Part 5: Chemotherapy & IVF
I will be starting Chemotherapy shortly and my medical oncologist gave me a referral to Melbourne IVF so that we could tackle the kids side of things, cause Chemo messes with that too. It was a freezing cold and rainy Monday morning. Simon and I went to the usual 8 am radiation appointment.
Then we went to the Royal Womens Hospital for our appointment with the Melbourne IVF fertility clinic which turned out to be a roller coaster of emotions.
Chemotherapy – The Facts
Chemotherapy acts on rapidly dividing cancer cells to destroy them. Some chemotherapy drugs can damage the eggs and follicles in your ovaries which can cause temporary or permanent damage.
Our first appointment for the day was with Dr Charlie at 10 am who discussed the 3 options available to us (which all have to be done before chemotherapy begins.) As you know, I have been trying to be positive during this whole process. I struggle to be serious at the best of times. So when he said excellent, it took all my strength not to say ‘EGGcellent’ back to him.
- Injecting Zolodex once a month, starting a week before chemo.
Zoladex is a GnRh (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) agonist. GnRH agonists are hormones that block GnRH, a hormone made in the brain that tells the ovaries to get ready for ovulation. Ovulation happens when a mature egg is released from the ovary, ready to be fertilised. When GnRH is blocked, no ovulation occurs. So Zoladex causes the ovaries to temporarily shut down. By doing this while a woman is being treated with chemotherapy, the goal is to help protect the eggs from the chemotherapy medicine. Basically it gives you a better chance of conceiving naturally after chemo.
- Freezing embryos or eggs.
This begins with 10-14 days of hormone stimulation (lots of needles and self-injecting). Eggs are then removed from the ovaries under sedation and through the vagina. Vacuumed out, then fertilised with sperm outside the body and frozen until you are ready to use them. This is an insurance policy in case you need them later.
- Freezing ovarian tissue
This process is called a laparoscopy. Through keyhole surgery, a small piece of ovarian tissue is removed from one ovary and then cut into tiny slices and then frozen. The tissue is then later grafted into the pelvis when you are ready to conceive and stimulated to produce follicles and eggs.
So obviously, we chose option 1 and 2. The doctor was pretty keen to get started right away just in case we could fit in at least 2 rounds of option 2. I went straight in for an internal ultrasound, awkies. Simon was in the room, in case you have never had one, they pull out this long phallic stick with a camera on the end of it and pop a condom on it then lube it up, you can imagine the rest. Turns out my body was ready to start the IVF cycle. We also found out that you have to wait at least 6 months after finishing chemo before trying to have babies. It also required sign off from your oncologist and surgeon. (the eggs may be damaged from the chemo and may have abnormalities if used)
Meeting the Accounts Team
The next meeting we had was with the lovely Sarah from accounts who explained the involved costs and paperwork (standard police check and child protection forms). we were presented with the total cost and our jaws nearly hit the floor. Clearly we had not been saving for this and then had to contemplate if we could do it at all. So we headed out to grab some lunch and chat about it, then decided to do a quick meditation in the car while we waited for our next appointment.
Meeting Nurse Sarah
Our 2nd Sarah for the day, just as lovely. She explained all of the medication that I would need to take (all self-injected by needles, not so exciting). There are 4 types of medicine that have to be injected, all on different days. She also mentioned how well I was doing considering how quickly everything was happening and how shit the circumstances are. Hello tears! People tell you to be positive but these people also don’t know what it is like to go through.
Meeting Suellen – the counsellor.
The next cry, we talked about the law and how the embryos are treated we had to make some decisions on what happens to the embryos in the event of one of our deaths, who gets to use them or if they get discarded. We had already discussed this the day before and were happy for each other to use them. Interestingly, Simon had to approve for me to go through IVF and sign off on it. Are we still in the 50’s? Should I get back in the kitchen and make him some pie? I was thinking about Emma Watson and what she would have to say about all of this.
Back to Accounts
We sat back down with Sarah and got great news that they could reduce the cost a bit to help us out. YAY. BABIES. Sarah was super lovely about all of it, we still had to come back with our completed police check forms.
Back to Sarah No. 2
This time we spoke about all the meds and how to inject, we went down to the pharmacist to get it filled our script filled. Waiting at the internal pharmacist for almost half an hour and then having to go elsewhere because they don’t stock 2 of the 4 things we need.
5pm, Home Time. A total of 9 hours in hospital for the day and a lot of information.
UberEATS Pizza (Mr Natural Vegetarian, amazing GF bases and toppings), Netflix and Chocolate Coconut Ice cream, well-deserved after all that I think.