Tag Archives: IVF

Time to start a new journey.

2 Sep

This post will hopefully be the last one on this blog, apart from perhaps the odd confirmation that things continue to go well.

Our big news is that we were joined by our beautiful baby Elliott Lewis on 25 August 2014! Weighing 2.140kg and at 33 weeks 4 days gestation.

Luckily we had a little warning so were able to get some steroids in a week before he arrived and he was able to breathe unassisted from the start. His little tiny organs have done their job wonderfully and only a week later he is actually off all support and just sleeping in a warmed cot. He is still in hospital but after 7 nights he was moved from NICU and is now working his way down to special care. The last thing we need to do is get him to feed by himself as the instinct to suckle hasn’t quite developed yet.

But we feel so lucky! It’s a great gestation after an adventurous pregnancy and he is simply beautiful. Beyond beautiful.

 

 

First picture

 

 

IMG-20140829-WA0015

 

 

1622218_10152689383863210_3795710373421148138_n Last photo is 1 Week later.

But for me this is the end of a long road, and the start of a new one. I couldn’t have believed we would be in this place only 20 months ago when I was diagnosed, Elliott is surely a miracle baby, helped here by the hands and love of many many people. There were lots of hard days, frustrations and just the ongoing fear and stress that illness brings – but every single moment was worth it when we hold our son in our arms.

My only advice would be to keep pushing on, even when doctors might give up, or the options available seem years away and the problems look insurmountable. However, I am fully aware that luck has played the biggest part in us getting to this point, so we are simply grateful.

Hopefully I’ll still hear from people through this blog and that it gives hope to women facing scary times and tough decisions. There can be happy endings!

Kath and Elliott

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Pregnancy and cancer

27 Mar

I’d like to add a little something here. I have listened to so many pregnancy announcements which for me were tinged with pain and sadness (and bitterness if I’m honest) as we have been through this process, so I know this news can be hard to hear. Especially for ladies who have been through cervical cancer and haven’t been as lucky as I have.

I’m not going to say ‘it’ll be fine’, or ‘just smile through it’, because sometimes you just want to punch someone who says that! Just know I’m thinking of so many of you, and I know this may be bittersweet.

 

IVF3

27 Mar

Bet you thought you had heard the last of me! This is a post that I wrote a few weeks ago, but only uploading it now.
IVF 3:

You may remember IVF 1, and there was an IVF 2 in October this year that didn’t work. IVF 2 didn’t fail in the normal way, as there are still 3 little embryos that were created, but the cycle was cancelled after egg collection as they couldn’t find a way to return them into the uterus. This was despite a recent operation to dilate the opening. So we now have a dozen frozen embryos living in the Lister hospital!

I referred to these operations and IVF 2 in this post, but the operations were both for fixing the problem I had with my monthly cycle as well as getting access for IVF.

IVF number three really started early in December. I had another dilatation operation with Professor Shepherd on December 3, and he stitched in part of a small catheter to try to keep the cervical canal open. All went well (I’m used to that operation now!) but just a few days later, while we were out on a Santa pub crawl, I suddenly felt something strange, and the catheter basically had fallen out. It was like a punch in the stomach. Made harder by being out having fun, when I just wanted to go home and have a good cry. I was also a bit lost as to what to do. I knew insurance wouldn’t pay for another operation, but if the clinic couldn’t get access then they just wouldn’t try again. Anyway, we had an appointment back at the Lister Clinic a few days later and had a chat to the IVF doctor. She was disappointed to hear it had fallen out, but said we could think about a frozen emrbyo transfer in Janary anyway. But, since very little had really changed, I didn’t really see the point! We left feeling pretty deflated without much hope.


 What is the problem? A little bit of info about IVF will help.

IVF is a three step process. 

