Monday, June 22, 2009

Choosing Life

This has been my motto since Friday, "chose life". What point would it be to go around moping about my bad statistics? What spirit baby is going to want to come into my life if I just think about offing it because I can't get pregnant. What illusion am I buying into? No matter what, I am going to chose life.

Friday morning after the bad news, I didn't feel like eating. I went into the basement and dug out my juicer. I grabbed whatever vegetables I had in the frig and juiced up a big glass of veggie juice. I also got so mad that none of the "Sea of Supplements" helped me, that I took a supplement holiday. And you know what? I feel great. The juice really seems to be helping me. I've been juicing now twice a day since Friday. I can't eat enough vegetables in the day, so this makes sense to me to get more veggies in liquid form. My body likes it.

The real reason I started juicing is because somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered Julia_Indichova's book "Inconceivable" and how she started sucking down the juice to get pregnant with her high FSH. I actually went to one of Julia's workshops between IVF #1 and IVF #2. While I think she is a bit dramatic and very opinionated about IVF (did you miss the part where I said we had no choice because my husband had a vasectomy?!), I like her basic message that is to be your own authority. I pulled out her second book again, "The_Fertile_Female; How the Power of Longing for a Child Can Save Your Life and Change the World". It's a tall order, but I want to see just how far this longing will take me. I put all my confidence in my acupuncturists, and I didn't listen to my body. I didn't pay attention to all the stress I had been under with Fluffernutter passing away. Grief is so physically exhausting. I had my schedule, and I was sticking to it. Death is so inconvenient.

In a way, I am glad I got the bad news. It was a wake up call. I don't know if I can turn the tide of time against me anymore. I did pull it off for awhile, though I have not given up yet. Sure, I spent a day wallowing in self pity, but I needed a swift kick in the pants to wake up. This is not going to be easy at age 42 and I'll probably be 43 by the time I do IVF again (if they let me). I have to up the ante. I also have to listen to pay attention to myself better and try try try to get out of my head. Giving grief its space wasn't in the plan, but I see that I should have respected that. Another hard lesson learned. I hope to post more soon about my recent overhaul.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Craptacular News

I'm in shock. I had my Day 2 testing done today at BigShotFertilityClinic. I thought all the acupuncture and herbs I've done over the past couple of months would have helped improve my numbers. They have gotten much worse. I'm crushed.

Resting Follicles: 2
FSH: 15
E2: 85

I don't know what to say. I knew this was a possibility, but I had hope after my last testing I had done. Dang, I should have had my Day 3 testing done back then, but would it have just given me false hope?

I had acupuncture last night, and I had hoped that would help me. Now, I wonder if it made it worse. I had bad hot flashes last night. I thought, "maybe I should wait another day", but then I rationalized that maybe the hot flashes just meant that my estrogen was low. That was stupid magical thinking. I was impatient.

I discussed this with Em, my acupuncturist. She didn't think my results would have been radically different a day later. We'll see if I have any hot flashes tonight. She thinks it's normal at my age for FSH and resting follicles to fluctuate. So do I, but BigShotFertilityClinic does not. I've discussed this before. She is encouraging me to work with an out of state clinic that specializes in high FSH and basically does not do an IVF cycle until your FSH is low. I would prefer to do that with BigShotFertilityClinic. I checked this other clinic for their stats, and their numbers suck for my age group. BigShotFertilityClinic still has the best stats for my age group, even though that number is still pretty low. I suppose I'll have a WTF appointment with Dr. BloSunMyCha. My plan to impress him has been shot down in flames, so we'll see what he has to say. I think I can predict what he has to say. I'm going to bring in my last lab results and see what he thinks.

To say that I am bummed out is an understatement.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Psycho PMS Bitch meets Grief Beast

The uncontrollable crying started yesterday. The tip off I had that this was PMS related was that I had the same thing happen last month; the sobbing while not really sure where it was coming from - from nowhere and everything at once. The other tip off was that I started spotting this morning. Why is it that PMS magnifies any sad feelings you are having a hundred times?

I was doing laundry today, and it reminded me of Fluffernutter. What cat doesn't like sleeping in the dirty laundry? That made me cry. I cried again for those who never were and were lost. With every new loss, the past losses feel as if they are happening fresh all over again.

