Sunday, January 31, 2010

A tale of five pregnancies

As I struggle thru chemo I find myself reliving other episodes of survival in my life, particularly ones that required emotional endurance. In the forefront of my mind lately is one of the most difficult chapters of my life -- the saga of my struggle to become a mother.

We went thru years of infertility before finally having our two beautiful children. I started trying to get pregnant when I was 33, and after spending a frustrating year with no luck we began the search for medical answers. That process was to take us four more years.

Eventually it was discovered there were multiple yet simple reasons for our inability to conceive, and a couple months after a hysteroscopic procedure I miraculously got pregnant the "old fashioned way" as they say. It had taken three years by that time, only to sort of happen suddenly by accident. We were elated.

But sadly it was not to be.

From the start the doctor could tell there was a problem and he predicted I might miscarry. Then about a week before Christmas there was definitively no heartbeat. We were devastated. I suffered thru the holidays waiting for "it" to happen, but New Year's came and went and no miscarriage. I had some minor anatomical issues that made a D&C more difficult than typical and the fear was that my womb would be irreparably damaged if the doctor was too, shall we say, zealous. But a D&C was carefully performed...and unfortunately didn't work. I was still technically pregnant. The doctor thought maybe just the dilation of my cervix from the surgery would induce the miscarriage so we waited some more. And then some more. Finally as a last resort a dose of a chemotherapy drug was administered (ironic, isn't it?) Apparently this is a common practice for safely ending topical or tubal pregnancies that surgery can't be done for, so they hoped it would work on me.

Within a few days, along with being horrifically sick from the chemo, I experienced what to me was a very violent miscarriage. I'll spare you the details.

But here's the unbelievable part: it still didn't completely work. My hormones continued to be at pregnancy levels even tho the baby had been, without a doubt, no longer alive for quite some time. My body just wouldn't let go. So to add to my intense emotional torture it took months of intermittent bleeding, months of going for weekly blood tests before my hormone levels dropped back to normal...months of technically being pregnant with a baby that was long dead.

Torture doesn't even begin to cover it. To this day I cannot adequately describe the anguish I went thru, nor do I want to. There are just no words. I also try not to wonder now what that prolonged hormonal cocktail did to my body in terms of cancer -- I can't go there, I just can't.

After that it took us quite a while to even think of trying again. But eventually we got up our courage and stamina. We were duely rewarded...using IUI on the first try we conceived our precious Megan. While her birth was fraught with more drama, in the end I can say unequivocally it was SO worth every excruciating moment. Every single one of them. We are hugely blessed.

Because of everything that had happened we figured that was it. Why tempt fate? We had a healthy baby girl and we were a family. Megan would be an only child.

Then about 4+ years ago, Michael's union got locked out while they were negotiating a new contract. He was out of work a few months. He was home alot. We had more time together and, well, you know :) Suddenly, out of the blue at age 42 I found myself pregnant again! Once again, it was the "old fashioned way".

But once again, it was not to be.

As a high risk pregnancy each week we'd go for the ultrasound and hope for growth, hope to see the heartbeat. After just a few weeks it stopped. You can imagine our fear -- I could't envision going thru that awful ordeal again. Thankfully, this time the D&C accomplished what needed to be done. I was spared some of the suffering...some of it.

But that baby, however briefly it lived in my womb, made almost as much an impact on my life as if it had been born. Because if it hadn't been for that baby, for that unexpected pregnancy, I never would have thought about trying again. It made me think about having another child, opened my heart to the idea. I contemplated whether or not I could go thru all that I might have to in order to bring another precious child into our family and decided that I wanted to go for it, that I longed for another baby. If it hadn't been for losing that child I never would have tried to get pregnant with Daniel. That baby paved the way for the family that surrounds me today.

There was to be one more miscarriage in the process before Daniel was successfully conceived...but it too was medically uneventful, not even requiring a D& C. I can't explain now why a second miscarriage didn't daunt me more, why I kept going despite it. I remember looking at Meggie and thinking about how wonderful she was, how it would all be worth it in the end. Obviously I'm glad it didn't deter me every time I look at my beautiful boy now.

