The vanishing act

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Water seems to be one of the only things that can calm me – swimming, boating, kayaking and even just being near it.  Thank goodness for the gorgeous Aegean sea.

After an incredible night and 2 days away on Agistri (an insanely gorgeous island 45 minutes by fast ferry aptly named the ‘Flying Dolphin’), doing nothing but tanning myself, reading, eating, walking and swimming (all my favourite things), I was incredible well rested (8 hours sleep! 8 hours sleep!  Straight through….can you believe it!?!?!  First time since the summer!!! That Melatonin is gold!) and mission accomplished…relaxed and distracted.

Then Thursday was here.

The good news – the cyst has done a Houdini act and disappeared.  Vanished.  Vamoosed. Gone.  Apparently the medical term or phrase is ‘it has been absorbed’.  However this did not mean that I could now have stimulants, as the follicles in the left ovary (where the cyst had been residing were way too small…no doubt quashed by  what I came to call the ‘cyst of doom’).

The concerning thing…or maybe upsetting thing…I can’t quite decide (as I try to uphold my serene composure), was the amount of arguments that went on in Greek between the cute doctor (a different one but none the less….super cute….British…what is it with this clinic and cute male doctors?!?!).  Luckily I was used to this one from the summer and he was not my be all and end all perfect specimen…however to use my Nana’s words….I wouldn’t mind having his slippers at the end of my bed…sorry, as I write this I have consumed a few Greek wines!).  Anyway….back to the arguing in Greek…..

They could not decide how to proceed with me as the cyst has caused some delays.  Penny was not present in the clinic that day and the cute doctor was arguing with the experienced mid wife, Sonia, someone I was used to dealing with and who I respected a lot (and probably trusted more, as I had dealt with her a lot more…let’s be real here….more like, she had dealt with me and my needle melt downs)

‘Cute doctor’ had stated that they thought that they could remove the ‘lone ranger’ egg on Saturday and give me stimulants to help the follicle/ egg along but after more heated discussion in Greek, they decided that probably Monday was best in order to let the follicle/egg grow more and the lining thicken without stimulants.  I think all the heated discussion was about the fact that they wanted to do what was best for me, as they know it is only a small chance with this egg and don’t want to take any chances.

I had my first needles since being here – a double whammy – damn it, and I thought that I would escape.  I had to have a blood test for my estrogen levels and a shot of Cetrotide in my belly to help delay ovulation.  There was no tears! Yay me!  However, the Cetrotide made my belly super itchy and red…I googled it…apparently that is normal.

I am back again tomorrow at 10.30am (practically a sleep in) – I am back to daily scans and injections…I have not missed them at all.

I still can’t get over how different this round is from last time.  I am trying to take it day by day and find the hilarity in every day – go the cute (but embarrassing doctors).

The accommodation I moved to, that is closer to the clinic, is awesome – super retro and funky and close to lots of cafes, hidden restaurants and the metro.  Close enough to be convenient but far enough away to give me space which is great.

Now, off to dream of Agisitri and hope my scan tomorrow goes well.

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Au natural

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A bit of fig ice cream and the gorgeousness of the Plaka alleyways and shops is enough to make anyone feel like they can escape reality

This time round everything felt different. Staying in Plaka meant that I could venture out and go for walks around the alleys and streets, enjoying the touristy and local vibe, eating myself silly and enjoying that amazing coffee. I am more into savoury things than sweet, however if I would have been born in Greece I am not so sure – the incredible sweet offerings are amazing from sticky baklava, to their chocolate croissants, to frozen cream filled Greek-style cannoli, to the incredible lemon pies. Yum!

I had a massive appreciation for Athens and it’s grittiness and funkiness that I had not been able to experience last time. It could be that I was more relaxed, it could be the area I was staying or maybe the way I prepared (having a sort of ‘mini’ holiday before I moved apartments closer the clinic). Whatever it was, I was noticing more, seeing things clearly and truly enjoying life. I shopped, smiled, browsed, discovered, walked and became an accidental tourist many times over.

Doing these things and feeling this way made waiting for that appointment a whole lot easier and when Monday morning rolled around, despite the early awakening (jet lag and dogs), I was very calm and ready for whatever news the scan bought me.

I had resisted googling ovarian cysts and what that meant for an IVF round however at the last minute I decided it was probably better to know and prepare myself. I looked up a couple of things and knowing not to scare monger myself, limited it to ‘well ok but that’s not the same as me’ or ‘enough, I will find out more tomorrow, no point worrying until I know’.

Melina (the amazing driver from the airport), arrived before time and took me to my appointment, all the while making me swear to contact her to let her know I was ok and the exact time I would do the transfer etc so she could send positive energy at that time.

