Another day. Another gown.

Another day. Another gown.

This day’s tests actually didn’t have anything to do with fertility, per se, but are related to low estrogen caused by my early-menopause. Remember how I have mentioned before that I wish more focus when my original diagnosis was made, was to the side effects of having a 30 year head start on menopause, well yah, this is one more of the reasons. Low estrogen = deterioration of bone density = early onset osteoporosis. Or in my case, fragments of bones just falling off and now floating around in my knee cap.

I have had knee pain for a few years now, and not just a day here or there that my joints hurt. A consistent grinding and knees that feel aged well past my 36 years. I can’t run, I can’t do exercise classes like Barre, Spin, Aerobics, or Step. And some days, it hurts even walking up the stairs in my home. So after x-rays to determine the loose body, I am on a waitlist to see an Orthopedic specialist and MRI. In the meantime, increase my calcium intake, physio and adding swimming into my routine for exercise and to increase movement of the knee.

Advertisements

If you’re only as old as you feel, I am 75.

If you’re only as old as you feel, I am 75.

I have always loathed that saying. “You’re only as old as you feel.” Maybe its because I have always felt older than I am, or maybe its because I’ve had a tough week, but regardless, I don’t like it!

This past week has been a struggle. The weather is changing here in Calgary, which has meant almost daily migraines for me. An on top of that, although its been a great week in the sense that I have been super busy and doing a lot of family activities, one of which was the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope, which means so much to my family. We lost my Grandma to Ovarian Cancer in 2012 and have been participating in the walk ever since. It is such a special day that we always make time for, to connect with each other, remember and honor her, and support a cause and community who have all been impacted.

It’s only a 5km walk, but combined with a busy week and over exerting myself results in being tired, sore, exhausted and in pain. I hit a low point on Sunday when my nephews were over and I was teaching them to do cartwheels (ok, yes, doing cartwheels for the first time in 20 years and feeling sore after is on me, I get that!) but when one of them asked me to lift his body up and help him over, I could barely bend over, let alone think of lifting him, it hit me like a brick. I felt old, like my body was failing, and depressed that a simple task of lifting up a child was impossible.

The thing with chronic pain (a result of pre-menopause) is that one small moment spirals your thoughts out of control. As soon as I couldn’t lift him thoughts flooded my mind like maybe I don’t even have a strong enough body to carry a baby. If I can’t lift a child today, how am I going to lift my own in 2, 3, 5, 7 years? Those moments remind me that my body is broken. So after a busy week and busier weekend, I have spent the last few days with ice packs, heating pads, tea and pain killers. But in an effort to not live in my own pity party, it also reminds me that this is the only body I am getting in this lifetime and I better start nurturing it the best way I can. Thinking back to the Walk for Hope, also reminds me that there are people suffering much worse than I, there are pains much worse than I feel, there is loss more profound than mine. I think it is always important to remind ourselves of perspective, and to be thankful for who we are and what we have.

I feel like instead of a couple cheat days, we had a cheat summer! Not enough exercise and too many wine filled dinners out have resulted in feeling sluggish, over weight, sore, and tired. So, back on the healthy band wagon for me! Introducing healthy eating and even reducing alcohol is not a problem for me, I am able to have strong will power when I want to. The place I struggle a lot is exercise. I have really bad knees, so anything with impact is extremely difficult on me. I love swimming, but hate the amount of effort it takes. Yes, that is an excuse, but I need to be realistic in what I am going to be able to integrate into my life consistently. I do love yoga so am going to work on getting back into a routine of going, but I would love to hear any other recommendations on a low-impact option for exercise if anyone has any!

 

 

 

Regulate my hormones or get cancer . . . are those my only options?

Regulate my hormones or get cancer . . . are those my only options?

I worry about getting cancer. All. The. Time.

A bit of family history for you; My paternal grandfather died of Tracheal cancer, my paternal grandmother died of Ovarian cancer, my maternal grandmother is battling both Breast and Colon cancer, I have lost several great Aunt and Uncles all to Lung, Breast, Pancreatic, and Bone cancers.

