Guys, if you haven’t heard, my boobs are super old news now. The new super cool thing to do is focus on my vagina!
What a treat that I get have not one but two of my bikini areas violated by medical professionals within weeks of one another. I almost feel like if I order a colonoscopy to go with it, I’ll get a 3-for-1 discount. Are we certain I don’t have a prostate? I’d have to miss an opportunity to get prodded in yet another private orifice.
I really shouldn’t complain, and I know it, so I’ll stop now. I’m undergoing fertility treatments voluntarily, and truth be told, I’m happy that I have the opportunity to. Chemotherapy is gonadotoxic, meaning it can cause irreversible damage to reproductive organs and render those who use it permanently sterile. I’d be lying if I said vaginal ultrasounds were a good time or that I’m looking forward to a needle in the ovaries, but there are many young cancer patients who don’t get a chance to preserve their eggs for future use, and there’s no doubt I’m fortunate to be able to give my future self the chance to conceive her own biological children. Chemotherapy beats the crap out of ovaries, but happily leaves the uterus untouched, meaning these eggs can later be fertilized and implanted just like in traditional IVF, and I can safely carry a pregnancy. Yay! You’re welcome, future-me! I’m doing this for you.
Isn’t it odd to think that I’m selecting my future children now? Only a lucky 10-20 eggs will be harvested, and only 5-15 of those are likely to survive the freezing process. It’s strange to think that children I may or may not conceive in my 30s or 40s were actually selected when I was 25 and cryopreserved for later use. These are the children I would have had if I had had a different life, one where I was married straight out of college and pregnant now instead of cancerous and cranky and in graduate school and dating a wonderful person who now lives, sadly, 3,000 miles from me. Will these little time-traveler kids be brunette? Will they have freckles? How short will they be? The tallest woman in my entire family tree is 5’3″, so yeah, no luck there.
We’re really, officially on the medical train now, and it’s barreling down the rails and won’t stop until it rolls into Remission Station. From here until mid-June, it’ll just be one long, crappy chain of injections, surgeries, anesthesia, IVs, blood draws and test results. My eggs will be harvested around February 19, and my chemo will begin almost immediately afterwards. Somewhere in there I may or may not squeeze in a surgery to place the PortaCath.
I was counting up my needle sticks so far in the fertility clinic waiting room – it’s well over two dozen now, and climbing. And it’s starting to take a toll on my veins, because the nurse couldn’t find one this morning for my hormone level checks and stabbed me over and over again searching for it. I’d heard people talk about this unpleasant little hunting expedition but I hadn’t experienced it until today. I don’t blame her, though. Unfortunately, because I had an axillary lymph node removed in my left armpit, I am only allowed to use my right arm for medical tests/needle probing/IV placement/blood pressure measurements for the rest of my life. And since I’ve had a half-dozen blood draws in the last two weeks, the poor veins are getting a bit worn out.
But if you think that’s the end of my needle-stick story, you’re mistaken, dear reader! No, lucky me, I now get to inject myself in the stomach every day for two weeks with a half-inch subcutaneous needle filled with hormones that will cause my ovaries to swell to four or five times their normal size. The process involves mixing four vials of powdered drugs with a cubic centimeter of saline and aspirating the resulting solution into a syringe. I feel like a drug kingpin, which is kind of awesome. Perhaps I can take up the mantle for Walter White after Breaking Bad ends. Cancer? Check. Experience in creating controlled substances in my living room? Check!