I didn’t have to wait too long and I was back in my favourite cubicle…sans my lovely wrap around….go the skirt….my new favourite IVF accessory (thank god I had brought two)!  I was whisked in and sitting on the examination seat, legs up, when  I was startled as the door opened and in walked an extremely good looking guy. Now, when I say good looking….I mean….phwaor!!! I couldn’t even look him in the eye, I directed every comment and speech to Penny.  I still can’t even recollect his name, as to me he was an almost perfect specimen (by my standards anyway!).  I had never gone so red in my life.  You have to remember that I live in China and my ‘type’ does not exist there at all, not even in the expats, so for me this was amazing….amazing but mortifying!!!

Basically in short, I came out extremely relieved.  I could go ahead with this cycle (I got that without looking at the hot doctor with his hands sticking a phallic shaped thing up my…well, you get the picture).

Unfortunately the cyst was still well and truly there (very dominant….poos!), and my right ovary was now only showing 1 follicle.  Because of this they decided that any kind of stimulant would risk the one chance I have of getting an egg turing into a cyst, so now it was a completely natural cycle for me. No needles, no crazy mood altering hormones, nothing (well, that wasn’t quite the case but that’s what I was initially lead to believe).

My lining was still too thin, so I had to wait until Thursday to go back and have another scan in the hopes that my lining will be thicker and ready to go – AKA accept an embryo!

It was all super weird to me as this is so different to last time and the daily scans and stimulants.  It is incredible how bodies work, you would assume that what happened the first time would be what happened the next…apparently this was another thing I had to abruptly learn.

I was going to have to further preoccupy myself until Thursday morning (9am), in the hope that my egg would stick around.  If it did, when they removed the egg they would aspirate the cyst at the same time – essentially killing 2 birds with one stone and saving me a whole lot of discomfort.

I was extremely elated that there was still a chance that this cycle was not a bust and that there was still a small chance that this could work.  As always, staying extremely positive and having booked a night away on a Greek island to feel a bit normal and to relax and distract myself, was exactly what I needed.

Second time around

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My airbnb with a view of the Acropolis and a jacuzzi! Infertility heaven!

I always knew that the second time around would be different but I was not prepared for how much easier it was….well, day 1 that is.

Leading up to heading back to Athens for my second round was crazy busy but to be honest in my job and life -what’s new?  Working right up until the day I left gave me routine, consistency and a busy-ness that I did not have in my previous round, as it had been in the middle of summer holidays.  I still stick to my guns on the fact that I really did everything I could to minimise the stress and overthinking but going into this round I could fell the difference.

Maybe it was the busy-ness, maybe it was the acupuncture, maybe it was the counselling, or maybe I had just got my head in to a better space….whatever it was, I was just super glad.

The day I left I held it together nicely and felt incredibly loved and supported with so many well wishers dropping by my class or leaving messages for me.  It wasn’t until I had to wait 30 minutes in the bank to pay my electricity bill with nothing else to do, that it all hit me like a tonne of bricks….Holy shit, I’m going to do this all over again!  The panic rushed in- my heart raced and I suppose technically it was probably a mini panic attack.  Managing to get it under control with some tough love, I was able to push through it and with the distraction of a dinner date with a friend pre flight and the fact that I had managed to procrastinate packing (a very un-Amy thing to do, which I now realise was on purpose….at the time I thought I was just being either laid back or lazy! lol), I managed to calm down.

The airport was the craziest I had ever seen it and apart from a quick stop at Starbucks for a tea, I had no time for anything else and was on the plane.  Despite not having slept through the night since being back and not managing more than 6 hours sleep (I usually can only function on 8), I was out like a light and in and out of consciousness for a good 4-5 hours.  Major win for me.  Istanbul’s quick change and hideous lines, got me straight on the next flight and again I was out to it, arriving in Athens early with my bag making it all the way through and was the first one out.

My Airbnb host had been amazing and had organised a driver to take me to my appointment straight away , wait for me and then bring me to the apartment.I forgot what Greek people are like and a smiling woman greeted me with a hug and then straight away, after saying she had bad English, began to talk my ear off and worriedly asked me what was wrong that I needed to go to the hospital.  I have since realised that it was not a Maria thing (my Airbnb host from last time) but a Greek thing.  They are the most caring, non-judgemental, passionate people – they are incredible.  I need to either move here or marry into a Greek family!

I was early to my appointment and dare I say it, it was almost like coming home.  I even gave the driver directions to the clinic.  I walked in like I had never left, had a bit of banter with the receptionist, feeling like ‘old-hat’, as I looked around the waiting room at the nervous faces.

Feeling ‘old-hat’ meant that when I waited 40 minutes I wasn’t surprised or bothered and when I was asked to change in the operating room, as they were super busy and needed to get me done quick, it did not phase me.  A stark contrast to the last time I was in that position.  When I was asked to confirm that I was doing a’Natural Supported Cycle’, I knew exactly what that meant.

My favourite skimpy wrap around cloth on and in came Penny, just another day back at the clinic for her, so no big reaction to me being there.  It was down to business, or should i say, all up in my business.