  1. The woman injects a combination of drugs for somewhere between 2-6 weeks, depending on whether you are doing a long or short protocol. These drugs force the ovaries to produce lots of follicles, each hopefully containing a developing egg. They do this to give you the best chance of one sucessful embryo. Normally you just have one single egg a month. You are monitored by regular scans, usually every 2-3 days towards the end. Then you are given a ‘trigger shot’ which pushes the final development. 36 hours later the eggs are surgically removed via a giant needle through the side of the vagina. They drain the fluid from each follice, and hope they catch the egg. This is done under anaesthetic, sometimes a general and other times ‘sedation’ where you sort of drift away but are awake. 
  2. The eggs are taken to meet sperm ‘in vitro’ (in glass). Either just by putting them together and letting them get jiggy with it, or via ICSI where an embryologist picks a specific sperm and injects it into the egg. That is known as day zero. On day 1 you find out how many fertilised to create embryos, then wait for 3-5 days biting your nails and going insane. 
  3. The best embryo(s) is chosen and put back into the womb. This procedure is similar to a smear test. They gently push a catheter through the cervix, and place the embryo in the right place.

My problem is step 3. The cervix is easy to find normally, but since my surgery it seems the normal markers are gone, and for a while there was scar tissue that had actually blocked it. The small operations were to try to open it up further, to clear out scar tissue, and try a few options to hold it open so that scar tissue will form around the istmus (cervical canal) instead of closing it up. Until they doctors can get access to do step 3 they refused to start the IVf. Then in November they said they could get access, did step 1 and 2, but by step 3 said it had blocked up again! Frustrating…


Back to the story! Co-incidentally, at the same time I actually had a long awaited appointment for IVF on the NHS. I met then on 13 Dec, and came back on  20 Dec for another dummy embryo transfer, which is when the doctors try to get access to the womb as per step 3 above, but without the embryo. The doctor there was on a mission to prove he could do what the Lister clinic could not! The process took about two hours, and ended up with me taking a fair bit of gas and air as it got more and more painful. BUT – it worked! They suddenly found the access, and the doctor virtually high-fived the nurse!! An odd experience if I’m honest… They then tried to talk to me, but I was pretty out of it by that stage, but very pleased. I saw later on my notes that there is a little map with an x marking the spot!

XmarksthespotSo, after so many months with the Lister, we decided to give this new clinic a go. I liked the strong optimism and hope they managed to re-create, which had been beaten out of us for a while. Plus this was a fully funded cycle, meaning we decided to do one more fresh cycle. Starting on 1 January I did a short protocol, using a very high dose of Menopur, and Centrotide. I think it was 2 shots each day, and things went as normal. 2 weeks of stimulation, trigger shot and EC took place on the 15th of January. EC wasn’t under general anaesthetic which was a new experience. They sedated me, which makes you very hazy, but I do remember the process. Not too bad, although I was pretty nervous about it.

Then we entered the unchartered territory of letting the embryos grow. I had 9 eggs, 8 of which were mature. They were all ICSI’d, and one didn’t survive the process. Of the remaining 7, 2 didn’t fertilize properly, so we were down to 5 by day 2. It’s so stressful!

By day 3 there were still 5, but only 3 looked ‘right’. Normally with only three they would put a couple of them back there and then, but I am only allowed a single transfer (long story), so we took the scary decision to give them 2 more days to get to Blastocyst. You can’t transfer on day 4, not sure why.

On the 20th we didn’t get a call and I was convinced they had all died. When we arrived they told us we had 1 little embryo which had made it to Blastocyst. It was a surreal experience really. The embryologist talked us through where the embryo was at, and showed us some general images, but not our own embryo. I was convinced they were all quite poor, but they decided to put one back anyway just to give something a chance. Then next thing I’m signing a form agreeing to allow the remaining 4 to ‘perish’. Its sounds so silly, but it felt sad to say goodbye so soon!

5 Day blastocyst

5 Day blastocyst

The actual transfer was a non-event after all that prep! The map clearly worked, although I was encouraged to take some nitrox anyway just in case it was painful.

