Saturday 27 July 2013

Music = medicine

So, after my grumbling and whining in the last entry, I feel obliged to say that things did get better. First of all I am feeling better physically (of course I knew the nasty period couldn't go on  forever, like the cycle before it, but it did feel like it for a while).  Also feeling better in spirit. All the sympathetic comments helped.  (Incidentally, I do like precise descriptions of disgusting things. I profoundly dislike euphemisms and evasions. I'd much rather revel in the beauty of the world, don't get me wrong, but when there's something truly awful to be described, I'd rather tell/hear it like it is. Somehow that helps put said awful thing in its place, I find. Anyway. Enough of that for now.)

I mentioned in last entry that I was getting ready to start a summer band program. My city has an amateur adult music education and performance program, and I've been a member since 2006. I started playing music as an adult with absolutely no experience (although I have danced since early years, off and on, and I've always enjoyed listening to music.) It has been life-changing to learn and perform music with a group as an adult. It's never too late to learn something new! I met a fellow who started learning trombone in his late 70s! (He and his wife became good friends of ours. People who live life so passionately help make me less afraid to grow old.)

After 6 years learning and playing euphonium, I started learning percussion as well, which is tons of fun because you get to play many different instruments, sometimes in the space of one piece of music. I've done that for 3 years now and hope to continue on. The past year I took a break from my horn and focused on the percussion. I was starting to feel overwhelmed with so many hobbies besides a full time job and other things like trying to keep our house sort of clean, cooking at least twice a week, keeping up with friends and extended family, and oh yeah, TTC.

TTC has sapped my enthusiasm in the past year for my hobbies, including music. When we first started, naively optimistic, it made no difference, but when it became clear things were not going well in the TTC department there definitely was an affect. Obviously I was spending time researching and wondering what was going on, but the real consequence is more subtle I think: it's like my life energy is always being diverted somewhere else, and I'm just left with less motivation and energy to do things that I usually love. Which means I end of feeling like I have less energy in general.  I've found in  the past few months that I really have to make myself do fun things. I do enjoy them when I do them, but I don't look forward to them and I practically need a regular schedule to motivate myself: "Email friend on Monday. Then go for walk. Then go to dance class." This  is especially bad for music because it's necessary to work on it regularly (i.e. practicing.) I typically  really enjoy practicing, but when I lack energy, it starts to feel like a chore.

So  it was a great surprise on  Thursday, going to my first summer band rehearsal, to realize how incredibly good and energized and full of life I felt. Even though I was a bit rusty after more than a year away from my horn I felt so happy to be there and so passionate about playing music. And in the days since I can't wait to pick it up and play some more. I'm hoping I can keep this up over the next few weeks and into the fall  as it feels like wonderful medicine.

It's so important to have life-affirming projects and plans to focus on  every day!

Thursday 25 July 2013


So I was all positive and happy the past few entries, now I'm going to grumble, because it's good to be balanced. lol.

OK, I'll still mix in some positives:  I picked a great week to participate in ICLW. Why? Well, I'm not working and not busy with tons over other stuff, as I would be in any other final week of the month in the year. So I have time.

Also (TMI alert), my "lost at sea AF" (thank you for another nautical metaphor St. Elsewhere, adding it to my collection) arrived after 40 days and 40 nights on Tuesday. I am glad AF finally came into port (har, har, har....grrrrrrrrrroan) as I didn't know what to think when my cycle went so long (OK, actually I thought a lot of things: sleeper pregnancy that hides from HPTs? Menopause at last?? some ill beyond my ken?). However, as can be the case after a longer cycle, it's a more difficult period. I'm not exactly in pain, but I'm....really uncomfortable. As in I feel like my insides are simultaneously liquefying and creating a bubble of noxious gas that lodges in my pelvis, somewhere below belly button and in front of tailbone. It comes and goes, but tends to get worse I'm moving around, which means I am spending a lot of time on the couch with laptop/iPad/Kobo reader.  I felt so disgusting yesterday that I downloaded another Phil Rickman mystery as a compensation. (I just finished one last week and usually I try to space them out.) And AF is really, really heavy. Oh, so much fun.