My right ovary had decided to come to the party this time and had 1 (13mm) follicle and a half. Yippee.  They made sure I saw that, as last time the right ovary was not so excited to produce anything.

Next we looked at the left ovary and she asked me to tell her what I was seeing.  It was a big and very clear follicle.  I got excited.  That was incredibly short lived.  Turns out, it really wasn’t such good news, it was too big which meant that is was probably an ovarian cyst.  Crap!

This then meant that if they gave me stimulants there could be too many risks – one, that it would over stimulate and burst and two, that it would compromise my other egg.  Not having stimulants means that my chance to grow that half follicle in the right ovary is pretty much gone.  I now had to wait until Monday at 8.45am (it was Saturday at 10.30am), to see how this cyst was going and to maybe investigate more which could mean a cancellation of my cycle. Crappyity crap crap.

Choosing not to worry until I had to, after a phone call to my parents, it was off to my Airbnb.

They had rushed the cleaning for me and I was able to have access straight away to the house – which was insanely amazing by the way – stunning balcony, view of the acropolis and a spa on the balcony!!!  Just what I needed for those first few days….to feel a bit of normalcy in this ‘not so normal’ situation.

So, it was off to play tourist and wander the streets for the next few days, spending money to make myself feel better, stumbling across ancient ruins and soaking up the sun on that balcony.

Feeling ‘normal’

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This is actually cheating, as it is a picture of me fresh off a flight from Athens and about to go and have another date with the Italian! However it’s still a date shot!

During the lead up to my departure I went through 2 weeks where my life seriously could have been written as a TV show drama script and sold to the highest bidder.  Looking back I can’t quite believe what went on over those 2 weeks but I have no interest into going into that side of things on here, however, know that every aspect of my life (bar work), was in complete and utter disarray and for someone who hates drama, it was like I was it’s magnet and no matter what I did it was attracted to me.  Thankfully I had already had my meltdown a few weeks before, so handling this only cost me a day of wallowing while nursing a bad, well….atrocious hangover.

It was during this time I happened to meet someone who wanted to take me on a date (well, lets be honest here…I was like ‘f*%k my life’ after more than a few drinks and I had decided to ‘play’ Tinder…usually not my cup of tea at all).

Previous to the date, I had worried of course….what was I thinking, I couldn’t do that to someone, if he asked how my week was, I am the WORST liar…I would stumble and then I would be like “Well, I had acupuncture, I went to yoga and swimming and counselling and I sorted out my insurance and I had to book accommodation and I had to monitor my cycle and send countless emails about my fertility and menstrual cycle and I also wrote a blog post about what I am going though”. Oh yeah, heart throb of the year, right here.  How could you lie to someone about what you have been up to?  Is it lying?  Is it omitting the truth?

Thank god for my brother, who told me “Look, you have had the most shittiest week, there is absolutely nothing else that could go wrong, so why the hell not go out with this guy.  What’s the worst that could happen? Nothing, because all the worst things have already happened” and he proceeded to laugh his head off, with me along for the ride too.

So I dressed up, washed my hair and went along to a place I hadn’t yet tried but had always wanted to, to meet this guy.  As I was crossing the road, I spotted what I thought was him waiting outside the alleyway to the restaurant.  Quickly looking away I began to cross the busy road and as I looked up again I saw him walking the other way down the street away from the restaurant.  ‘Oh god!  Justin – you were wrong….there are worse things that could happen!  He has seen me and ‘done the bolt’.  Jeez….my life!

No!…I thought, proceed to the restaurant and see what happens, worse comes to worst you order a drink, smash it back, pay and leave….no harm done.

Ahhhh, China, that is not quite the way it works here and upon finding my way into the restaurant they did not understand a word I was saying and I was left standing by the bar looking like an idiot.  So I retreated outside and sat down on a small brick fence surrounding a tree and did what anyone else in my situation would do, I pulled out my secret weapon….my cell phone.  Whoops….another China special – delayed messages and there was one coming through from him 10 minutes previous about already being at the restaurant.  About to send him another message back, I looked up and there he was.  It was the guy who had walked away but he was back!

We went in, had a lot of laughs, some fabulous food, got spoilt rotten with free Prosecco and limoncello (he knew the chef) and he even served things up for me!  What a gentlemen.  Then while I was in the bathroom he even paid!  Definitely not used to that old trick!  I was seriously feeling amazing and totally spoilt rotten.  Add to that the fact that when we parted ways he grabbed my hands in his and told me that I MUST keep in contact and the we would do drinks this coming Saturday at a nearby rooftop bar.  Talk about stunned – wow!

I don’t remember the last time I felt ‘normal’.  I could be myself without this cloud hanging over me, this person had no idea what I was going through, I could relax and forget all about what I was having to organise, sort out and deal with on a daily basis and just have fun.  It was glorious.  I don’t think anyone will really understand just how glorious. No pitying faces, no overcompensations, no chat about ‘it’, nada.  I could just be me.

