I’ve been on vacation the last couple of weeks. I intended to write a lot, but I didn’t. I’d love to tell you that it’s because I was busy, doing exciting things out of the home, but I wasn’t. The truth is, I’ve been binge watching The X-Files, and playing a lot of World of Warcraft. Not terribly exciting, but they’ve been excellent distractions, for the most part. I did forget how often fertility treatments are mentioned in The X-Files.
So, last spring, Kevin and I decided that we could, just barely, afford IVF. It would wipe out most of our savings, but who wants a house, or vacations, or security anyway? We decided to move forward with it, and put it to rest, one way or the other. As I’ve mentioned previously, facing the end of the road is terrifying, but I had a tiny glimmer of relief that my four year long nightmare was almost over. Come July, we’d be done, one way or the other. Or so I thought.
The prep for IVF in July started in May. After my May period, I was put on birth control to suppress my hormones until it was time for ovary stimulation. In late June, they took me back off birth control, and did a baseline sono and labs a few days later. The sono looked fine, apart from me already having a 14mm follicle on one ovary, but my estradiol ( a form of estrogen) level came back at 104. It needed to be under 50 to start stimulating meds. High estrogen might seem like a good thing, but bear in mind that birth control is estrogen. So basically, I was making my own. My R/E’s office told me not to worry, we’d check it again in 2 days, and it would probably have gone down. Rather than having dropped, two days later it was over 200. My R/E’s office told me we’d check it in another 2 days, but if it hadn’t dropped below 50 by then, we’d have missed the window for IVF. I also hadn’t started a period yet. On the day of my 3rd draw, it was 250. Do not pass go. Do not spend $10,000. Go directly to infertility purgatory. I failed at IVF before I could even start it A few days later, I finally started my period. My R/E gave me a cycle off of birth control, and then put me back on it after my 2nd period, to get me ready for an attempt in September. We chalked my estradiol levels in July up as a fluke.
It wasn’t. When I came off birth control in late August, I had these sky high estradiol levels again. However, this time, they had built more time in to my schedule, and we were confident it would come down in time. Well, my body was not to be outfoxed, and my levels stayed high for even longer. Two weeks after I came off birth control, I was given a shot of progesterone in oil (I’ve had a lot of shots, so I’m no sissy about them, but Damn, that Hurt), to kickstart my period. It didn’t work. We missed the window again. Another two weeks after the shot, I finally had my damn period.
By this point I started googling. I wasn’t actually looking for answers. I trust my R/E, and I knew he was looking for answers for me. I was looking for other women this happened to. I needed to know that I was not alone. As it turned out, I was alone. Every time I thought I had found something, the story would turn out like this: Woman has high estadiol, and is unable to start IVF. On the next cycle, her R/E puts her on birth control the month beforehand, and it clears the problem right up. I dug, and dug, and dug, and came up with nothing. It’s lonely not to find anyone else with the same problem as you in the vastness of the internet.
I had a consultation with my R/E to come up with a new plan. He was quite perplexed. As I had been scouring google, he had been scouring medical literature. He also came up with nothing. I just have to be one of a kind, you know? Anyway, he did have one idea, based on the only patient he had ever treated with similar estradiol levels to mine. We would check my estadiol levels now, since I was on day 3 of my cycle (ironically long awaited for), and if they still came back high, we’d draw more blood, and send it to a reference lab, as he’d done with the prior patient. That was how he figured out that her high estradiol levels were false results. She turned out to have an antibody to mouse cells, and the test at her local lab used mouse cells in their test. You want to know how you get antibodies to mice? From eating cereal. Because cereal is allowed to have a certain level of mouse feces in it. I don’t know about you, but I’m having eggs for breakfast tomorrow.
My estradiol level came back appropriately low. No need to send it to a reference lab. My levels were not false. In any case, the new plan was not to put me back on birth control. It obviously was not producing the results we wanted. Instead, we’d do some mid-late cycle blood work. If that blood work showed I hadn’t ovulated (the expected result, since I’m anovulatory), they’d started me on Lupron injections to trick my body into thinking I had so I would start a period at the appropriate time. It’s a strange feeling to switch from wanting your period to stay away, to needing it to start.
When I received the call about that blood work, I was actually sitting in Occupational Health, as I had fallen down a flight of stairs at work, on my way to get the labs drawn, so obviously I was having a pretty good day. Oddly, the labs showed that I had ovulated. What the Fuck, ovaries? So the good piece of news there was that I would probably have a period soon. It also explained why I spent a week thinking of nothing but sex… No, that’s too polite a word… Fucking. Seriously. I couldn’t focus on anything.
About a week later, I started my period. We did a baseline sono, and labs. Again, the sono looked great, even better than my previous ones. this time, my estradiol was below 30. I was go for IVF. I’d made the November window. I felt like I’d already run a marathon before the race whose starting gate I stood in. I was supposed to be done with all of this back in July, one way or the other. I am so fucking tired.