his fiancĂ© Jason had an engagement party at their apartment.  For those of you who don’t know Pablo (his name is actually Paul, but I call him Pablo from back when we took Spanish together), he has been my friend since we sat next to each other in geometry class.  I was 15 and he was 14.  We went to the same college together, lived in the same dorm.  He is one of my oldest and easily my most loyal friend.  He and Jason have been together for almost 7 years and I’m really excited I get to be in their wedding.  Anyway.  Prior to the party, Pablo asked me and the other people in his wedding party to come over for dinner.  We had Chinese take-out, and of course, fortune cookies.  I opened my fortune cookie (and remember, this is two days before I had my final ultrasound), and this was what I found:


I nearly burst into tears.  I considered it not just a message about the pregnancy I had, but a message that applied if that pregnancy ended.  I am always so quick to jump ahead, to think terrible things about the future.  Even now, it's easy for me on a bad, negative day to think that the IUIs will never work and we'll have to do IVF, and the IVFs won't work either.  When I feel that way, I look at this fortune and remind myself that we're not nearly at the end yet.

Long story shortish, I wound up hemming and hawing over whether to get a necklace with a little fortune cookie on it, or a good old fashioned four leaf clover charm.  I went with the fortune cookie because of that fortune. 

But then last weekend Kate came to visit and she brought me my belated birthday gift.  In a small box was a four leaf clover necklace.  I stared down at it, shocked.  How did she know?  "Did someone tell you to get this for me?  Did Jeeves tell you?"  Kate looked puzzled, "No.  I just liked it for you."  I immediately showed Jeeves who was also amazed that Kate would get me something so on point.  I told her the story about the fortune cookie and the necklaces.  So now I have not one, but two talismans for my cycle.

This story is particularly relevant for today because I got a little smiley face on my OPK.  That means that a) I don't have to stick myself with a trigger shot tonight (hooray!); and b) bright and early Monday morning we go in for our IUI.  Unfortunately I have to follow up my IUI with my bi-annual dental visit.  I made that appointment back in March, when I thought "well, I'll either be pregnant, or we will have moved on to IVF at that point."  Ha ha.  Dummy.

I am scared of this week.  In addition to the IUI, I'm going with Dad to his oncologist appointment, and we will get the results from his most recent CAT scan.  I am always scared of scan results.  I am scared that even though I have tried to be "perfect" this cycle - no caffeine, no alcohol, plenty of vegetables and sleep, daily yoga, acupuncture - that it won't be enough.  Because my positive OPK snuck up on me today, I can't get into my acupuncturist before the IUI, which is the one damn thing she told me to do. I'm trying not to beat myself up over that.  I am trying to turn my fear into daring.  I am trying to relax and breathe deeply, and calm the fuck down.  I hope I am up to the task this week, the "be brave" task.  If you could spare a positive thought for me today, I would so appreciate it. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Judgey Wudgey was a bear (or, alternatively, Being a Better Friend)

"But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend.  There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them."
-- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

So, I am in the process of making a new friend.  In real life.  This is the first new IRL friend I have made solely based on the fact that we are both infertile.  A few years ago I worked at a terrible job, but I had wonderful co-workers, and one of those co-workers was Penney.  Penney is awesome.  We have so much in common, and even though I had no intention of telling her about my infertility, I had lunch with her one day while I was in the middle of ultrasound roller coaster hell, and I wound up spilling my guts to her.  Penney has absolutely no fertility issues - she has two beautiful munchkins.  Definitely not the kind of person I would usually open up to about this stuff, but she has been nothing but wonderful and supportive.  Anyway, a couple of months ago, Penney mentioned to me that she has a friend who is dealing with infertility, and would I mind giving her some information about my RE?  So Penney played matchmaker and I have been e-mailing with A ever since.  We're meeting for the first time next week.  But we have been e-mailing a lot about what is going on with our respective treatments.