It remains to be seen whether we will end up friends or anything more but just to have that one glorious night of normalcy meant more to me than I can explain.

Thank god for dates with Italians.

Preparing for Athens

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This is what I hoped to achieve in the time between my negative result and round 2 (as well as something to live by!). It was the small things like jumping on a trampoline when I really felt down, or going for a walk that really helped too.

So as you can obviously guess from the title of this post and maybe from previous posts – I bit the bullet and booked my trip back to Athens.  Luckily it worked out that my cycle would coincide with my October break, so I would only need to take 1 week off work – a god send to my finances and also to every other aspect of my life.

Coming back after the summer was hard, as I was trying to deal with the failure of my first round, the drastic emotional side effects (in particular my ability to no matter how hard I try, not deal with things until they come crashing down around me), and also coming back to questions from people, wondering looks and a full on full time job.

Before I had left for the summer a friend had asked me a really good question ‘Have you thought about what you will do if it fails, how you will cope?’.  It was a question that I needed to think about and did so in depth.  I knew that counselling would be incredibly beneficial as well as the acupuncture, so this is where I had started.  As well as the health and physical side of things I had realised that it was the social side I also needed to deal with in order to help me to prepare for the second time around.

Last year I had started up F.A.T night (Food Appreciation Time – stolen from an Aussie TV drama!), a group of people who love to cook and meet up and essentially have a competition to see who has the best dish – yes, there is even a trophy involved (which I made).  I had put off hosting it, as my place is a lot smaller than most people in the group and I hadn’t gotten round to finishing off things in my house – all the excuses in the world, mixed with a small amount of anxiety.  So, I bit the bullet and organised the first one – ‘Tapas and Finger food’ complete with welcome Sangrias – perfect for a city apartment. It was a blast and I even won the trophy – hot cheese goodness always wins!

Before a friend of mine had moved to Shanghai, she introduced me to some teachers from another school who had Wednesday night dinners – to break up the week and to try new places.  This is something that is right up my alley and I was so pleased to be invited along to a few of these and really enjoyed meeting new people, catching up with friends, trying new places and venturing out.  It really worked wonders for me and I am so thankful for those people and those dinners.

I used to love throwing parties and for years have been meaning to do so again.  So again, rather anxiously,  I bit the bullet and scheduled a dress up party ‘Through the decades – come dressed as something or someone who has got to do with the era you were born’ (this left it wide open!).  I made the date for the week before I left, knowing it could be the last time I would be heavily drinking for awhile and that I would need a major distraction and good laughs and good times before I left.  I also wanted to find a way to really thank the people that had been there for me from when I had got back until I left, constantly being supports in so many different ways.  I hope that they felt thanked.  I danced the night away, singing at the top of my lungs, having the time of my life!  The police even showed up – twice!  Mission accomplished I reckon!

Some parts of leading up to my departure were more practical, like having to ask for time off.  I am so thankful for where I am, both in geographical location and job wise, as I was extremely supported by my boss and the senior management team and was never made to feel guilty or bad for having to take the time off.  They understood that it is a necessity and has a time restraint and were thankful that I had always kept them in the loop from day one, all those months ago.  As someone who hates to let people down and always feels guilty for even taking sick days, I can never thank them enough for the way they have handled my situation.

Even telling my team at work was really not something that I was looking forward to.  Again, it came down to feeling guilty and feeling like I was letting them down (ridiculous I know!), by having to take the time off plus some knew why and some didn’t and some to this day haven’t even asked why I was away or if I am okay.  I guess everyone is different.  Being away for medical leave is weird thing and I know I have opened myself up to things because I write this blog however there are some people I am happy that they know about my situation and some that I really don’t want to know because they aren’t my friends (and logistically they aren’t my FB friends either).  So even though I am very open about my situation, I went with the party line ‘I will be on leave at this time and blah will be taking over and this is who will cover and blah, blah blah.  Practical, practical, practical.

I won’t even mention the writing of screeds of sub teacher plans I had to prepare – you forget how skilled you get at teaching a 40 or 80 minute lesson from one sentence you have written down in your planner when you have to write the same sentence into a a half a page explanation for someone coming into your classroom….and I had to do that for a week!

With all this going on I had done a lot of reflecting about my first round and how I felt going through it.  I truly believe that with the circumstances surrounding it (first time, being alone, right in the middle of the summer holidays, emotional roller coaster, not knowing the city etc), I did the best I could and coped relatively well and don’t think I could have done it any better – plus there is no sense in regretting things – that, in no way helps.  In saying that, I knew that this time around I needed to make sure I was in a positive and healthy headspace.  I had done all the above mentioned things to ensure that that happened but how could I tackle that while I was there, all alone, going through something that in truth isn’t such a little thing or a lot of fun?  Create a squad that’s what!