I asked Magic to make dinner tonight. I smell something burning from downstairs and come up to see the kitchen filled with smoke. He left to go to his office and thought I would somehow magically intuit that I need to watch the soup. I was in such a rage. It was a good thing neither he nor Fluff were here. Screaming like that really does not make me feel better. It makes me feel psychotic and gives me a sore throat.

I can bear this knowing that it is transitory and will only last a day, the PMS that is. I wish there was an antidepressant I could take for a day or two only for PMS. Should I have known that if I suffer severe and sometimes suicidal mood swings during PMS that I would have pre-natal suicidal depression? Not even the neurotransmitter precursors I am taking as a supplement help with this type of hormone crash. I suppose I should be happy that I have any hormones to crash. I'm hoping that is the silver lining in all of this.

I had a couple of disturbing dreams the other night. I dreamt that Fluff was alive and healthy. I said to Magic in the dream, "how is this possible? She was dead?!" He said, "I need to give you and explanation." My mind was frantic, thinking, "did I take her to be cremated and she was actually still alive??!" I never got an answer, as that was where the dream ended. The next dream was about a cat who had markings like Fluff, but was not as fluffy. She came to me, as many of my cats do, and had a long stitched up scar along her body. She was someone else's cat, because she had a collar with tags on, but I didn't want to know who she belonged to. I wanted to keep her. Grief has a funny way of working its way out in your dreams.

I've had moments of feeling exhausted over the past couple of days. It's that monster, grief again. When I let the exhaustion really overcome me, the tears soon follow. I know grief is crushing me and I need to let it out. I guess I haven't really let it sink in how much of a hole in my heart has been exposed by Fluffernutter's passing. My super-ego says, "she was just a cat, get over it." I come home and look for her, but she's not here. She's not in the laundry. She's not anywhere. I can't even hold onto her in my dreams.

This is like some modern day horror movie, Psycho PMS Bitch meet Grief Beast. I wish it were entertaining like the cheesey Godzilla meets King Kong. I wish it was a movie, but it's all too real. All I can do is hold on and hope tomorrow is a better day. I'm still waiting to be happy again, someday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fluff the Magic Kitty

I've been in a funk since Monday. I'm no longer interested in having children.

This may have something to do with the fact that our geriatric cat, Fluffernutter, went to kitty heaven yesterday. Last week, we made the difficult decision to stop giving her subcutaneous fluids when we saw that they were not helping much anymore and just prolonging the inevitable. She hung on for a week.

In March, I think I predicted that she had three to six months to live. Last year, I worried that she would die after our loss. Not only did she stick around, but just after her 19th birthday in July, she became sweeter than ever. She did something that was so characteristically un-Fluff. She started sleeping with us in bed. She would jump on the bed as we were brushing our teeth, meowing for us to hurry up so she could dive under the covers with us. We wondered who swapped our kitty while we weren't looking, but she still looked like Fluffernutter.

You have to understand that Fluffernutter was one of those neurotic pure breed cats who would beg for pets, then run away when you tried to give them to her. The fact that she would come to you for attention was a real shocker. When I met her, she was just this white blur you saw when she was running away. She also lived in the shadow of her younger brother's big personality, aka Mister B. Mr. B was always shoving Fluff out of the way when it came to giving out pets, eating her food, and taking his pissy moods out on her. Mr. B was dumb as a box, and Fluff was the smart but silent type. They were inseparable.

Fluffernutter and Mr. B, aka Frick 'n Frack,
in fluffier days

When Magic was a bachelor before we married, he left out dry food for his cats 24/7. I told him this wasn't good for cats, but he felt guilty denying them. Mr. B ended up with diabetes, and Magic finally let me teach him how to make a raw food for them. Mr. B needed less insulin with the new diet, living another 4.5 years after being on the brink of death, and Fluffernutter became not so nutter. Loud sucking noises could be heard whenever she was eating, she loved the new food so much. Suddenly, she became a much more personable and sweet kitty. When Mr. B passed two years ago, I think Fluff finally came into her own now that she was the only cat in the house.

I worried that Fluff would die right after our FET failed. She was the one that spent the most time with me through two bed rests. She held on while I grieved for two months post-FET failure. I am grateful that she lived until now because I don't think I would have been able to deal with her loss any sooner.

