Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

All Systems Are Go!

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

So exciting!

Yesterday morning, I went to my cancer followup for a colposcopy and biopsy.  The doc said everything looked perfect on the surface, and that the excision site had healed up great.  I’ll probably get the results of that in the next couple of weeks, and they will book me for another check-in, probably around March next year.

Yesterday afternoon, Frank and I met at the fertility clinic and the ball really got rolling!

They seem to have lost my blood test, but are simultaneously sure that they must have seen it, and it must have been fine, or they wouldn’t have booked the appointment.  We learned that Frank is pretty much a zygote machine… apparently when they’re counting up motile sperm, they want to see something like 8 million per millilitre, and our boy Frankie had about 13.  Go Frank!

The doc was a bit put out that had a biopsy that morning, as he needed to do a little test that could cause bleeding, or be painful… he wanted to make me come back & do it another day, but I pouted and convinced him I was a tough chick, so we went ahead.  And in fact… it really wasn’t a big deal.  They did a “mock transfer”, where they take a teeny tiny little catheter, like the one they will use on the Big Day, to measure how long a hose they need to get the egg put in the right place.  Apparently I’m an “85-er”.

While they were in there, they did an ultrasound to look at my ovaries.  Lucky for us, I was at a perfect spot in my cycle to see some nice fat follicles doing their thing, and he counted a good number of them in each ovary.  So everything looks great!

After seeing the doc, we spent about an hour with the nurse, going over the nitty gritty of hormone treatments, risks, the pros of cryopreserving unused eggs, and the “schedule” once we get going.  We have a mountain of reading material to get through, a pile of consent forms to sign, and a bunch of drugs to research.  Did you know we can collect Airmiles on our follicle stimulating hormone purchases?  INSANE.

The wackiest part of the day was being told that the schedule is totally up to us now.  We’ve done all the prep work, and we can start as soon or as late as we want, and we don’t even have to check with them first.  So, Frank and I are discussing the options, and deciding when to start.  Apparently the clinic closes over the holiday, so I can’t start in December, but starting at my very next cycle (this month), would put my hormone injections & monitoring at the same time as I’m trying to final a project at work… probably not a good idea.  I don’t really want to wait until the new year – I really want to get it going ASAP, but I’m leaning on starting on my October cycle.  We’d know by Christmas if it worked!

Here’s how it goes:

They gave me a prescription for my first hormone: an inhalant that will essentially help keep all my eggs in the basket (it suppresses the release of eggs from the ovaries).  On day 21 of whatever cycle I want, I start taking it daily, and when I’ve done that for about 12 days, I call them to say I’m ready for the next part….and then I just COME IN.  No waiting for an appointment, no scheduling, no nothing.  I just call, show up that day, and a nurse will show me what to do next.

That next step is to take a self-administered FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) injection for a number of days.  This drug simulates the hormone my brain would normally produce that tells my ovaries to ripen an egg for ovulation.  I’ll be taking very large doses of this, so my body will (hopefully) ripen many, many eggs, and the inhalant drug will prevent them from being released until the right time.

As there’s some nasty things that can happen with artificially ripening eggs, I will need to be monitored regularly for about a week, while I take the FSH.  Also, I was warned that an epic PMS may accompany this process.  I apologize in advance for my impending insanity 🙂

They will determine exactly the right day to give me an HCG injection (human chorionic gonadotropin), which will trigger the ripening eggs to mature.  About 2 days later, they will do the egg retrieval (under conscious sedation), and then the exciting part starts: The birds & the bees will do a little dance in a petri dish, and in three days, the doctors will choose the best two or three embryos to put back.  And two weeks after that, we’ll find out if it worked!

So, it’s all finally happening and we’re getting pretty excited 🙂



Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Just got a call from the fertility clinic… they need to postpone our appointment.

The funny thing? Once again, they have chosen to book me on the same day as a cancer follow up, hahaha.

So instead of August 24, we will see both the cancer doc & the baby doc on September 10, right after I get back from Burning Man.

Double Tap

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Booyah!  Cancer doc & fertility doc, all in one day – DONE!

Cancer Appointment

Cancer doc visit was short – so short they probably shoulda just called me instead of making me go in… but whatever.  Mostly they just wanted to make sure that there was nothing fishy going on since the last LEEP, and to make sure I was booked for another followup, which I am (September 10), and to give me an opportunity to ask questions.  I didn’t really have any, other than: Is there anything about this stuff that I should relay to my fertility doctor?  Apparently all he needs to know is that I’ve had “two LEEPs for microinvasive cervical cancer”, and he can take it from there.”

She said they’d keep an eye on my cervix for a while (like a year or two), to make sure I’m still clear, and in the meantime, good luck with the babies.