#Squadgoals – Taylor Swift eat your heart out!  In summer I had not wanted to burden others with what I was going through partly because I was trying to get my head around it myself and couldn’t explain how or what I was feeling, and partly because they were on holiday and trying to enjoy themselves and they didn’t want to hear from me about bruises and needles and operations and shitty eggs and then big fat negatives.  I didn’t want to be the buzz kill.  I have since had a big learning curve and learned from and through all their support since coming back that they do want to be there, they do want to listen and that they are my friends, here to support me through anything.  It was my issues all along that were hindering me.  So I did something about it.  For my Beijing friends I started a WeChat group entitled ‘Updates from Athens’ and for my friends around the world I started a WhatsApp group with the same name.  It was only a small group of people in each but people who expressed an interest in wanting to support me or be there for me and people who I knew would be incredibly supportive and positive and real – handling all the bad stuff as well as the good.  True friends.  No matter what I say or do they will never truly understand how powerful it was to have them there as I updated them after each step – without any exaggeration I could not have gotten through this second round with out them.  I will never forget that.

Soon, the time came, my cycle started and the all the effort, organisation, time and money had been put in and miracle of all miracles it had worked – I was in an incredibly amazing headspace.  I had prepared myself as much as possible, I had my plan of action, my squad in place and I was starting the preliminary pills that lead up to flying to Athens.

Here we go again…

Dr Pain

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Finally over my breakdown and wanting to move forward (and away from my first acupuncture experience), and toward something a lot more affordable, I went with another friends recommendation Dr Lan.

Speaking to someone who knew English on the phone was good but then turning up at a hotel address did cast some doubt, however I pushed through the weird and found Dr Lan’s office.

After being told explicitly on the phone the costs (Y600 for a consultation and Y350 for each session after that), and then seeing it posted very clearly on the reception desk I relaxed knowing there would be no surprises.  They had even told me they would give me a fa piao (an official receipt), for insurance purposes after several visits.

After a very short wait, I was taken through to another room and that was essentially divided up by cloudy glass into partitions where I could see the outline of the person next to me who was being treated.  Oh god!  Here we go again!

I was asked to take off my shoes and lie down.  I refused.  What the hell was going on here?  I could hear everything (including the hysterically laughing lady across the partition), and I did not want a repeat of last time.  What the hell was I doing here?

15 minutes later when I was about to walk out, in walked Dr Lan AKA Dr Pain as he later told me (Holy hell!!!).  I then had to proceed to whisper tell him why I was here….I did not think it was very appropriate to share my life story with the rest of the acupuncture patients plus it was really none of their business!  Cries of periods, infertility and single – did not need to ring through those halls or across those partitions.

As with the last acupuncture Dr, I had to show him my tongue, he felt my pulse and told me my channels were blocked, causing my hormones to be unbalanced.  Awesome.  He then told me that it was all caused by the years I had been on ‘The pill’.  Great, thanks for that and you know what….get stuffed!

He then told me I would need to come twice a week (an improvement from the 3 times a week told to me by the last doctor), that they would do some Chinese treatment first and then he would be back to do some acupuncture.  Ok, at least he was upfront and I knew what was about to happen.

And what happened next was absolute heaven.  It was essentially targeted massage and given hard massage….the kind of massage I love.  Don’t get me wrong it was painful at times, apparently my lower back (where for years I have had problems), was the major target along with all up my inner legs and armpits – all connected to the liver, kidney and uterus (at least I knew the previous doctor had been onto something and they were in agreement!).

Dr Lan later told me (while I tried not to fall off the table in fits of laughter), that the lower back was the epicentre for peepee, kaka (poo), and the uterus! Of course it is!

When he returned he proceeded to put not 20, not 10 but 5 needles in, scanning my body with his hands hoovering over me saying things to himself about channels and straight away stopping at points, pushing and finding spots I had no idea were sore and hurting and then processed to stick needle in them, through my clothes.  Such a bizarre experience but it was quite amazing.

He was very honest with me and said that we would see IF this treatment would work for me – again my legs were the problem spot and he told me that that’s where my hormone channels were blocked.

He then told me that they would be in for ‘some minutes’, great I thought….here comes another 50 minute wait…but it wasn’t so. 15 minutes later and my Chinese treatment guy (AKA awesome masseuse), came to take them out and I was off to pay – the amount stated (no hidden costs), and to book 2 more appointment for that week.

A bit miffed by it all but after a few more appointments very pleased and impressed with ‘Dr Pains’ abilities to see as many patients as he does at the same time, while doing due diligence and always finding that right spot without laying a hand on me to find it.

Over the coming weeks I went to at least 2 appointments per week and Dr Pain was very happy with how my body was progressing ‘You have a very smart body’, which apparently meant my body was listen to the treatment and responding and that my channels were slowly opening up.  This meant a lot of discomfort for me because as my body was adjusting to the treatment I ended up pulling lots of muscles (so weird but true), and with stiff muscles but in the long run could feel the difference and it was totally worth it.

Anything to help the cause – even sessions with a man called Dr Pain!