Then you are sent home to relax for a day, then go back to normal. Normal?!!?? Let me tell you that there is no ‘normal’ in the 2 week wait. The first week I was ok, lots of strange cramps, but that can be caused by your body just recovering a bit from the IVF process. The cervix has to relax back and close, and your womb is dealing with something going on… hopefully…

The second week I was a wreak. I was taking progesterone, which is the hormone that causes all the normal pre period symptoms (bloating, breast changes, headaches, moodiness) and also all the normal early pregnancy symptoms (bloating, breast changes, headaches, moodiness) so it’s very hard to know if any symptoms are pregnancy or period!! And I was analysing every twinge, every feeling, every minor change going on in my body. It drives you slowly insane!

The day before I’d decided to test I was also on a strange work course all about maximising your potential, where we were expected to talk about what personally motivated us, what crisis we have faced and how we recovered. I can tell you with certainty that is the LAST thing you should do when charged up on hormones, stress and fear! There may, ahem, have been a very embarrassing moment of near tears in front of my colleagues… followed by a proper cry on the tube. I realised I had to test to sort out my sanity if nothing else.

My official test day was meant to be 2 weeks after the transfer, but I knew that I should get a result one way or the other a few days earlier. Plus the OTD was a Monday, and I couldn’t face a negative test and then going to work. So, 1 Feb, I woke up at 6am and worried for a while. Then worried a bit more, and procrastinated. Finally I had to get up (largely driven by an impatient bladder), had another little cry, and then pee’d on a stick. And I watched nothing happen… I watched that stupid control line appear that I had seen many times before, and then… and then… amazingly, miraculously, wonderfully, a second line slowly began to appear. Pale, but definatly there.

FRER

Shock

With shaking hands (not a cliche in this case) I got out the posh digital test, and tested again.

Digi

OH MY GOD! This is an everyday, perfectly normal event that the vast majority of women will experience in their lives, but still a wonderful overwhelming magical moment. After almost 4 years of heartbreak, 3 IVF’s, a little bit of cancer – there was that elusive second line. I didn’t quite believe it, so a checked a few extra times. 😉

Tests

Baby brain already kicked in by the last tests. Date should be 6/3/14, and the last one who knows!

So here we are! I’m 10 weeks pregnant now, and just had another look at my little resident. I’ve had a few scans, a bit of a scare with some bleeding, but now he or she seems to be settled in (its definitely only one). There is still lots going on medically, and I will blog about the upcoming next steps, which are unconventional to say the least, but right now I’m just an everyday normal pregnant woman and we are both so happy to have this chance. It’s just so amazing and wonderful (and scary, and stressful and terrifying) but mainly wonderful!

Update: Actually I’m now 12 weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to post this until this latest round of tests were completed. I still can’t really believe it. But the baby passed all tests today with flying colours, and operation ‘lock that baby in to cook for 6 more months’ starts tomorrow. Literally an operation… which I will post about soon.

Thanks for the comments!

7 Feb

First posted 25 Jan:

http://community.macmillan.org.uk/blogs/b/kaths_cervical_cancer_blog/archive/2013/01/25/thanks-for-the-comments.aspx

I do greatly appreciate the effort it takes to comment! Not sure why they make it so hard… but it seems the joy of achieving it is working for you all. 🙂

Good news today! We have 9 little embryos in the freezer. We didn’t get a quality report as it’s quite early to freeze them, but they do as we aren’t trying to select the best one for a fresh cycle. Apparently the embryos are more stable at 1 day, so we will take our gambles if/when we get to defrost them.

Tonight I have celebrated with the first wine in a while! I will update in a more sober and perhaps more Australia day manner tomorrow.

Quick Update

7 Feb

First posted 24 Jan:

http://community.macmillan.org.uk/blogs/b/kaths_cervical_cancer_blog/archive/2013/01/24/quick-update.aspx

EC day today. Things went fine, and we will find out tomorrow the results.

Few minor issues at the hospital, like missing blood tests, missing my vein with the sedative, but otherwise ok.

Got out after 2 (arrived at 7!) so pretty tired this afternoon. Things went well, but I feel a bit flat after all the excitement.

I missed one test with my list on the last post. They also did a nasal swab which actually came back positive for a Staph infection. Nothing serious, but it has to be cleared before the 4 Feb operation. So another week of antibiotics, plus the Synarel. Would have been good to have a break – presumably that means some tests next week to confirm it’s gone. Tests take 3 days apparently.

