Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our Journey with Infertility, PCOS and Thyroid Problems

As we drive to a nerve wracking appointment with an endocrinologist, I can't believe a year has passed by since we started this journey. The past 26 months have been the hardest months of my life, but you wouldn't know it by looking at us. I love the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words" but there's also a lot of words you don't see in a picture. This picture may look like any other happy, healthy selfie, when actually I'm a mess inside. About a month ago I was diagnosed with PCOS after having 2 miscarriages, 1 chemical pregnancy and 25 months of struggling with infertility issues. To top it all off, today I find out what problems my thyroid is causing. 

Before I go into our current situation, let me back up a bit. I've had Crohns Disease since I was in 3rd grade. It's an autoimmune disease, which after years of practice I can manage well with out medications. It's not always easy but I handle it just fine. In 2014, I had pneumonia. It took 6 months to get over it. It was terrible. I had to do rounds of IV antibiotics, had a severe, life threatening allergic reaction to the medication and a bad reaction to the two pneumonia vaccines (since I was given them incorrectly), and tons of side effects from the steroids. No one knew I was sick until they started seeing me sporting IV ports. They are very stylish if you've never had one, haha! I continued helping with PTA activities, coaching soccer, being a mom to my three kids and taking care of our home. My husband and mom took turns taking off of work to help me on the days that my treatments didn't go so great and when my fevers were too high for me to get out of bed. I still have scars from the trauma on my veins and lung from going through it. After finally being referred to a pulmonary specialist for the pneumonia, this doctor saved my life and helped me get rid of it. I can't say enough nice things about my lung doctor! He's seriously the best and really cares about his patients' health. Keep this in mind, since my lung doctor plays a very important role in our current situation. 

I was feeling so great when my husband and I decided to try for another baby at the beginning of 2015. I never had fertility  issues before so when I had a chemical pregnancy, I knew something was wrong. I started feeling miserable, losing my hair, having irregular cycles and lots of pain. I got pregnant again, and miscarried at 6 weeks. This was the first misscariage I had ever had and I was in complete shock. I had been in the OB's office two weeks before telling one of the doctors that I thought something was wrong with my hormones. They reassured me that everything was fine and normal. The day I started miscarrying, I went to my OB and they confirmed it was a miscarriage. I drove home from the appointment but I didn't go straight home. I was the coach for my two older kids' soccer games and they had their first game that day. So I showed up with a smile on my face and coached their game. I didn't want my kids to know what was going on and I wanted life to be as normal as possible. 
The only people who knew what I was going through were my husband and my mom. I'm a very strong person who doesn't like to ask for help or have any one feel sorry for me. So I put on my brave face and life went about normal on the outside. To this day, my kids don't know what's really going on. They know that mommy has a tummy ache and that's why I go to the doctor. And that's all they need to know right now. 

The next couple months went by and I got pregnant again. Right away I knew something was wrong again and that I wasn't going to carry this baby full term. Call it Mother's Intuition. I went in for an ultrasound at almost 8 weeks. They couldn't find a baby or sac or anything. I told them I knew I was pregnant and was confused why they couldn't see it. They had me do routine HCG monitoring for a week, driving to Payson every other day, which my numbers went up but didn't double. They wanted to schedule a D&C and I refused. I demanded another ultrasound be done. They started me on progesterone and I went in for another ultrasound at 9 weeks. Sitting in the waiting room, I knew that things weren't going to turn out well. I came across a scripture on my phone, John14:18 I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you. I knew that this was going to be hard, but I knew I'd be comforted. At this ultrasound I was told they were only doing it to prove to me that I had miscarried already or had another chemical pregnancy. As soon as they turned on the monitor, I saw my baby and a heartbeat. The doctor was very surprised and shocked to see it. The heart beat was very low and I was told to come back in a week to have another ultrasound done. That week was the longest week of my life. I felt like my body was trying to get rid of it but the meds were telling my body to keep it. I knew my baby was dying inside of me and there wasn't anything I could do to save it. Only my two closest friends, my mom and my husband knew what I was going through. I helped at my kids' school Halloween carnival, took them trick or treating, did my church calling and went on with our normal life so no one even knew the battle I was fighting inside.
The next week, my husband and I went in for the ultrasound. Our baby had died and stopped growing. There was no heartbeat. Since I had a slight fever and since I was on the progesterone, they recommended I go in for the D&C right then. I immediately agreed, I just wanted it all to be back to normal at this point. A week after the D&C, I had severe bleeding and got a bad infection and had to be on bed rest while taking meds to get rid of it. It was exhausting and really took a toll on me emotionally. I hate trying to relax and rest. I love being busy and working on stuff so it was frustrating being sick in bed for so long. I was the last one in recovery to be released after my D&C. The anti-nausea patch they gave me was intense and knocked me on my butt, haha! My sweet husband held my hand the entire time. I'm so beyond grateful for my husband, my mom, my uncle, our extended family here in town, my brother and my best friends who helped me through it. My kids made me laugh and brought me so much joy during this dark time in my life. I think people that see couples with kids don't think they can have infertility problems. But that's not that case. Anyone at anytime can develop PCOS or have issues with their fertility. My kids and husband are the what kept me going through the miscarriages. I learned so much about who I am and what really matters. I'm a better person and look at things completely different now. But things don't stop there.