 

And it all came crashing down

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The aftermath of rock bottom

Sucking up the possible cost and realising that I needed to do this to help things progress and leave no stone unturned, I booked an accupuncture appointment one Saturday afternoon in August.

After not hearing back from an acupuncture specialist recommended by a friend who used her for fertility, another friend recommended an international hospitals TCM department.

I had woken up that morning and felt really weird, a bit off, which is weird for me but not unheard of.  When I am like this I need to either keep to myself or get out and about and do things.  After lazing in bed for a few hours, I decided that the latter was the best approach….hmmmm……wrong move Martin, wrong move!

I was already a bit dark at the hospital as they had not responded to my online appointment request I had done earlier in the week but being the stubborn person I am was determined to forget that and get this started.

After an easy Uber ride over I was greeted by a very stark, hotel like vibe, with absolutely no other patients around.  Very strange, nothing like the private hospitals of home.  I had to ‘check in’ and show my passport, fill in some forms – standard – and then was picked up by a concierge type person and escorted through the hospital and onto the elevator….I think I saw one other person on that journey….and they worked there.

I was told how much the appointment would cost (around Y700), and was happy to pay that to see what would happen.  I was expecting more to be honest.  After a 30 minute wait, I was finally able to see the doctor.

She asked me why I was here, felt my pulse, looked at my tongue and promptly told me that my kidneys weren’t functioning properly and that they are linked with my uterus.  She also told me that my liver is linked with those also.  Ofcourse it is!  She then proceeded to tell me absolutely no alcohol.  I should have left right then and there.

The next thing I knew, I was in the next room, changed into loose clothing and had 20 needles in my stomach and legs.  The ones in the legs hurt the most….apparently my channels were extremely blocked.

I was supposed to be left for 20 minutes……5o minutes later and one very interesting consultation (I could hear everything from the room next door – very inappropriate), she was back and finally removing the needles.  20 minutes with 20 needles seemed doable but 50 was not so fun to a needle phobic.  She was not my favourite person at this point.

The doctor proceeded to tell me that I needed to pair this with Chinese medicine and I was happy to do what she recommended (I was in China, so why not go the whole hog, it shouldn’t be too expensive).

Kindly she recognised that my insurance was about to change and told me that she would charge me for the acupuncture on the 1st and for now I would just pay for the Chinese medicine.  I was so grateful and super relieved – this took a lot of pressure off me and especially off my credit card.

Next I was asked to wait for a short while, while she prepared the list for my medicine so she could tell the pharmacy downstairs what to ‘boil up’ (her words,not mine).  Another 30 minutes later and my patience was wearing very thin.  An appointment that should have taken an hour tops was well on it’s way to becoming 3 hours.

Finally they had it sorted and I was again escorted down to the cashier.  I was annoyed at the time everything had taken but was very thankful for the delay of payment so was happy to pay and get out of there.

The cashier then announced my bill total of over Y2000 (NZD$400).  Wide eyed with surprise I asked him to repeat it.  That poor, poor boy!  I then open mouthed (open and closing like a fishes does), asked him for a print out.  You should have seen the list of ingredients in the medication  AND I have also been charged a fee for the appointment.

Tears welled up and I was DONE being punished.  I had no idea what to do.  This is time that I really felt the effects of doing this on my own.  I had no one to bounce this off to see if I was being absolutely played.  Already feeling the financial brunt of the change in insurances and also not being able to verbalise how I was feeling, everything came crashing down around me.

I managed to collect myself enough to say – “No way” was I paying that.  The poor boy gave me a discount on the appointment price (20% off….what the hell….how can they do that…I found that very weird but took it anyway…usually I would be super embarrassed and say ‘don’t worry about it’….but stuff that!! I took the discount).

 Quickly I realised that maybe the medication was for a month or 2, so after I told them to stop ‘boiling it up’, I went to check with the pharmacist to see and turns out it was only for a week!!!  Later, on reflection, I was very proud of myself that I had said no and not paid for that.  At the time though, I had felt awful about it all and had thought the doctor would think badly about it – god, I need to stop caring about others and more about myself!

On the way out I stopped to try and get good wifi to get an Uber home (that wasn’t happening) and I broke down in the deserted hallways.

Collecting myself I managed to get to the front desk to ask for a taxi – that would take anther 15 minutes, sick of waiting and upset I walked out….onto a busy and congested road and willed Uber to work.  I started walking towards places I knew (I wasn’t anywhere near my house, so that was out).  The best stroke of luck I had all day was an Uber was stuck in traffic literally 10 metres from me and I was able to jump in.  After 10 minutes of being stuck in 200m of traffic, we were on the highway and I was home within another 10 minutes.

Closing the door behind me, I burst into tears and proceeded to hyperventilate and cry.  I had finally reached the pinnacle of what I could take.  I could be pushed no further, I had finally after all this time reached my absolute breaking point.  I now knew my limits and the consequences weren’t pretty.  This was like nothing I had ever experienced before, this was a first for me.

