Monday, May 23, 2011


This has been my hardest week so far. I think the fertility hormones have caught up with me, as have my emotions. I am just tired. The kind of tired that feels insurmountable when it hits. The kind of tired where showering and getting ready for the day uses up all my resources and some rest is needed before continuing on with the day. My walk to work is similarly exhausting.

This extreme fatigue has me worried about what lies ahead.

On Tuesday I had my oocyte retrieval (which sounds far better than saying egg harvesting!). My friend Tiffany came up for a sleep over Monday night and I was pretty confident I would snap back to my regular energy and life - and waist circumference - by Wednesday morning at the latest.

Like all good sleepovers, we stayed up late Monday night catching up . . . and eating chocolate souffles with ice cream and berries. If you ever have a crisis, I suggest having Tiffany around. She should have been a boy scout because she knows how to be prepared. She asked question after question about what I think I may or may not need to get ready for a summer of chemotherapy and how to help the visitors we anticipate may be traipsing in and out of my place be helpful. We put some good lists together and I reminded her that I do not believe I will be an invalid. She agreed but suggested it is better to have everything ready. Like I said, preparation.

My retrieval was scheduled for 11:30 am and I was not allowed to eat or drink after midnight so I ate half an asian pear at 11:55 and gulped down the last of the water I was allowed. When I finally crawled into bed after 1 am, I didn't set an alarm hoping I could sleep late to avoid too many hours of thirst and hunger. I'm not a good faster. Head aches don't take long to creep in.

I was nervous about the procedure but anxious to get it and all of the shots and hard decisions about the babies I may or may not one day think about having behind me. As I dressed that morning I felt the importance of the day resting on my shoulders as I tried to pick something comfortable but not too frumpy to wear. I thought about how this might be a day I later remember as the egg birthday of my future child. It is difficult to express that feeling. I am not saying I had some type of spiritual revelation, just a solemnity about what I was about to do and how it could possibly impact my future.

We walked across town to the clinic and I think I shocked Tiffany a little when I asked if we could slow our pace a bit. I am never the person to ask to slow down but these hormones have definitely taken a toll on me.

The procedure was performed on a different floor than my usual appointments so instead of a bustling, crowded reception area with no fewer than 5 women answering phones and questions and directing patients to the proper place at a time, the 9th floor waiting room was small, quiet and serene with only one recpetion and one couple there waiting. And yet, the same longing feeling was lingering in the air and was almost more palpable due to how quiet everything was with no phones ringing and no nurses calling out patient's names every few minutes as women scrambled to gather all their belongings for their turn at a blood draw or ultrasound.

We didn't have to wait very long before I was called back to change. Tiffany was shuffled off to recovery room something or other and I was sent to a changing room and given precise instructions on what to wear and how to wear it. However, I forgot everything as soon as I drew the curtain and stared at the little pile of hospital clothing with a disposable blue cap on top. Except I remembered she told me I could wait to put that on later. I knew what to do with the socks and I thought she had said something about the gown opening in the back so I did that but there was another blue something or other left in the pile and I didn't know how to secure the gaping back. I heard the woman in the changing room next to me slide her curtain open and fiddle with the locker, I peeked out and noted she was wearing the white gown with the blue hospital-type-pattern opened to the back and the folded blue thing I hadn't yet picked up was another gown which she was wearing like a robe, open in the front. So I copied her and wondered where my listening skills had gone.

After locking my clothes and purse in the locker (with my inhaler I had to send Tiffany back to retrieve), I exited the changing room and opened the door across the hall to another hallway where they sent Tiffany. I thought maybe it was "Recovery Room 2" and was relieved to find the door ajar and Tiffany waiting. I didn't feel nervous but I was definitely experiencing nervousness.

I lounged in what was possibly a comfortable recliner made awkward by being covered in hospital wax paper while we waited and swapped hospital and surgery stories in between discussing the incredible feeling that pulsated through the hallways.

A nurse arrived to take some vital signs and to deliver the unfortunate news that my egg sack belly (my term, not hers) was not going to immediately shrink post-procedure and could potentially continue to grow until my body realized the hormones were not still being stimulated. Awesome.