I started singing this song (below) this past weekend. Fluff stopped eating about last Thursday. She joined me on her own last Saturday while I was gardening. I took this picture of her enjoying her last day outside. I couldn't believe that she had the energy to make it all the way outside and back inside again. She was the amazing magic kitty who we were beginning to wonder if she would ever die.

It all fell apart on Monday, Fluff's body. This is the day I thought I do not want to have children. Running a kitty hospice was more exhausting than I thought. I just didn't want her to suffer anymore. Tuesday, our vet was able to help her go to kitty heaven while still laying in her favorite spot on our bed.

Goodbye Fluff, we'll miss you (*sniff*)!

(sung to Puff_the_Magic_Dragon)

Fluff the magic kitty lived in our house,
She was so sweet and very meek, and couldn't catch a mouse!
Little Phoebe Phoenix loved that rascal Fluff,
And brought her strings and cat toy things and other fancy stuff. ohhh

Fluff the magic kitty, she was our friend,
She fought to live, though really sick, up to the bitter end!
Magic and his sons loved that crazy Fluff,
And gave her pets and kisses wet, and other lovey stuff!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Sea of Supplements

When you are 42, almost 43, you know it's not going to be easy to get pregnant on your own, never mind the fact that DH has no swimmers, except for those under deep freeze. While I was going through my FET, I thought, "well at least I don't have to worry about egg quality!" I wasn't as careful about what I ate. It was kind of nice not to freak out about having chocolate or a beer (gluten free, of course) once in awhile without worrying, "OMG! This is going to affect my egg quality!! I'll never be a mother!" Oh yes, I can't tell you how many times I've had this internal chastising with myself.

I'm back to the optimizing egg quality campaign, which I have dubbed "Mission Impossible" IVF. Let's just call it MIIVF (is that pronounced miffed?!) for short. You know how it goes - the darning impossible chase/escape scenes, but the good guy always wins, right? That's pretty much how it goes in my MIIVF fantasy too.

My campaign involves forking out a lot of money for acupuncture and supplements, but in reality, it's all a lot cheaper than IVF. I have acupuncture once a week. I will start acupuncture twice a week at least 4 weeks before egg retrieval.

In this post, I will just discuss the supplements I am taking, and what I think they are doing or supposed to be doing. Keep in mind that this is constantly a work in progress. I work with my health care providers on what I am taking, which is mainly my two acupuncturists at this point. I also do my own research and get approval from my acupuncturists before I add something else into the already complicated mix.

Supplements Specifically for improving Egg Quality
Pregnenolone 30mg twice a day
L-arginine 2g
Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLAs), roughly 2g
Proanthocyaniadins in the form of Grape Seed, standarized to 109 mg; once a day
CoQ-10 90mg daily

Chinese Herbs:
Liu Wei Di Huang Wan for nourishing Kidney Yin before ovulation
Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan after ovulation

I discussed in this post about the reason I take pregnenolone, which is a precursor to DHEA, and not DHEA itself. I go into a big long discussion about why DHEA doesn't work for me, mainly because of it's affect on my heart and how it makes me feel like I'm going to die. If you have already read the post, I edited it because I discovered that part of it got deleted in some weird code error, so you may want to re-read it. Pregnenolone can have similar side effects as DHEA, but they don't seem to be as severe in my experience. I think you basically take as much pregnenolone or DHEA as you can tolerate to improve egg quality, and that is different for every woman. Not everyone can tolerate 75mg of DHEA twice a day, which is what was recommended to me by my RE at BigShotFertilityClinic. DHEA is not harmless, and here is one study in which it proved harmful. My adrenal gland health also seems to be improved, as I am no longer taking the adrenal gland supplement (Iso_Cort) and I have lowered my dose of pregnenolone. I could tell I was taking too much when I felt as if I was on caffeine high, which I never drink, and also means I felt like crap.