After a few hours of on and off crying and hyperventilating and a call to my sister (thank god for her being able to help pull me out of the pit of despair), I was able to calm down.  I never want to see the bottom of that pit of despair ever again.

All I could think about was why the hell was I being punished for trying to do the right thing?  It’s a hard thing to grasp and to come to terms with and even though I constantly try to see the positive in everything, I’m not sure I ever will understand why.

At least it had happened – I had hit rock bottom and there was nothing to do but climb out.

**On a lighter note – If you know me you will know that the fact that I missed seeing an All Blacks rugby game demonstrates how rock bottom I was that day!

Paving the way

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Amongst all the crap I had to wade through I was supported so amazingly by so many people.  I was truly humbled and thankful. Flowers from a lovely friend.

Apparently going back to reality and trying to do all the best things for myself to ‘right’ myself and get myself into a positive place meant that I needed to dish out a whole lot of money.

The good news, working internationally, you have medical insurance.

The bad news, we were about to switch providers, right in the middle of me coming back, getting on track and starting my treatments.  Meaning that the deductible of Y7000 (roughly NZD$1400), I had to meet would be a double header because with the previous medical insurance I had not met the deductible.  Essentially, I was being punished for being healthy.

The worst news – nobody covers infertility.  It’s absolute bullshit if you ask me.  Like my circumstances, some aspects of infertility aren’t a choice, it’s not like I chose to do these procedures, all my specialists have given me a time frame.  It makes me mad but there is nothing I can do about it but deal with it and move forward.

So with counselling being Y1400 a pop (roughly NZD$300), getting medication into the country (NZD$1200), and yoga costing Y100 (NZD$20) each time, adding acupuncture to the list was pushing it but I was determined to do this right.

My medical insurance although not covering infertility still listed 20 counselling sessions and acupuncture appointments as covered (after you have met the deductible).  Preparing myself to be Y7000 out of pocket after just coming back from holiday, I booked appointments and bit the bullet, sucking up the loss for the long term gain.  I got onto the insurance company before we even started with them to inform them of what I was doing, thinking I was doing the right thing and getting it sorted early.

Almost 2 months later and I am still having to fill in forms and justify my decisions and now also release confidential medical records, even though I have been told my counselling sessions are approved.  My god! Nobody tells you about all the hoops that you have to jump through behind the scenes as well as trying to stay on an even keel and deal with the shit hand you have been dealt.

All I am trying to do is do the best thing for me and I feel like I have been ridiculously punished….guess I’m going without a few dinners and wines over the coming months!

Lol – I am counting myself so lucky that that is all I am going without and thanking my lucky stars I am where I am right now and in the job I am in to be able to figure this all out. I truly believe that things happen for a reason and that this is another reason that I am in Beijing at this point in time.

This frustrating financial and annoying insurance hell is one of the side roads that paved the way to rock bottom for me and when I hit it, it really wasn’t pretty.

Money (and insurance companies) suck!

Back to life…back to reality

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Walking back from an appointment – walking seems to help a whole lot and it helps that all my appointments are about 30-40 minutes walk from my house!

…there seriously is a song for every situation.

Being around people was what I had initially needed but then before I went back to Beijing I had definitely needed space.

Space to work through my feelings, to process things and to look toward what was coming next.  I needed to prepare myself for the questions, having to face up to the fact that although this blog has helped me in way more ways than I had expected with all the support; acting as an outlet, eliminating taboo of infertility that I had previously experienced and for the sharing of stories, it has also opened me up to having to share my most personal experiences and answer questions that I may not be ready for or prepared to answer, especially in regards to the negative result.

Coming back to the realities of everyday life in some ways was relatively easy and in some ways it wasn’t.  It gave me an outlet in the form of work and routine, returned the mask to firmly cover the real emotions and gave me a place to hide in plain sight.

I started acupuncture, joined yoga twice a week, swam twice a week, did a meditation APP as much as possible and went to counselling.  I had an appointment or something that I did everyday.  In true Amy fashion I even made a spreadsheet/table titled ‘I CAN do this’ to keep track of everything that I was doing.

I made myself so busy that I was unable to process my feelings, I could not verbalise them and I certainly wasn’t acknowledging them.

This caused many problems as people did not realise that I was crumbling.  To them I appeared totally ok…fine….dealing with it in a positive  way and moving forward.  The simple truth was that I was not verbalising how I was feeling because I didn’t even know what I was feeling.

It took me a long time to figure this out, as I had firmly decided that there was nothing that anybody else could do.  Which to be honest is the harsh but complete truth.  I am the only one who can do things to get myself into a better position to undergo the second round, I am the only one who knows how it felt to be totally isolated and alone in Athens, I am the one that this happened to and am the only one who can prepare myself adequately to go through it all again.

After a particular session with the counsellor I realised that I was completely right.  There was nothing anyone else could do BUT she made me realise that the ridiculous guilt that I was feeling because I assumed I would be ‘putting people out’ by asking them to do simple things when they offered was completely ridiculous.