And this got me thinking about passing judgment.  A and I have some similar approaches to infertility (we both go to acupuncture, we both get annoyed when we see pregnant strangers).  But we have different diagnoses, and A is definitely uncomfortable with ovarian stimulation.  On the other hand, she's also newer to treatment than I am.  Many times when we have been e-mailing, I have had to pause with what I am writing because I can feel myself wanting to say "you should do this!" or "that's a mistake, don't do that!"  I don't write those things.  But sometimes I want to.

About a year before my dad was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, his best friend at work, Brenda, died from stomach cancer.  It was 11 months from when she was diagnosed to when she died, she had done a bunch of chemo in that time, and the side effects were brutal for her.  She was in a lot of pain.  But she was only 49 and she had three kids in their late teens, early 20s, and she wanted to be around for them.  When she died, my dad told me that if he was ever diagnosed with metastatic cancer, he would not undergo any treatment.  He wanted me to know that, it was very important to him.  He didn't want to suffer like Brenda.  The day Dad's surgeon told me that his liver was "riddled" with tumors, I was terrified for many reasons, but particularly because I remembered Dad's words about refusing treatment.  Ultimately, refusing chemotherapy wasn't even discussed.  We went to see Dr. T, he walked us through what he thought Dad should do, and that was that.  

The truth is, you really don't know what you would do or how you would choose to handle something until you're in it.  And that's a good thing.  I try to remember it now in all things and I think it has made me less judgmental of others' choices.  Dad's cancer is not the same as Brenda's.  His experience with chemo has been completely different from Brenda's.  And while it's understandable that seeing her suffer would impact my dad, Brenda kept doing chemo because she wanted to be around her kids for as long as possible.  In the end, Dad made a similar choice.... he's just had a better outcome.  

Years ago, I thought that if I couldn't have children due to infertility, I would not do IVF.  A close friend was dealing with infertility and going through IVF and it just seemed so difficult and hard.  Funny how fast my tune changed once it became a reality that we couldn't have kids the conventional way.  

So back to A.  She's made some choices regarding her treatment that are different from the choices I am making (or will make, if the IUIs don't work out).  Part of me worries for her.  I worry about the efficacy of unmedicated IUIs, of mini-IVF, when you're dealing with a potential diminished ovarian reserve diagnosis.  But I have not said this to her, and I don't think I should.  We're all doing the best we can, making choices based on our own experiences.  I know that A feels her very long stint on the birth control pill caused her problems.  As a result, she is scared of putting more hormones into her body.  Her situation is different from mine and it would be wrong for me to put my experiences onto her.  

In the end, I think the reason A and I are becoming friends is because we each need support.  Support from someone who knows what it's like.  I've been fortunate to have a couple of IRL friends who have been through this.  But A doesn't have a fellow infertile in her life.  So I think what I can do to be a better friend to her is give her a hug, glare at the giant pregnant woman who will inevitably sit next to us, listen to her, and support her.  And if, if, she asks my opinion, I will tell her what I would do if I were in her shoes.  After all, we're all just a bunch of Hermiones, Rons, and Harrys, running around doing battle with a 12-foot mountain troll called infertility.  It's best if we all stick together to knock it out.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hullo ICLWers!

Welcome to Work is for Suckers.  I'm super excited to be participating in International Comment Leaving Week.  I started this blog nine years ago, back when I was a law clerk out in New Jersey.  The name of the blog was from a joke I had with my BFF Kate.  It seemed apropos because I would frequently blog at work.  I don't get to blog at work anymore, thus further proving that work is for suckers.

Anyway, I blogged for a couple of years, then stopped, and this year I started again because my husband Jeeves and I are dealing with infertility and miscarriage.  It seemed like a good, healthy outlet for me.  I do blog about other things, but right now I mostly blog about infertility.

The long version of my infertility story is here.  The short version is that we have been trying since May 2012 (I realize that is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of time some of you have been at this).  So far it looks like our only problem is poor morphology.  I am in the middle of IUI #4 right now.  I had a chemical pregnancy with IUI #1, and I had a missed miscarriage with IUI #3, back in June.  It sucked.