The antibiotics include a body wash which is also to be used as a shampoo. She said it will be very drying for my already dry frizzy hair! I see this in my future –

🙂

Shamelessly stolen from this website: http://www.buzzfeed.com/skarlan/the-woes-of-having-curly-hair-82j3

p.s. I know its a pain to register on this website, but I would welcome any comments! 🙂

Test updates

7 Feb

First posted 19 Jan:

http://community.macmillan.org.uk/blogs/b/kaths_cervical_cancer_blog/archive/2013/01/19/test-updates.aspx

 

Hi,

Lots of tests going on this week, so a quick update.

MRI:

Test: MRI was at The Royal Marsden in Surrey on Wednesday. This was a special type of MRI to get a better view of the cervix. Best not to know too much about how that was done!

Result: Small tumor still remaining. Sort of expected, but there was always a chance the tumor has been destroyed by the healing process after the cone biopsy. Even if there was no tumor remaining, the surgery is still necessary if it’s shown to be invasive due to the risks of even a cell or two wandering around the local area.

IVF

I’ve had three scans this week. First showing 11 follicles, now it’s up to about 14, with 5 being a decent size so far. Still up to a week to go, but I’m told these numbers are good.

Other tests:

I’ve been poked a prodded a lot this week! Here is what happened.

IVF Stuff: 

3 x IVF Follicle Scans.

2 x Estrogen levels blood tests (I don’t seem to get the results of these. The IVF clinic use them to decide if they change my medications)

1 x Hep B Core Antigen blood test. This is just a pre-screening test I forget to get the GP to do. Negative result as expected.

Pre-Hospital Admission tests:

1 x Full blood count. (All normal)

1 x Blood typing blood test. (A+)

1 x ECG. Stuck with lots of stickers, then wired up, and my heart tested. All good.

Breathing flow rate test. That isn’t the right name, but the one where you blow in a tube to see how strong your lungs are. Seemed to be ok!

Blood pressure. 120/80. I am oddly proud of my textbook perfect blood pressure. It’s always been the same my whole life!

Height and weight. The one I hate the most! Note.. IVF is not good for weight. I’m assuming it’s that, not the chocolate. 🙂

I am, as noted before, perfectly healthy apart from the cancer. I didn’t really like this set of tests, mainly because it was at the Marsden in London. As the Marsden’s are cancer hospitals, it sort of makes it all a little real. The staff were all wonderful, but it’s not nice to be there.

I also realised I was quite young to be there. Most people were much older (and sicker), and I think the girl doing the tests was slightly bemused by how healthy I was. I felt a bit of a fraud to be honest.

DIY drugs

300iu injection of Menopur each evening, plus 2 sniffs of Synarel each day. Plus a round dozen of vitamin tablets each morning. I’m getting some nice bruises on my tummy from the injections, but otherwise it’s pretty easy now.

Other things:

2 x Acupuncture sessions.

We also spent two hours with the Egg Donation teams, to firstly get counselling about what egg donation would mean, and then to be put on the waiting list. This is a backup in case the IVF fails.

Number of new people this week who really should have bought me a drink before getting so personal.

3.

blush

 

On balance, an ok week results wise, and with what could be good news at the end.

It was hard to juggle all this around work – both the time off and the constant booking and re-booking phone calls – but I’m off work now until I get the all clear so hopefully stress levels will reduce.

Insurance policy… Frozen embryos

7 Feb

Originally posted 16 Jan: http://community.macmillan.org.uk/blogs/b/kaths_cervical_cancer_blog/archive/2013/01/16/insurance-policy-frozen-embryos.aspx

The reason I have time now to sit around and write blogs, is because I have chosen to delay treatment while I go through a cycle of IVF. It’s a small gamble, and I wanted to take what may be my last chance to do this.

The goal of this is to hopefully get a few eggs, fertilize them, and then freeze the embryos created – for use somehow in the future.

FYI. Eggs themselves can’t be frozen. Or rather, the success rates are really really low. Embryos can be frozen with a pretty high success rate, so long as they are good quality when they are frozen. 