There is a lot of controversy around HRT (hormone replacement therapies) and the increased risk of Cancer, so it took me a long time to agree to go on one. Here is the reasons I chose to start an HRT, and why I feel ok about my decision. [This is what works for me, and what I have research and talked to my Endocrinologist about. If you are under 50 and considering an HRT, please consult your physician and specialists, do your own research and make a decision that is best for you. I am not a doctor, and this blog is not meant to be taken as medical advice.]

The long story short. Yes, your risk of cancer is increased. But not any more than if you were on the contraceptive pill. And not any more than being pregnant. And not any more than IVF. These days it seems like everything is a increased risk, so I took into consideration how my body feels on and off my HRT to influence my decision.

There are two types of HRT. Estrogen Therapy and Combination Therapy (estrogen + progesterone), and I am on a combination therapy. An increase in estrogen, and/or having too much estrogen can result in an increase risk of uterus (endometrial) cancer. For women that have had a hysterectomy, an Estrogen therapy can be ok, but for women in pre-menopause or with Premature Ovarian Failure, it is not recommended to go on an Estrogen-only therapy because of this. Side note: also the reason that women on an HRT should avoid soy products! By using a Combination Therapy, the progesterone lowers the risk of endometrial cancer back to normal (yes, there is always a risk!) There is also an increase risk of breast cancer, and a higher chance it is not discovered until a more progressed stage, but this is usually a result of the density of your breast changing. So my view is yes, there is an increased risk, but I can choose to take control of mitigating those risks by being on top of my health and exams. Before I started my HRT, I consulted my doctor and we talked about yearly mammograms, ultrasounds and blood work to make sure I am staying on top of any early signs of cancer.

So what benefits do I get from being on a HRT. For starters I am crazy without it. No really. I have massive mood swings, depression, anger and can be very emotional when I am not on it. I feel like my brain is working in overtime, I am anxious, stressed and worry a lot. Being on a HRT balances me out and makes me feel normal, and for me, that is a huge benefit. Aside from it taming my inner monster, it helps in the prevention of osteoporosis by reducing the loss of calcium in my body and promoting good bone health, it helps my metabolism and helps maintain a healthier weight, it improves my sleeping, it reduces my risk of heart attacks or stroke, it increased my energy levels, improves the condition of my skin and hair, it helps with my joint pain, and it eliminates my hot flashes. For me, being on a HRT does improve my quality of life. I read once that risk is defined as the possibility or chance of harm; it does not indicate that harm will occur. I believe you had to do your research, understand the risks, talk to professionals, and make as educated decisions as possible, but I also believe at the end of the day you have to do what feels right to you; mind, body and soul.

 

The scary M-word

The scary M-word

I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure in 2009. That was 9 years ago! Even saying that out loud is shocking to me. Nine years of anxiety and stress. Nine years of my friends and family being burdened with me talking about it. Nine years of dipping in and out of depression, feeling obsessive about the how to and when of getting pregnant, yo-yo dieting, struggling with my weight, trying all sorts of fertility gimmicks, and countless hours googling! Nine years of forgetting that my body has gone through something more profound than I have ever taken the time to recognize. Menopause.

I have talked about this in posts before, that looking back I wish my doctors and specialists would have taken more time to explain to me what Premature Ovarian Failure . . . sorry, Insufficiency (see my previous post on my ovaries recent promotion!) actually meant. They focused so much on fertility and that I would likely not be able to get pregnant on my own. They talked about needing an Egg Donor and IVF, and send me on my merry way. They didn’t talk about hot flashes, mood swings, changes in weight, bone health, brain fog, loss of sex drive, or even the mention of the big scary word Menopause. In fairness, I should have been asking more questions and taken control of my own health, but that whole diagnosis period felt like such a blur, I was barley able to process what was being said, let alone thinking about what to ask. I remember my endocrinologist used a rose as an analogy to explain what was going on. He said, think of a rose bush, a body that is healthy enough to produce eggs, even if they are low quality, can keep those roses alive with water and nutrients. Then he said, think of your ovaries as a dead rose that has been cut from the bush. No amount of water or nutrients will ever make it bloom again. But what might have been nice is if they he would have added, but if you take that dead rose and still nurture it with water, and vitamins and keep it as healthy as you can – it might never be a blooming rose again, but it will always be a rose.