Other important things about me.  My husband is Jeeves.  That is a nickname, not his actual real name - he's not a butler, I swear.  We're both lawyers.  I don't like being a lawyer, so I got a degree in library science, and I hope to be a law librarian in the not too distant future.  We have a fat cat named Abbott.  My dad and I are very close.  He has stage 4 colon cancer, but he was diagnosed over four years ago, so while it's serious, we've been managing.  I read a lot.  I basically like everything when it comes to books, but I do tend to read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, YA, and historical fiction.  I love television.  Most of what I watch is age appropriate, but I will say that Netflix has invented a category for me called "Teen television shows with a strong female lead."  I listen to a lot of NPR.  And my other hobby is cooking.  I love food, I love eating food, I love thinking about food, I love talking about food.

Thanks for stopping by!  I'm looking forward to discovering some new blogs.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lazy Lefty for the win!

If this cycle works out, and if I ever own a horse I will name it Lazy Lefty.  I like the fact that there is probably a higher statistical likelihood that this cycle will work out than that I will own a horse named Lazy Lefty.  Or own any horse for that matter.  

Anyway, I had morning monitoring today.  I've been surprised the last two visits at how quiet the waiting room has been for morning monitoring.  It's weird.  The place was packed back in May and June.  But I digress.  I got called in quickly for my date with the dildo cam.  I think I've mentioned before that my RE is a group practice, so although I have one doctor (Dr. M) who sets my treatment plan and meets with Jeeves and me when we need to talk about testing and treatment, I see whoever is available for morning monitoring.  Today it was Dr. Z.  I haven't seen him since my first cycle back in February.  Dr. Z is originally from Germany.  What's the opposite of xenophobic?  Xenophilic?  Anyway, I really like Germans, which is based on my very small sample size of the people I met in Berlin, TK's ex-boyfriend, and the anesthesiologist who gave me the sleepy drugs for my D&C.  The reason I like Dr. Z so much is because I never feel rushed when he's doing the monitoring, and he turns the ultrasound screen towards me, explaining everything he is measuring as he goes.  I suspect that if you are a non-IFer, this seems like a pretty small thing to get excited about.  But if you are an IFer, you know how rare it is.  Ah, bedside manner.  Anyway, I attribute his good bedside manner to the fact that he went to med school in Germany.  This is completely unsupported by any evidence.

So, we start out the monitoring with him measuring my lining - 8mm!  That is by far the best lining I have had on CD 9 since we started this business back in February.  To go back, I should explain that in my three prior IUI cycles, my left ovary talks a good game on cycle day 2, but by cycle day 9, it's pooped out, called in sick, and leaves all the work for good, reliable Righty.  Of course, Righty's work leaves something to be desired (see, e.g., previous chemical pregnancy and missed miscarriage).

So, Dr. Z then swings over to Righty, and I expect that we will see something, but he says, "As you can see [not really, Dr. Z, this shit all looks like blurry black and gray blobs to me, but I'll take your word for it], there's nothing on the right ovary."  Fuuuuucccckkkkk, I think.  This is horrible.  Lefty never does anything, and if Righty is punking out, then that means the cycle will be cancelled and arrrggghhhhh.  Then he swings over to Lefty and says, "Ah, and here is what we expect to see."  That's right, kids - 3, count 'em, 3 follicles on poor, sad, lazy Lefty.  The largest is 18.5mm (easily the biggest follicle I've ever had on cycle day 9), followed by a 16mm and a 14.5mm.

Dearest Lazy Left Ovary, I apologize for all the mean things I said about you all year when you weren't doing anything.  And I'm sorry for accusing you of not pulling your wait and for thinking that you were possibly going through menopause.

So now I start up with the ovulation predictor kit (OPK), and if I don't get a surge by Sunday, I get to stick myself with some Ovidrel.  Fun times ahoy!  For today, I feel like a million bucks.  Even the wretched decaffeinated coffee (seriously starting to wonder what the point of decaf coffee is.... it doesn't even taste good) at Bouchon and having to change out of my yoga pants into work pants couldn't bring me down!  I'm sure by tomorrow I will be in the throes of "will this IUI be timed correctly?" panic, but for now, I feel great.  And I'm taking it.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fat Abbott and Cougars

CD 6, almost done with my Clomid, and so far no hot flashes.*  Huzzah!  Of course, I am neurotic and worry that my lack of side effects means it's not working.  Sigh.  No way to know till I go for a follicle check later this week.  In other news, I have not had a cup of caffeinated coffee since Friday.  I really miss it.  I did allow myself a cup of tea on Saturday and Sunday, but I don't feel bad about that.