I could write a whole post just on L-arginine. There were two studies done on L-arginine and IVF, one in 1999 and one in 2003 by similar authors. The studies are essentially the same, with the difference of the first one having a mean age of 40 for the IVF participants and the second study having a mean age of 33. The first study showed success in using a whopping 16 GRAMS of L-arginine on number of eggs retrieved, number of day 5 embryos, and pregnancy rates. The second study also used the insane dose of 16 GRAMS of L-arginine, but the IVF protocol was different. The results were almost opposite as the first study, and the authors concluded that L-arginine might be detrimental to IVF outcomes. L-arginine is precursor to human growth hormone, so you will see it in formulas for body builders. The idea for older women and poor responders is that human growth hormone will help with egg quality, hence the reason HGH (Sai.zen) is used in some protocols for IVF. The problem with JUST studying L-arginine is that a drug model is applied to a nutritional building block that has synergistic effects with other substances. Meaning that just giving L-arginine alone might not help, but including other nutritional factors may increase the absorption and effectiveness of L-arginine. So, I would say the jury is out on this one. It does seem that the research on L-arginine and IVF has come to a screeching halt, which is a shame. Other studies are done with L-arginine to help with circulation and heart issues, which I am speculating may help with blood flow to the ovaries and uterus.

My acupuncturist recommended that I take evening primrose oil to increase my AMH. I have not figured out what the difference is between evening primrose oil and borage oil in terms of effectiveness. Randine_Lewis seems to think that evening primrose oil is better, but borage oil has more Gamma Linoleinc Acid, which is the main active ingredient in evening primrose oil. For now, I am focusing on taking a flax oil/borage oil combo. I try to take 4 Tablespoons a day, spaced throughout the day. It definitely affects my, uh, bowel movements, hence the reason I don't chug it all at once, not like I could stomach that anyways. I did discover a bulk omega oil product, Barlean's_Total_Omega_Vegan_Swirl, that has lots of GLAs and is flavored to taste like a smoothie. The whole family has discovered it, and I have to beat off my DH and stepsons now from sucking it all down at once, it's that good. I might also add in some evening primrose oil to cover all my bases.

The proanthocyaniadins (also called pycnogenol or OPCs) and the CoQ-10 are also recommended by Randine_Lewis to improve egg quality for older women. These are both supposed to help with circulation, again, with the idea of improving blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. They also help with free radical damage. Here's what Randine has to say about it:

"One of the hallmarks of aging is damage to mitochondrial DNA caused by oxygen metabolism and the presence of free radicals in the system. This damage has also been shown to contribute to age-related decline in egg quality. A way to improve cellular function is to supplement your diet with enzymes like Co Q-10. Antioxidants (vitamins C, E, A, zinc, and selenium) and superantioxidants (pycogenol) also help prevent free-radical damage to cell mitrochondria."

They also have the side effect of lowering my blood pressure. I went to my GP the other day, and my blood pressure was 104/60! The dose on both is 100mg a day. With the proanthocyaniadins, you want to make sure you are getting 100mg of this standarized ingredient, and not just 100mg of grape seed or whatever the ingredient is.

The Chinese herbs I take are for Kidney Yin deficiency with Liver stagnation. If you don't have the same Chinese medicine diagnosis as me, don't take these herbs!! I never recommend self-prescribing on Chinese herbs anyway. Always have an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility prescribe your Chinese herbs!

Supplements for Mental Health
Zinc 20 mg
Fish oil/EPA-DHA

Again, I could write a whole 'nother post about the supplements I'm taking for my mental health. Why am I taking supplements for my mental health? Well, we all know how uplifting and calming infertility treatments are. This will just be a summary post on another complicated issue.

I found an interesting article last year on mental health supplement research. I thought it was going to be another recommendation to take fish oil, but it wasn't. Go over an read the article when you have time. It's a fascinating read. William_Walsh (PhD) was doing research on convicts to try to understand how chemical imbalances and nutritional deficiencies or toxicities were affecting their mental health. Here is an excerpt from the interview with him:

"We’ve found that nearly all women with a history of postpartum depression have a tendency for very high copper levels in their blood. It is especially problematic for women, because estrogen and copper are proportionately related."

When I read this, all sorts of bells and whistles started going off. I had the same symptoms of postpartum depression, except I had it while pregnant. Was there a solution in here for me?