So taking baby steps I asked my parents to help me locate the stimulants via online sites, I asked people on FB to give me TV series and movie recommendations and I asked people to come to a party I wanted to throw the week before I left, to let loose and to also thank them for all the things they had done for me.

Nothing too crazy but to me a HUGE ask.  The funny thing was the immense feeling of pressure being lifted after asking people to give me suggestions for TV shows and receiving them was incredible.  It lifted so much pressure off my shoulders, meaning I could easily take their suggestions and download them and not have to think, search, look up or ask around.  So small, but so effective.

Along the way I am learning and doing tiny things that can help me prepare and get myself in a good place to go through this all again and I think it is working.

Only time will tell but I am willing to put in the work.

 

 

Feeling punished

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Taken right after the negative was confirmed -Sunglasses are an amazing tool, my new best friend.

Celebrating the positive is all well and good in normal life but throw into the mix the devastation of my first round not working, my body coursing with hormones and all those myriad of other feelings and thoughts, it tends not to lend itself to a positive pathway.

That was me, on the corner of a tiny little seaside town in France outside the pharmacy absolutely losing it and bawling at the unfairness of life…actually, it was the unfairness of IVF drug costs but that had just been the straw that broke the camels back.

After letting me know my negative result, Penny told me to take some time to ‘allow myself to come to terms with the outcome’.  Completely ignoring that advice, as I was painfully aware that I had to get onto organising my ‘comeback’ IVF round (remember I had paid for 2 rounds…not quite for the price of one! Haha), I forged ahead with plans and quickly realised that I need to obtain some stimulants.

China and a lot of Asia do not allow single women to partake in fertility treatments and having being in contact with a few clinics in Beijing early on in the year, I had learned that they could only supply stimulants to customers on their IVF programs.  Great, just great.  The only way to get on these programs was to be married – don’t you just LOVE life sometimes.  Ludacrious.

With Serum being on break for the month of August and with Penny out after a hip operation, I was in contact with another gynocologist who told me (in a round about way), that I needed to get ahold of some stimulants, as we would start them asap when my cycle was due.

Panicking I realised that that wouldn’t be able to happen in China, so with only a few days left of Summer vacation and a quick trip back to Athens out of the picture with the clinic closed, I was left with trying to locate some stimulants either online (with a very slim hope of getting them into China), and locating them in France.

Enter into the equation AirFrance’s strike, coinciding directly with my flight to Nice and then to Paris and them not answering any phone numbers in any offices or answering their emails over a period of the 3 days, both on and after the day I received my negative results, I was livid.  Not only was it cancelled flights but it was more money out of pocket and 5 hours plus on the phone with calls unanswered.

I cursed the clinic….to me it made perfect sense to tell someone after their first round, who has made it perfectly clear that where they live has a lot of limitations, to maybe consider purchasing some stimulants to take back with them just incase.  Apparently that is not the way they think and operate because if they had done that I would have bought some.  I mean, why not add a few vials of stimulants to my already drug filled suitcase and carry on. It would not have made a huge difference to me then but the stress that it was causing me now by trying to locate these drugs was two-fold.

My friend being the saint that she is suggested we go down to the local pharmacy and see what they could do.  Having searched online already I knew the generic name for Merional – I still don’t get why they have different names for the same, or almost the same, drug in different countries…makes no sense to me.  The pharmacy had no idea what I was talking about but after my friend took over and spoke in French and we gave them the generic name, they would be able to get it to the pharmacy the following day (just in time before I flew, on my new Jetstar flight – buggar you AirFrance).

The catch of course was I needed a prescription from my clinic, which I had but it was for Merional, not the French version called Menopur.  Ok, I could do this and hopefully we could make it back with the new prescription before 7.30pm.

The second catch – 10 vials would be the equivalent of $3000 New Zealand dollars.  By this stage I had had enough.  Not only were my eggs shit for some unknown reason, my first round a failure, my finances majorly depleted but now I was being punished for wanting children, something granted so easily to others, by being charged ridiculous prices.  In Greece, the stimulants cost  E17 per shot.  Massive price difference.

I was exhausted.  Who the hell was trying to punish me and for what?

At that point I gave up – on the corner of a street, in a little seaside town in France, I bawled my eyes out, pumped full of hormones and grief, on my friends shoulder.

I am so thankful, everyday, for that friend.  Without her I have no idea how I would have gotten through those initial first days.

Never underestimate the power of a non-judgmental, tolerant and ‘there through everything’ friend.  The kind that knows how to be there and how to help without you saying anything.

Long story short – there was NO way I was paying that amount for these drugs and decided to leave them.  It wasn’t worth the financial and emotional stress and if I had to take some more time off to make sure I was in Greece earlier to get the cheaper drugs, then that’s what I would do.

Also, thank god for those following 4 days in Nice – I finally felt like I had had a holiday.