Honestly, I don't feel bad about much of anything at the moment, but give me a day and I'm sure I can come up with something.  Last week I went out to visit Dad and as I expected, he was kind of down.  His appetite had taken a hit again - I think it was a combo of heat, family stress, and lack of appetite stimulant (he takes a medication that is supposed to stimulate his appetite, but he ran out and insurance wouldn't refill it till Saturday).  I think I cheered him up a little.  Below, a real conversation with my 78 year old father:

Dad: I need you to explain something to me from this Times word puzzle I finished.  You get a clue, and the answer will be three car names that also mean something else.  [Dad then reads me some examples].  Here's the one I got the answer for, but it's doesn't make sense.  Maybe you can explain it.  The clue is "uptown woman out on the prowl" [I might be getting the clue wrong here, but that's the gist of it.]  And the answer is "Park Avenue Cougar" [it was actually three car names, but I can't remember the third].
At this point I start laughing.
Dad: What?  What is it?  You get it!  What does it mean?!?!
Me: Dad, a cougar is an older woman, over 40, who only dates younger men, like in their 20s.  
Dad: Ohhhhh!  Really?  How long has it meant that?  I got the dictionary out and was looking up "cougar" in case there was some definition I wasn't familiar with, but there was nothing in there about it.

My dad.  In the last year I've also had to answer "Megan, what's a tramp stamp?" and "What's a Lady Gaga?"  

Anyway, Dad got his prescription filled and he said his appetite improved this weekend.  Dad feeling good and sounding more cheerful definitely boosts my mood.  He has a scan coming up, and I'm nervous about it, but there's nothing I can do about it right now, so I'm trying not to think about it.

Kate came to visit this weekend.  It was great to see her.  She's developing a little baby bump, and we went shopping so she could get some maternity clothing.  While we were at Old Navy, I made some comment about yoga pants (I love love love yoga pants and would never wear anything else if I could get away with it) and it turns out that Kate has never owned a pair of yoga pants.  I was scandalized.  Luckily, they had maternity yoga pants and she got a pair.  I'm pretty sure this is going to change her life.

I wondered if it would be hard to see her pregnant, if I would feel sad or if it would be hard to talk with her about her pregnancy and her soon-to-be baby.  But it wasn't.  I feel happy for her and excited to meet her baby.  I still tend to hate on the pregnant strangers I see, but I'm glad I can feel happy for people I love.  

The other thing that just happened is that Abbott and I had our 9th anniversary.  Yes, 9 years ago I walked into an animal shelter and adopted a 7 week old kitten that could fit in one hand named Abbott.  He is now roughly Thanksgiving turkey size.  "Mildly obese" is maybe the accurate term for it.  He drives me totally crazy and I love him beyond all reason.  He still let's me pick him up and carry him around like a baby.  And I frequently tell him that if Jeeves and I can't have a human baby of our own, that I am probably going to start dressing him up for Halloween and pushing him around in a stroller.  The day my doctor told me that I had a missed miscarriage, I came home and sat at our dining room table and sobbed.  Abbott came out and sat next to me and just meowed sadly at me while I cried.  I think I scared him a little.  I then got into bed and he climbed up next to me, curled up, and purred.  He always makes me feel better.  Even when he's being annoying as hell.  

So, on to a new week.  Here's hoping this one is a better one than the last.

*Update: Took a break while writing this post to eat dinner, and while watching the Yankees game, I thought, "Why is it so goddamn hot in here?  Why am I sweating?"  I looked at Jeeves, who was wearing a hoodie (I was in a t-shirt) and it dawned on me that I was having a hot flash.  I haven't had one since April, so I forgot what they feel like!  I'm actually relieved.  Now I feel like the meds are working.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We'll get you another day

"...with every move she knew she'd won the day 
because she'd survived it."