After a breakfast break and a bit of time killing, I met up with Frank & we headed to the fertility clinic, which was awesome.

Fertility Appointment

We’ve got the same doc as we had a few years ago, a good-natured Brit that likes to grin & wink.  He totally didn’t give me shit for being frustrated and not following up back then, in fact he blew it right off, saying “totally understandable”.  He gave us the straight dope on statistics & whatnot, and we were totally in agreement on going straight to IVF.  The fact that we’ve gone seven years with no apparent pregnancies means our chances of natural conception (per cycle) is about 3%, or LESS.  With a clomid-style drug therapy, we’re still looking at only 10-20%, tops.  IUI, maybe 30%.  IVF, 40%, maybe better.  He said he’d recommend the IVF to us based on how long we’ve been trying, even if we weren’t concerned about the cancer coming back, so it was great that we were all on the same page.  I asked about the LEEPs potentially weakening my cervix (as I’d read about that), and he said no worries.  Apparently he’s been treating a woman who had 2 LEEPs and then a trachelectomy, (means she doesn’t have a cervix at ALL) and they’re gettin’ her pregnant anyway – so yeah.  Totally doable as long as the genetic material plays nice together.

So, we’re officially on the fertility treatment train as of today.  We’ve got a couple of basic tests (blood & swimmers) to do first, and then a mandatory IVF counselling session.  As the doc said, “as soon as we say IVF, Health Canada assumes we’re going to rip you off”.  The counselling is reported to the gov’t so that they know that we’re being attended to properly and everything’s on the up & up.

It’s not going to be cheap… we’re looking at about $7000 per attempt, and it’s possible that it won’t work the first time, so we need to be prepared for it to cost two or three times that.  I’m thinking about throwin’ a fundraiser 🙂

Man, it feels great to have all this finally underway!

uh – whoa

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

ok – how weird is this….

UBC just called back me back.  They booked me STRAIGHT to an appointment (no fill out this thing, send it back, get on a wait list… it must be because I have a file there already).

And it’s on the SAME DAY as my cancer follow up. (July 14)

Cancer at 11am, babies at 1pm.

Not complaining!  But – whoa man, that’s some serious synchronicity right there.

Good News

Monday, May 31st, 2010

My BCCA doc called this morning with fabulous news.  The results of my last LEEP (from May 11) are in, and everything looks fine.  No more cancer in the biopsy, so I’m good to go.  They still want to talk to me about future options, as I think they expect this to come back and we should have a game plan, but for now, it’s all peachy.

I’m booked for our discussion on July 14.  In the meantime, I need to go harass my GP, because it looks like she never sent in my referral to the UBC Fertility Clinic.  (Honestly, I’m starting to feel like it’s time for a new GP.)  Hopefully our next newsflash will be to say we’re booked in at UBC, and that we have some excellent plan underway 🙂



Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Everything went according to plan yesterday, and my second LEEP (the one that’s supposed to make me cancer-free) is now done.  Hooray!

For the most part, I was outwardly pretty relaxed about it, though internally I was feeling really impatient.  I was a bit concerned that my lingering cough would be a problem, as they don’t like to jam breathing tubes down your throat when you’ve got a respiratory issue.  But they checked me out & were confident that I was a-ok: no fever, no fluid in the lungs… just a tickly cough.  On the upside, the nurse that did my IV had magic-hands, and not only did I barely feel her do it, it hasn’t bruised at all.  Nice difference from last time, where I ended up with a massive bruise due to a painful (and gross) failed attempt.

I woke up in much more pain than last time.  It’s sometimes really hard to even identify what the pain is, or where it’s coming from when you first wake up… you just feel bad.  The nurses are great about it though, and have a pretty good idea of what you’re feeling (in my case, sharp pains & cramping), so they’re all prepared to make you feel better.  Within moments of me complaining about the pain, they had dropped a cozy hot blanket across my belly and had dosed me full of amazingly fast acting, really strong, happy-land painkillers.

Frank brought me home, made me tea & a bowl of soup, and I updated my FB status to let folks know I was ok, and then I hit the sack.  I slept pretty much all day.  I had somewhat bad dreams, probably fallout from the leadup anxiety &  the painkillers, but otherwise felt ok but loafy.

I’m still feeling sluggish today, and a bit of pain, but little enough that conventional painkillers will be fine.  I’m going to lay low today, and probably be back to work tomorrow.  It will take a few weeks for the wound site to heal fully, but that has nearly no impact on one’s feeling of well-being.  I’ll be checking in with the doctor in a couple of weeks to see what they say about yesterday’s procedure.  He sounded confident that this should take care of it, so I’m going to run with that & consider myself healthy.


Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Well that was a nice surprise!