When your ovaries stop working and shrivel up to the size of a pea there is a lot more going on in your body than infertility. Even women in their 60’s who are going through, or have gone through menopause, often have FSH levels reaching just over 30 mIU/mL, so I feel like when my FSH level at 26 years old was 114 mIU/mL (for reference, normal levels of women still menstruating is 4.7 to 21.5 mIU/mL) , this should have been addressed more seriously than, “you can’t have kids, and good day to you.” I think in a way, the disregard for what was actually happening in my body made me less aware I was in menopause, and likely fueled my obsession with the fertility impacts. I think it made me not want to admit to myself that I was in menopause or learn how to “treat” that. I felt like if I acknowledged and accepted I was in menopause that would be accepting defeat with infertility. Ironically, looking back, I think if I would have cared for my menopausal body, I might have been able to preserve what eggs I did have left better.

But, *sigh*, hindsight certainly is 20/20. It’s not that I don’t believe in regrets. I think without them, you don’t learn and make different decisions that next time around. But I definitely do not believe in dwelling on the past. What’s done is done, and you just have to move forward. So today, I chose to acknowledge that I am in menopause. I chose to not be embarrassed by it. I chose to admit that I have trouble with weight gain, loss of sex drive, hot flashes, mood swings, thinning of my hair, dryness of my skin, and insomnia, to name a few. I chose to start treating these as a separate entity from infertility, and to put the health of my body first.

 

Can we just stop getting so offended?

Can we just stop getting so offended?

I have been reading the articles, posts and tweets today about how Carrie Underwood has “outraged fans” with her comments about infertility and kind of feeling like . . . . can we please just stop getting so offended?

I actually find her comment that at 35 they have missed the chance to have a large family bang-on and relatable. Having just had my 36th Birthday I see her point. When you start having kids in your mid to late 30’s, your opportunity to have a large 4, 5, or 6 children family is slim. Regardless of your fertility, its a mere age game. So, why is that so offensive?

I find comments like this tweet “Exactly how did Carrie Underwood miss her chance to have more kids? She’s 35 and has more $$ than she’ll ever need” unfair, malice and ignorant. What does her having financial means have anything to do with the age she feels right about continuing to have children at. Maybe its not about money or fertility at all, perhaps she just doesn’t want to be having a toddler into her 50’s, and that is her choice.

Everyone’s journey and yearning to be a parents is unique. Why does Carrie Underwood have to be held to a different standard just because of her fame or fortune. Why can’t she make a statement about her own fertility, her own family choices, her own views without “enraging the infertile community.” Maybe instead of shaming her opinion, we should take a moment to give understanding and empathy. Instead of feeling so offended, we should use it as an opportunity to bring awareness to infertility, to educate, and to support each other.

I’m 30-what?

I’m 30-what?

It’s my birthday today. My 36th Birthday. I have blown past early 30’s, rounded mid 30’s and am officially entering into late 30’s. Essh, that sounds old. But age is a funny thing, I have found the older I get, the younger I feel. Not that I actually feel young, don’t get me wrong, I hate the phrase “you are only as old as you feel,” as I often think that would put me around 68 years old. I feel young in the sense that, ironically, I am less stressed about age, the older I get.

I remember in my mid 20’s starting to say “I am basically 30” . . . looking back on it now, what was I thinking! Why was I wishing my youthful, carefree, wonderful 20’s away. By the time I finally did reach 30, I felt like I was about 100 years old, my body was a failure, I was on a race against time to find a husband, and I thought that if I couldn’t get pregnant within a year, I would be doomed to a childless and lonely life. Thinking of those days now makes me sad. It makes me sad for myself, for my boyfriend, and for the hard and difficult path I laid out for our relationship. I made it extremely tough to be in the moment, to take time to understand how we felt about each other, and to let our relationship blossom at a normal pace. I pushed things to early, talked about what our struggles with infertility were going to be way too much and way too soon, and I never just sat back and relaxed. Now anyone that knows me might argue that I still have a hard time sitting back, relaxing and letting life happen. But trust me when I tell you, the anxiety I felt 5 – 10 years ago was not good! And not even close to how I feel today.