About a month ago we started going to a Fertility Clinic. Our doctor was determined to figure out what was going on. We were so blessed to get into the best clinic in the state, the Utah Fertility Center, and we are thankful for amazing insurance that helps pick up the tab for a lot of the fertility stuff. The staff is amazing and they make us feel so important. All the tests, scans and biopsies came back normal. I had a biopsy of my uterus and a dye test done on my tubes, all of which are suppose to be painful but I didn't end up taking any medications for it and was just fine. My doctor kept saying how strong I am and the song playing in the room was the fight song. We laughed thinking it was pretty fitting. On one of the ultrasounds, they noticed signs and symptoms of PCOS. They said it's the early stages but determined that's what is causing some of my symptoms including my irregular cycles and delayed ovulation. We had an appointment to figure out what fertility treatment we wanted to try first, but in my heart I still felt like they were missing the real cause of my hormones being a mess and the reason I keep have miscarriages. 

I have had to do follow up CT scans of my lungs with my lung doctor every 6 months to watch a spot from having pneumonia. I figured I'd get the CT scan out of the way before we started a new fertility treatment. On Friday, this past Friday the 22nd, everything went great with the scan on my lung. It looks the same as in 2014 so I don't have to have it scanned again for 2 years, BUT during the CT scan, they found a huge nodule on my thyroid! My lung doctor called me immediately. After a lot of research on PCOS, fertility issues, miscarriages, and auto immune dieseases, it makes so much sense that my problem is probably my thyroid. My lung doctor said I needed to go in and have it checked this week. That's the appointment we're headed to now. My lung doctor is our hero. He caught this and figured out a key piece in our fertility struggle that no one else could find. It was so critical that he found it before we start rounds of fertility treatments and spend money on IVF. Most importantly, he believed me when I said something was wrong still. Although I'm a little nervous, I know this situation is a blessing. We're hoping to get my thyroid back on track after the nodule is confirmed benign, and then we will go forward with fertility treatments. Wish us luck today! 

When I first started this journey, I felt so alone. I felt so sad and broken and felt like it was this dark secret I was hiding. I felt like I was living a double life and lying to everyone close to us. Finally, I just had to start telling family and friends and even strangers these past couple of weeks. Since then, I've met so many amazing, sweet women through my blog who are going through the exact same thing. Some of them I've never met in person, but they email and message me giving me support and encouragement. It's been so uplifting to see women support each other! I feel so blessed to have a loving Heavenly Father that led me to amazing doctors who are helping us figure this out. I'm sharing our journey so that other couples going through Infertility  or struggling with PCOS or thyroid issues, know that they aren't alone. I have seen myself be strong and courageous when I didn't think I had it in me. I've felt so close to God and know that I've had angels close by my side and I've felt so comforted. I'm so grateful for my amazing husband and my sweet kids. My husband and I have been married for 9 years and we're best friends. This journey has brought us closer together even though I thought we were as close as we could get. He's my biggest supporter and I love him so much my heart could burst! I'm beyond blessed to be a mother. My kids are my world and I couldn't be more grateful for them and their sweet spirits! My mom has been so great to help us with anything and is always trying to make me feel better. My uncle (who is more of a dad to me) is always there for me even though he lives 5 hours away. My brother is out of the country serving with the National Guard, and he is always calling and making me laugh. My husband's aunt and cousins and my friends have been so great to watch our kids, offer their help, make me laugh, check on me after appointments and remind us that we aren't alone. We love all of them! It's been a huge relief to let them all know what we've been going through. We've realized who is really there for us. My doctors have been amazing! I know we've still got a long road ahead of us, but I know it's all part of Heavenly Father's plan. 
Since this week in April is National Infertilty Awareness week, I felt so strongly that this was the perfect time to share our journey. If you are a "1 in 8 couple", a PCOS warrior, or struggling with thyroid disorders, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. You are strong and you've got this! 

The Keeper of the Crayons 

***I've done a lot of research on the links between PCOS, Infertility, and auto immune thyroid disorders. Here are some of the links I've found helpful.

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