I got a call from the BCCA today telling me my LEEP is scheduled for Tuesday May 11 at 10:30am – WAY sooner than I expected based on yesterday’s confusion.  That makes me pretty happy!

I’m also happy that they booked me for a general anaesthetic just like last time.  I know it’s overkill, because really these procedures take almost no time to do, but I’m very twitchy and anxious, and need to be sedated/unconscious for this stuff or it’s just a hellish experience for everyone.  When I last discussed with the doctor, I agreed to try a local with sedation, but I’m actually really relieved that they’re just opting to knock me out.

Frank will be my ride & take care of me while I recover.  The immediate recovery (from the anaesthetic & whatnot) is very quick and fairly painless… a day or two of loafing and I’ll feel fine.  The wound will take 4-8 weeks to heal, but it’s not very noticeable or painful at all during that process.

The only downside is that the date collides with a nice social/dinner plan that was booked for that evening, but it’s worth rescheduling so that I can get the surgery over with.

Wish me luck!


Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Well, that’s annoying.

I was pretty sure the doc said they’d call me with my next LEEP surgery date, but they’ve never taken this long to get back to me before.  I wondered if maybe I heard wrong & I was actually supposed to call them to get the date.  As it’s been nearly two weeks since my pre-op discussion and I hadn’t heard back yet, I decided to call in & see if I was supposed to be waiting, or calling, or what.

Blessings on the receptionist, who was clearly confused but still patient and helpful….and blessings on me for not saying “WTF?!”  Apparently, she couldn’t find any note anywhere indicating that I was supposed to have another surgery, and she can’t book me without a directive from the doctor, so now I have to wait.

She’s  gonna call me back “probably next week” she says, so that’s going to push my surgery to later than expected.  They’d originally said mid-May, but with this time loss, I’m probably looking at early June.  Hopefully it won’t collide with when Frank’s out of town 🙁



Monday, April 19th, 2010

As you may expect, we’ve fielded a few questions this week about my cervical cancer, and I thought it might be useful to write a post about it here.

When we see/hear the word “cancer”, we usually think of tumors, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy, weakened bodies and bald heads.  But in truth not all cancers are like this.  “Cancer” is kind of a catch-all term, but there’s a much deeper nitty-gritty to classification, and there can be a lot of variety in the behaviour & treatment of different types.

The early stages of cervical cancer tend to be limited to the cervical area, and doesn’t spread, so the treatment is just a straight-up “cut it out” procedure.  In advanced stages, cervical cancer can become invasive and affect neighbouring organs, lymph nodes, etc – and in those cases, a more aggressive surgery is needed, plus radiation/chemo to kill off what they can’t reach with a knife.

Lucky for me, we caught this really early, so I won’t need any radiation/chemo.  The LEEP should cut out the offending cells, and they will keep a close eye on me for at least a year to make sure that nothing new grows back.  There are all sorts of statistics about whether it will grow back, but with good screening and prompt treatment, it can be controlled, and is not life-threatening.

Also, I am fortunate that cervical cancer doesn’t tend to have any outward symptoms, at least in the early stages, like mine.  I don’t feel sick or weak, and don’t expect to.  The LEEP surgery is easy (far easier than the cryosurgery I had a few years ago), and has a very short recovery time.  When I had my first LEEP in February, I was quite surprised that I felt “normal” within a day.  Of course, it takes much longer than a day for the cervix to heal from the surgery (4-6 weeks), but for the most part I didn’t feel it.

Perhaps of greater impact than the physical details are the emotional and psychological ones.  It takes a great deal of effort and patience to get through all the appointments, release forms and discussions.  And, if I were not also trying to get pregnant, this would be a much simpler and easier process.

Hopefully that answers some of the questions you might have.  I’m not at all squeamish about answering questions, or talking about my experience/treatment, so please do ask if you want to.

The Story So Far…

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Over the last few years I’ve periodically blogged about my health & fertility, and recently, Frank & I decided to create a blog specifically for it.  It can be a pretty heavy topic, and I don’t feel that weaving it into my standard daily blogspace is the right venue.  That said, we have many friends who want to be kept up to date, and it seemed having a separate, dedicated space was a good choice.  So welcome to our new blog, a space to focus on Team Roberts’ ongoing battle with (in)fertility and cervical cancer.

To catch you up….

Fertility, Part 1
Frank & I got married in 2002, and started trying to conceive shortly after.  After about a year of no babies, we talked to our doc.  We did a first round of basic testing (blood/hormone tests, sperm counts) which all turned out fine.  I also had a hysterosalpingogram, which is a rather unpleasant test that checks for blockages in the tubes.  This was also fine.  So the basic tests revealed nothing – we’re both perfectly healthy, sperm counts were excellent, my blood/hormones were doing the right thing at the right time & there were no blockages.  Despite both of us appearing to be perfectly normal, there was still no babies.