I think that truly accepting and coming to terms with my infertility has helped. A lot. And in a way, it has made me less worried about age, since I can just buy some young, youthful 20-somethings eggs and all will be good. Well, except that one time my doctor replied to that saying “yah, but you still have to carry it in an old body” . . . but moving on! I feel more certain of my decisions, my choices, my future. I feel at ease in my relationship. I feel comfortable with whichever path my life will take. And for that, I feel younger. I feel like I am taking back control of my life, doing things my way, and living the best I can in each and every moment.

So today, as I sit at the new Kananaskis Nordic Spa, I am allowing myself to relax, unwind, and enjoy my surroundings in this moment. And to look at 36 not as an age, but as a new chapter, an opportunity to do something great in this next year of my life.

Did I just get a promotion?

Did I just get a promotion?

I have never been hung up on titles. In my career, my focus is on the opportunity and the work I would be doing rather than what title I have on my business card. But when at my last visit with my Endocrinologist he told me I’ve been upgraded from Premature Ovarian Failure to Premature Ovarian Insufficiency, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit proud! Was this a promotion? Have my ovaries been working so hard they are climbing up the fertile ladder?

Just as I was thinking these little ovaries of mine have been working their butts off, being the best failed ovaries they can be, and really getting noticed by my body to earn this big promotion, my doctor told me no. The medical field has merely renamed Premature Ovarian Failure to Premature Ovarian Insufficiency so that it sounds “less harsh.” He continued to tell me they don’t want women to feel like a failure, its not that my ovaries have failed, they are just inefficient in how they function. I struggled with how the terms are different and felt like it was basically a bunch of bullshit. Part of me was annoyed that perhaps if there was a much effort and meetings and discussion put into fighting for federal and provincial funding of IVF as there has been into re-titling the diagnosis, it would actually mean something and change the lives of infertile women with POF/POI than a simple “upgrade” in title. But if I am being honest, the other part of me smiled, ignorantly and blissfully, and for the first time in my life, felt pretty good of my new title.

I want to be a Mom. But if I am not, it doesn’t have to be sad.

I want to be a Mom. But if I am not, it doesn’t have to be sad.

When you are single, people ask when you are going to meet someone. When you are in a long-term relationship, people ask when you are going to get married. When you are married, they ask when you are having kids. When you have a baby, they ask when you are having more. At some point society needs to stop being so relentless with trying to get everyone’s life on the same track! I read an article today on Thrive Global and it really resonated.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of it too. I am not sure if it is a result of being ingrained in us what is “normal”, or maybe at times, its simply making small talk. But whatever it is, I am deciding to become consciously aware of not asking such silly, and quite frankly, insulting questions. I think we all need to get better at allowing people to make choices in their lives, and then believing them when they say they are happy.

“We all make our choices about where we put our time, energy and passion,” Flynn said. “So what makes one person’s choice better than any other? I’ve chosen to put my time and energies into my relationship with my partner, deep friendships, contributing and engaging in my community, and into my professional ambitions. If only the world would respect and value that.”

I admire parents. I think being a parent is the hardest job in the world. I think parenting is incredibly selfless and incredibly rewarding at the same time. But I do not think parenting defines you. I don’t think that once you become a Mom or a Dad that is all you are. I don’t think that is what society should value you on. And I don’t think that if you aren’t a parent, you should be looked at with pity or sadness.

At a girl’s night not too long ago, some of my friends were talking about their high school reunion and one of my friends made the comment that “it was so sad when someone wasn’t married or had kids because they didn’t have anything to talk about,” for the rest of the Mom’s in our group, perhaps they could relate, but for the two of us that don’t have children, it struck a chord.

Asking about marriage and kids is actually pretty far down in my “catch up” script. I usually start with asking how they are, what they do, have they traveled, where they live. Do I eventually ask if they are married or have kids, sure, and I am so happy to hear all about it, but I certainly do not feel at a loss of words if they don’t. I get that as parents themselves it is conversation they can relate to, I just think we should be very careful as to not make people feel like what they do have going on in their lives isn’t valued or important or interesting if they don’t have children to talk about. I certainly hope that I am not looked at as uninteresting or sad because of it.