Again, not much more waiting before the anesthesiologist arrived to insert an IV in my hand and to shoot saline solution into my system prepping for the anesthesia which gave me a strange internal cold feeling running up my arm. I asked a few questions and then said goodbye to Tiffany as I was led to the operating room with the doctor toting my IV stand. I was surprised to see my doctor casually sitting at a desk in the corner of the darkened room talking to a nurse. They immediately started making small talk with me as I climbed onto the operating table and the anesthesiologist poked at various machines behind my head. I was surprised the room wasn't refridgerated and commented on that and the doctor said most patients complain that it is too cold, but I was tucked into blankets and it was nothing compared to my memory of my two prior knee surgeries in brightly lit, sub zero operating rooms. The doctor made a couple of comments about how orthopedists are notorious sweaters  . . . or something to that effect and explained that hospitals are generally kept cool to avoid the growth of bacteria. The best explanation I've ever heard for that!

After some more chit chat where the anesthesiologist chimed in something about liposuction I don't remember, another nurse popped her head in the room and asked if we were about ready and the anesthesiologist noted that she had already given me the medication and then I made some brilliant comment about how the ceiling was getting wavy and I was out.

The next thing I knew I was waking up feeling well-rested and ready to jump up and go home. No headache, no nausea, I felt fine. I was quickly given graham crackers and water and the nurse whispered to me that they successfully retrieved 23 eggs.


She asked me to keep that number quiet since it is much higher than most women get.

I cried.

Tiffany was soon by my side and I quietly shared the good news and after a water refill and a second packet of graham crackers I was asked if I could try and go to the bathroom. Still carting an IV, I was guided to the bathroom and told it was okay if I wasn't able to go but to just let them know.

I felt like a proud toddler when I emerged to report that yes, I managed to pee. Anyone who has traveled with me knows I am a pretty proficient pee-er. Most would say to proficient.

Anyway, with that news, my IV was removed and I was allowed to change and go home. Just like that. It all seemed so easy.

We hailed quite possibly one of the worst cab drivers in the city* who questioned the address I gave him because of course we were on a one way road heading uptown and my address required him to go downtown. I impatiently told him to just turn at the next block and circle around because I was not changing my destination to suit his needs. Which proved to be many. When we were finally heading in the right direction and turning onto my cross-town street, a traffic cop waved him to continue straight. He was annoyed but I really didn't care. Except that he kept forgetting where the gas pedal was and was constantly distracted by his phone and his newspaper. I was recovering from minor surgery, talking to my mom on the phone and periodically reminding my driver that the light is green, or all of the cars have moved forward and so maybe he should to. As we climbed out of the cab at my building I almost warned the woman who was climbing in after us to just wait for someone else or confiscate his phone and paper before going anywhere.

We spent the rest of the afternoon feasting on sushi and trying out the milkshake delivery place I've been curious about and watching the premier of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. I thought maybe the lingering effects of the anesthesia were making me imagining the atrocities on that show but apparently those were all real. I napped a bit and Tiffany productively typed out all the information we'd been discussing for me.

The next few days my energy continued to lag and my belly continued to grow to the point where yesterday I could think of nothing better than to have one - just one! - day where I could feel normal before chemotherapy starts.

Happily, today is that day. This morning my belly appeared to be closer to its pre-hormone induced bloated circumfrence (although I may be mis-remembering a smaller gut) and my energy is back. For example, I do not feel the urge to nap after walking to work. Hooray for a few normal days before chemo starts! Only, two of those days I will be radioactive . . . more on that to come.

*Actually, the worst cab driver I've ever had was a couple of months ago when I was meeting friends downtown - way downtown. I asked the driver if he knew the street. He reassured me he did and then promptly made the decision to take the most ridiculous route possible. Even when I told him to please not take 42nd Street, he turned there. I talked him out of his next decision to take 7th Avenue but somewhere in the West Village he finally confessed he had no idea where he was taking me!!! Unbelievably aggravating.


Tiffany said...

For the record, I hate scouts.

katie said...

Good job Tiff. And good job Alyssa. I can't even begin to understand everything you're going through. Still praying!

Annie said...

23! that is incredible! really. amazing. so happy for that.

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