IVF Cycle: 

Just for those that are interested.

1. Birth control pill. 

What tha!?! First thing is to go back on the bloody pill! I wasn’t impressed… but it was so that they could control my cycle, and therefore no delay to starting IVF as soon as we got back from Australia.

2. Down-Regging: (Synarel)

This turns off all your hormones, and I found it really tough. It’s a nasal spray – and it’s amazing that so much impact can come from a quick sniff in the morning. Which is what all cocaine users say I’m sure. 🙂

I found I was moody, and weepy, and just plain depressed. As it was my first week back at work, and first week back in London after the holiday, and first week of having to really accept I had cancer, it was all a little overwhelming. I was a bit of a mess at work if I’m honest, and I don’t think I really did a minute of effective work. Plus headaches, hot flushes…

At least in this cold weather I get to bring my own microclimate with me.

3. Stimulating. (Menopur. What kind of sadist calls an IVF drug menopur! The less talk of menopause the better.) 


I was so looking forward to this! I was counting down the days on the down-regging until I could start injecting myself each evening. Who knew I’d so look forward to self-injecting! And the impact was immediate and positive. I cheered up, felt like my brain was working again, and have been feeling more myself. Still headaches, and hot flushes and things, but I can live with those so long as I’m not so bloody depressed.

It’s been 6 days so far, and I had a scan at 4 days. I wasn’t really expected to respond well, due to some earlier tests, but actually its looking good. 11 follicles at first count. We watched a show last night called ‘The baby makers’ about IVF clinics, and it showed how follicles can be empty, how eggs can fail to fertilise, and then how they can fail to implant. So it’s a long journey, with lots of hurdles, but I was pleased to at least get over the first one.

I’m on a massive dose of Menopur, no messing about. So it’s good I responded well, as they can’t give me much more. This is where we are now – so the next steps below are what we expect  to happen. I am still taking the synarel to prevent the eggs releasing, but a lower dose, and therefore less side effects.

4. Egg Collection.

This is done under sedation, or maybe a full general. Either way, I won’t know much about it. They put you under, then basically stick a long needle up through the vaginal wall, and up to the ovaries. And then empty each follicle, hoping they get an egg.

  • Key dates: 
  • This is expected to be the latter half of next week. 23-26 Jan. Not sure of the exact date. It’s a day surgery, so don’t need to stay overnight. I’ll know more as I do each scan. I have scan tomorrow, and probably on Friday/regularly while they try to time exactly the best moment.

5. Fertilisation, and fingers crossed.

Eggs are fertilized with Mr Martin’s contribution to the process. In our case this will be done using ICSI – where a person at the clinic (embryologist) picks an individual sperm and puts it into the egg. If we had a few attempts, they may not do this (it’s £1300), but as it’s possibly our only try, the doctor advised it would be safer to do ICSI to get more fertilized eggs.

Get in there! No risking mother nature. Lets be honest, she hasn’t been that kind to me so far!

6. Wait 5 or so days. 

Now we wait and hope that the eggs fertilise and develop for a few days. At this stage they are given their first report card, and will be graded AA, A or B.. or whatever. I believe they would probably advise us to freeze even lower quality eggs, as they can be fine when implanted in some cases.

7. Freeeeeeezeeeeee

After all that, hopefully we have a few little embryos that have survived, and can be frozen. I think at this stage they are called blastocysts.

We can only hope to get to this stage! Baby’s first picture.

Pill Popping and hand waving. 

I am also doing a bunch of things to try and improve the quality of the eggs produced. I take a whole range of vitamins every day, plus calcium.

I’m doing acupuncture twice a week, which is a strange thing, but seems to work. I’m also making sure I have lots of protein, and not too much carbs. Lots of fish and eggs and chicken, and probably a tad too much chocolate, but I can only do so much! And no alcohol, or caffeine at all, and 1 cup of green tea maximum a day.

Remember I’m going through all this stress, and I can’t even have a glass of wine. Life is cruel sometimes!!

All of this is somewhat random advice gained from random sources, but I’ve checked it at least shouldn’t do any harm.