I want to be a Mom. I think this blog itself is making that clear. But I also want to feel okay if I don’t. Whether it was my choice to not have kids, or that choice was made for me, I don’t want to feel like people pity me or feel sad if Motherhood is not in the cards for me. Women are tenacious, I am tenacious. If I truly want to be a mother, I will be. But I don’t know if all the options are for me. So if we decide that a childless life is our next step, I don’t want pleas that I haven’t tried everything. I don’t want more solutions as to what we could do. I don’t want pity. Because truthfully, I think my life would be pretty great either way.

The right to complain.

As I scrolled through Instagram today and the multiple infertility/IVF Support/Women who yearn to be mothers pages, I was annoyed. Now don’t get me wrong, being a part of a network of women who “get it” is important to me – heck, I am sharing my story in that network as well. And I find solace in a lot of the posts I see, but today, I was annoyed.

I saw multiple posts about “don’t complain to me about your kids,” “don’t complain to me about your pregnancy,” “don’t complain about how tired you are,” etc. I understand where the sentiment is coming from, admittedly I have felt it to. A frustration when women are complaining about their kids or jokingly saying “trust me you don’t want kids” (see more of my thoughts on these phrases in my previous postBut having sisters and friends who are mothers, parenting is hard, kids are hard, pregnancy is hard, labour is hard . . . and all of those women have a right to complain about it, they have a right to need support, and they deserve us (even the infertile ones) to be there for them. Everyone is allowed to live (and complain) about their own reality. Is the struggle of infertility one that is more “unfair” . . . maybe, maybe not. I am sure there are women out there who are mothers and face more challenges than I could ever imagine.

If you are lucky enough to have strong women in you life, like me, mothers and non-mothers alike, you should be supporting each other through all of our own struggles and challenges, whatever those may be. Because, when I eventually become a Mom, I hope that same network of women let me complain about my pregnancy, my labour and my challenges with parenting too!

Flipping my lifestyle upside down

Flipping my lifestyle upside down

As we get closer to pulling the trigger on IVF, and still have no idea on what direction feels right with Egg donation, I have decided to give one last go at triggering a miracle in my own body. This is probably something I should have done years ago, but I am the first one to admit that I often need a strict deadline to get things done, and creeping up on my 36th birthday, that deadline feels very close!

I have been diving into Dr. Randine Lewis’ book, The Infertility Cure and am feeling very motivated to take charge of my fertility and health. As I read the book, at times I felt infuriated by traditional western medicine and the lack of ‘thinking outside the box’ that often happens. In one chapter, it goes into great length about how the Spleen is a key organ in cleansing your body, and if you have any spleen deficiency it can directly impact your thyroid, hormones, and fertility. I had my spleen removed when I was 18 years old in the year 2000, to then be diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure and Hypothyroidism in 2009. Coincidence, maybe. But not one doctor, including my GP, Gynocolosit, Endocrinologist, Hemotologist, or the Fertility specialists ever mentioned that perhaps not having a Spleen could have had some impact on my hormone changes and ultimately the demise of my ovaries.

As I took the deficiency questionnaire provided in the book, the results; Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency, Speen Deficiency, Blood Deficiency, and more! The thing I found interesting is that so many of the symptoms listed that lead to the discovery of these deficiencies are so subtle, that until asked if I was experiencing them, I don’t think I would have ever considered them that ‘big of a deal,.” Which I feel is part of a bigger issue with women’s health. We are, by nature (sorry guys, but have all experienced the man-cold) better at pushing through symptoms and often taught to feel like significant changes in our bodies are just part of “that time of the month” and so we let symptoms like night sweats, cramps, irritability, vaginal dryness, vaginal irritation or pain, headaches, nausea, poor circulation . . . (and the list goes on), pass us by and we just push through. We don’t stop to think, should my body be feeling like this? Is there something more going on?

For any of these symptoms, considered individually, probably aren’t a big deal, but that is why I am now seeing that a holistic approach to my health may be just what I need! So, stay tuned as I add Acupuncture, Chinese massage, diet and lifestyle changes into my regular routine, and who knows, perhaps these Dud O’s still have some fight in them!