The next step was to take it to the UBC Fertility clinic, but time gets away, and I had anxiety about being poked & prodded, and we kept holding out for it all to just happen naturally.  During this time, we saw a naturopath and TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) practitioner, did acupuncture & special diets/supplements, but again without any positive results (ie: still no babies).

Cancer, Part 1
In the summer of 2006, I had a pap that returned unhappy results.  My cervix was showing pre-cancerous cell changes that would require treatment.  In the fall, I received cryosurgery to remove the bad cells, which was an incredibly unpleasant experience, but the pre-cancer was gone, and we could get back on the bus to babyland.

Fertility, Part 2
This scare woke us up a bit, and through 2007, I did two things.  1) I spent a lot of money on my awesome psychologist.  We did a year of somatic/self regulation therapy to help me manage the anxieties that I knew would come with freaky medical pokey stuff.  2) I got on the horn to the UBC Fertility Clinic.  We repeated the blood/hormone & sperm testing (all still good), and in the summer of 2008, I underwent the dreaded laparoscopy and while I was under, they did a hysteroscopy too.  The hope was that they would see some reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant, but again, everything was perfectly normal.  No sign of anything wrong at all.  It sounds ridiculous to be disappointed by a “normal” result, but I had so wished that they would see something broken so that they could fix it.  With nothing to “fix” the options narrow down to two choices.  Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  Both require a lot of poking, a lot of money, and I was angry at the universe and didn’t want to be poked anymore.  So I sulked into my cave to hibernate and didn’t act on anything.  I didn’t even call the doctor back after I recovered from the surgery.

Cancer, Part 2
I stayed in my cave for about a year.  In October of 2009, I had another pap return scary results; the cells were changing again.  These cellular changes were more severe and more widespread than last time, and I was referred to the awesome doctors at the BC Cancer Agency.  Instead of cryosurgery (a treatment that is no longer recommended in BC), they removed the bad cells via LEEP which allows them to retain the removed tissue for further testing.
I had the LEEP in February, and before I was fully recovered from it, the cancer-doc called to tell me that they found a “small cancer” in one place along the edge of what was removed, and that I would need further treatment.  Possibly another LEEP, possibly a partial hysterectomy, depending on how aggressive we wanted to treat it.

Frank and I have spent the last month talking seriously about what to do.  Of course, a partial hysterectomy would mean that I couldn’t carry my own pregnancy, if we ever succeeded in conceiving.  A more conservative treatment (at first) would buy us time to give IVF a shot, but that could also mean that the cancer could come back later, perhaps worse, perhaps during a pregnancy – both terrible scenarios.  We’ve heard all the horror stories, and we’re not interested in having me take a premature dirt nap, but we also didn’t want to give up on babies unless there really was no other choice.

And now you’re caught up.  Today was a big day.  Frank and I went to see the cancer doc this afternoon to discuss the treatment options for my “small cancer”.  We asked her the big questions about risk and whatnot, and of course she can’t predict the future, but she believed that doing another LEEP with the intention of preserving my fertility is a reasonable and safe option.  If I were older or not interested in babies, they’d recommend just taking it all out, but in light of our age and parenting goals, it’s reasonable to keep it in check with LEEPs for a little while.  That said, there’s realistically only so much flesh they can cut away, so if our IVF attempts fail and the cancer returns, then I think the writing will be on the wall for us.

Next Steps
I’ll be collecting another referral to the UBC Fertility Clinic from my GP, and in about a month (mid-May), I’ll be going for another LEEP.  Assuming that the LEEP goes well, the timing could work out that I’d be seeing the fertility doc by the time the next LEEP is healed, and we could be underway for IVF by late summer.  The only thing that could ruin the plan is if they get in there to do the procedure and they discover that it’s spreading or getting somehow worse enough that it would require a more aggressive treatment immediately.  But we’re going to hope that doesn’t happen. 🙂

Once the LEEP is done, and the results are showing me cancer-free, we’ll proceed with an IVF attempt.

In case you are terribly worried, please let me assure you that there have been heaps of progress made in the area of women’s cancers, and although this is of course, serious, it’s not going to kill me.  Cervical cancer is very treatable, and I have a lot of confidence in the good folks at the Cancer Agency.  Rest assured that we don’t plan to make any crazy decisions that would put my life at risk.

If you want to keep up, I’ll be posting here, with updates, notes, feelings… all that bloggy jazz.

Thanks for reading, for your love, your support, and for being the super-awesome beings that you are.
Hugs & stuff,
Crank and Flaire