Came back from our amazing vacation to Belgium and Amsterdam on Sunday (about which I will certainly have a post soon), and when we landed on the tarmac and I turned on the cellular capabilities of my phone for the first time in over a week, I was greeted with a somewhat disturbing voicemail from my sister [she did not call Jeeves' phone, which is the one that was working in Europe].  She wouldn't tell me what was wrong, only that I needed to call her back as soon as I got this message.  And for about a hot minute sitting on that plane as we waited to get off, I thought my dad was dead.  Spoiler alert - my dad is fine.  Unfortunately, the news was not good, and I really can't get into it because it's not my news to tell.  And since we've been back I've been fielding two or three phone calls per day from my family about this business.  It's been sucky.  It was not a fun thing to come home to, and really, most days this week it has taken some willpower to keep from hailing a cab back to JFK airport and flying back to Amsterdam where I want to just sit in a canalside bar drinking beer all day and pretend that none of this crap is happening.  I want to go back to that moment where everyone I love is fine and no one needs me to do anything, and I want to stay in that moment.

Part of what makes this family business difficult is that it has really upset and depressed my dad and it's pretty much my fucking primary job in life to keep his spirits up.  That job has been really hard this week.  

Anyway, in the shadow of that, my basal body temperature played tricks on me due to our time zone travel and even though I knew to my core that I was not pregnant, I thought, "hmmm, maaayyybeee..... maybe!!!!!"  So stupid.  The worst part is that I wasted a perfectly good and expensive pregnancy test that I had in the closet from my last IUI.  I literally (and yes, I am using the correct form of the word here) got my period 30 seconds after I peed on that stick.  Stupid stupid stupid.

So yeah, I got my period yesterday, which means a new cycle.  And it was a hot, steamy day in NYC.  And my cramps were pretty bad.  As I walked around my neighborhood yesterday, running errands, face sweating like a champ, it seemed like every woman I saw was pregnant.  Or had a baby.  Or was pregnant and had a baby.  It really felt like the universe was laughing at me, saying "Fuck you and your dreams, Megan.  Fuck you hard."  Even though I thought I'd feel great to be starting a new cycle where we could go back to the RE, I felt pretty hopeless.  I kept thinking that the IUIs won't work and we'll have to move onto IVF.  And then I'll be a poor responder, or all the eggs will be defective, and I'll just keep failing and failing and failing.  And we won't have children, ever.  Yeah, this pity party was epic, it was a real rager.

And Kate.  Kate is pregnant and I am planning her baby shower and the guest list is large and even though I've thrown three other baby showers before I've never had to throw one in a different city where I don't live.  I'm a little overwhelmed.

Anyway, I'm back in the stirrups again.  I went in for morning monitoring and I am now the proud owner of a bunch of Clomid.  Let the hot flashes begin!  After my RE visit, I walked over to Bouchon and decided that I had earned a bacon cheddar chive scone.  Really what I wanted was a Better Nutter, but I decided that for this cycle I am not going to drink any alcohol or caffeine and I'm going to limit my sugar intake.  So far I'm not completely there with the caffeine - I'm tapering down right now, but I expect to be down to zero by Saturday.  Ugh.  Losing you, my beloved friend coffee, is the hardest part.  So, limiting sugar means no beautiful Better Nutter (Bouchon's version of a Nutter Butter - it is divine).  But the bacon cheddar chive scone was pretty great.

The long and the short of it is that this week back has kind of sucked.  I am trying to be upbeat and optimistic, trying to be the tough, steady one for my family, and trying to send positive loving vibes to my ovaries so that they will do their fucking job.  But it's hard.  I just finished The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which I enjoyed very much.  The heroine is having a really rough day and when she explains that to another character he says to her, "We'll get you another day."  Seemed like the perfect answer to me.  So I keep promising myself - I'll get another day.  It'll get better.