Awhile back, I had some hair testing done for metals. I was mainly concerned about toxic mercury levels, which I seemed to be ok. I had all my mercury fillings removed before I did IVF to improve egg quality. The problem with removing mercury fillings is that you can mobilize a lot of mercury in the process, but I did it with a dentist who specializes in mercury amalgam removal. Still, I'm sure I got more exposure to mercury at the time. I did some mild chelation with chlorella, but nothing more. Mercury toxicity can cause mental illnesses, but my hair analysis didn't indicate that I have a mercury toxicity problem. My copper levels were also tested, and they seemed to be ok. However, my Zinc/Copper ratio was abnormal. I was basically deficient in zinc, which could mean I have too much copper in my system. William_Walsh says this about treating excess copper in the interview:

"By normalizing a protein that removes excess copper from the body. We slowly, gradually introduce the nutrients that stimulate the synthesis and the functioning of that protein. People who are high in copper invariably are zinc deficient as well, so we also slowly and gradually normalize their zinc levels. Then the protein begins to function and, in most cases, the copper levels return to normal. It’s about a two-month procedure for most people. If we did it very suddenly, and we gave them high doses of everything, the excess copper would be dumped from tissues and the blood levels would go even higher. You could see a decline in health before the patient got better, as all the excess copper is exiting the body. So you have to be somewhat careful with overloads."

My zinc deficiency was confirmed by the hair analysis testing and muscle testing with my chiropractor.

I recently started taking the supplement Neuro_Replete at the recommendation of Dr. F. Last year, I was on the antidepressant Well_butrin for about four months. I was on the verge of looking to take another antidepressant after our FET failed, but Dr. F put me on this stuff. I was skeptical in taking it because of the amount of 5-HTP in it. I had taken 5-HTP before to help me sleep. It is a precursor to seratonin and seratonin helps you sleep. If you take too much, you can end up with seratonin syndrome, which manifests in disturbing dreams/nightmares. The Neuro_Replete website has lots of fascinating information on neurotransmitters, their precursors, and how antidepressants eventually deplete your neurotransmitter levels. For example, I learned that just taking 5-HTP alone will deplete your dopamine levels. The Neuro_Replete has a blend of neurotransmitter precursors. It works on a synergystic level, and not just adding in one precursor or supplement, similar to as how I described the L-arginine example above. I've been sleeping better and feeling more calm since taking the Neuro_Replete.

Other Stuff I take for General Health
Multivitamin without iodine and iron
Iron supplement, since my multi doesn't have it
Vitamin E, mixed tocopherols, 1000 mg daily
Vitamin D, 5000iu daily
Calcium for osteopenia, 1200 mg daily
additional Magnesium, 300 mg at bedtime for my heart, muscles, and to help me sleep
Probiotics for my sensitive digestive system

The multivitamin is a double edged sword. I found one without iodine. I don't take any iodine and I try not to get extra in my diet. None of the salt in my house has iodine anymore. I tend towards hyperthyroidism, and iodine seems to exacerbate it. The multi also has copper in it. I could take a multi without copper, but then it would have iodine. I can't win.

Whew, I think I covered it all! Now I think it's time for me to go choke down another another pill. I'd love to share notes about what you are taking, or not taking, to improve your egg quality and chances at IVF.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Late Night Baby Food Runs

I've been buying baby food recently at the store. The first time I did it, I felt weird. No babies have been dropped off at my doorstep. It's for Fluffernutter, my cat. Fluff is at the end of her 9th and a half life. She is nearing 20 years old, but I fear she will not make her next birthday. It's been a challenge to figure out what she will eat anymore. At first, the baby food idea worked great. Now, about the only thing she will eat is canned tuna.

We've been playing geriatric cat games, like "find the cat pee", which I usually discover by stepping in it. She's gotten so weak that her back legs don't work very well anymore. I justify her peeing on the floor because it must be hard to get in and out of the litter box, but then I catch her nimbly navigating the box. Other days, she gets everything but one back leg in the litter box and ends up launching her pee off the back of the box onto the floor. One day, she didn't even bother with the back legs - just put her front legs in the litter box and started peeing. Luckily, that one of the four litter boxes she has to choose from in the house has a tray under it that catches the errant pee.

She has deteriorated to the point that we have made the difficult decision to stop giving her subcutaneous fluids and let nature take it's course. I think we have been doing this for three years. I've made friends with 22 gauge needles in that time. When it came time to do PIO shots myself, I figured if my 6 pound cat can handle it, so can I.

Fluffernutter has a great will to live. She's trying to make her failing kidneys work, but her parts have worn out. I'm just trying to keep her comfortable right now, poor thing.