These three unborn children will always be a part of me and I love them, wouldn't trade their brief existence in my life if I could. They shaped the way their live siblings came into this world. (And might I add here that I happen to be pro-choice and am not trying to romanticize the biological realities -- clearly these pregnancies would have resulted in much wanted children.)

Finally, my last pregnancy....with Daniel it took two tries of IUI -- but then there he was, that precious little blip on the ultrasound screen week after week after wonderful week. I had some problems, all unrelated to eachother...minor ones in the first trimester and then the discovery of a potential major health issue later -- plus a few hairy moments at his birth when the cord was wrapped round his little neck 4 times! But all along tragedy was averted and Daniel is the beaming light of our lives...his father, sister and I adore him and feel like he was always here. We can't imagine our family without him.

When people ask me how many children I have I say two, of course. But each and every time I think of the others...the ones that in some sense heralded their brother and sister's arrival, the ones that taught me the meaning of healing and endurance, that showed me what I was really made out of -- strong stuff that bends and twists but doesn't break easily.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Big things happening...

It’s a sad reality that by the time I start to feel human again it’s just a couple days till the next round of chemo and I find myself cramming as much “normal” into those few days as possible – time with my kids just being regular old Mama, time with Michael where he doesn’t have to take care of me, and time just to enjoy not feeling nauseous.

Thursday is round 4 and the last of this drug regimen. I begin four more rounds of a different drug a couple weeks after that. That will take 3 months. It’s daunting…very daunting.

But for a few moments I’m going to try not to think about all that and just write about something else, something not remotely chemo related. Something rather pleasant, actually :)

BIG THINGS have been going on and I haven’t had a moment to blog about them. Remember this house?

Well, we’re buying it!!! And we’ve sold our house – in fact we had a bit of a bidding war and even got a smidge more than our asking price, can you believe it? Good thing too, since the new house is in need of serious work. The present owner will likely have to replace at least part of the septic system, the hot water heater, cracked chimney flue and a few other things…we need to eventually replace all the kitchen appliances, all the flooring save for 2 rooms (living & dining rooms which are hardwood and just need sanding) plus pretty much redo 3 bathrooms. Oh, and paint…. lots and lots of paint.

The place is obviously a handyman special, but honestly that’s why we can afford it. Aside from all the updating it is a lovely and gracious home with 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a huge kitchen plus a family room, living room and formal dining room. Oh, and a spacious, welcoming foyer, back mudroom and laundry on the 1st floor. It’s also on a great cul-de-sac…the location is truly stellar -- there are protected woodlands that go on for miles behind the house. Plus,check out this view from the back deck:

Well, that’s my news and about all I can manage right now, but I just HAD to share some happy stuff (for a change) with my beloved readers. Thank you for your continued support and best wishes, they are precious to me and my family, believe me.

Be well and wish me luck!!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Worth a thousand words...

Round 3 tomorrow.

I'm still here.

To all the dear people that have commented -- your thoughts and prayers have meant more to me than mere words can say, my appreciation runs deep and I will never forget all your kindness. Know too that my children and husband have had their spirits lifted by the loving thoughts left here as well, and for that especially each and every one of you will forever be etched upon my heart in gratitude.

Thank you doesn't even begin to cover it, but I hope it will do.

Blessings to all...


Friday, January 1, 2010

brief update

Michael here. Kayleigh had round 2 of chemo today, she decided to give it another try. It's been a bit better, but she's still in pretty rough shape.

She has wanted me to update her blog for a while but I haven't had the chance, I'm sorry. She most of all wanted me to say thank you to all the people who have sent her love and best wishes. I've read her some of the comments from the last post and it really seemed to lift her spirits alot. All of you have been a great support for her so I thank you from the bottom of my heart too.

She'll be back to blogging when she can, probably won't be long if I know my wife :)

Hope everyone has a happy new year.