Although I do enjoy book 'n' blogs I also always have a running list of Things To Do in the summer, so I would be really happy if this could just be over already. I'm starting a community summer band program today, so I hope I have enough energy to practice my euphonium for a little while, as I haven't picked in up in more than a year and am no doubt pretty rusty.

Here's a picture of me playing the euphonium some years ago. I like this photo because I'm playing outside and if you  look closely, you can see the sky and Badlands of Alberta reflected in the bell. :-)

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Escape (how I spent my summer vacation)

Thank you to everyone who is dropping by as part of IComLeavWe.  It's fun to check out new blogs and hear from  new people! Thanks again to people who check in regularly. So much  appreciated.  For anyone new to the blog, Mr. Turtle and I are in between appointments at The Fertility Clinic, waiting on yet more test results to determine a direction for fertility treatments. We have a double diagnosis of Male Factor Infertility (severe motility/morphology factors, possiblly as a result of disruption to lymph system caused by Crohn's disease) aaaaaaaaand on my side, Premature Ovarian Failure, or Diminished Ovarian Reserve, which I call DOR/POF on the blog. Dorpoff. Sounds like some hypothetical Russian ancestor.  Possibilities going forward include hormone supplementation followed by Flare Protocol IVF with our own gametes and/or IVF/ICSI with donor eggs. Although we haven't investigated the latter option much. In addition I have an appointment with a TCM practitioner which may lead to fertility-related naturopathic treatments or just a little TLC to stop my back muscles from seizing up under tension. I'll take all the help I can get. I love to read stories from people at all stages and places in their journey through IF so do leave a comment and bridge back to wherever-you-are.

The past week I was offline as Mr. Turtle and I took the opportunity to spend a week on one of Canada's Gulf Islands, Gabriola. We have taken a trip somewhere around our anniversary since we got married in 2010.  The very first trip after our wedding (i.e. honeymoon) was memorable in part because I had a broken metatarsal in my foot.  I broke it about 3 weeks before our wedding, so I was in a cast and crutches for wedding and honeymoon. Despite that (maybe because of it?) we had an amazing wedding and honeymoon (we did Arizona and BC, including the Grand Canyon (that is a story in itself) and basically lived life with no limits.  It was a reminder that it really is possible to enjoy life even when it throws painful (or sharp, or sticky, or stinky??..) things at you. Since then Mr. Turtle and I have aimed to have a great trip every year the week of our anniversary. This is however the last year we will be able to do it exactly this way because Mr. Turtle has started grad school and will need to be in classes over July.

Here's a few snapshots of highlights:

The B&B we stayed at was on 13 acres of property, with trees (conifer and arbutus), an extensive garden, and 3 roaming cats.  There was a swing on one hanging tree where I liked to spend some minutes every day.

 We visited the different beaches, which were beautiful, whether sandstone or sandy.

I love trees....

Apart from beach bumming, we rented bikes on the island and did some riding, and we also tried kayaking for the first time, which was so much fun! We went on a sunset kayak one day and saw bald eagles and seals. Then we went on a personalized trip where we paddled for an hour and a half, and ended up at another tiny island where we had a picnic. That was amazing! This tiny island had a sandstone beach and (we counted 'em) nine trees, so we called it Nine Tree Island.

Mr. Turtle and I have such fun on our holidays. We are plan 'em really well if I do say so myself.  Mostly we feel lucky and blessed not only to be able to go on holiday together but to share life with each other. Not many years ago I thought I would be lonely and weird forever. Now I can be weird together with the man I love. I cannot believe how lucky we are so many ways. Reflecting on that helps to put the "bad luck" (youknowwhatImean) in its place, instead of letting it take over our whole lives.  I will continue to remind myself of our special week together and everything we are grateful for, and remember that really, no matter what we are excited about the future.

Thanks again for reading. xo

Monday 22 July 2013


I am back from a great week on Gabriola.  Mr. Turtle and I savoured the time together, and had lots of  fun walking, reading on the beach, kayaking, biking, and eating and resting. Pictures soon. I  have a very bad case of vacation hangover today. I had to go get my second chicken pox vaccination, which I promptly followed up with a long nap. Poor Mr. Turtle had to go to work today; I do hope he is doing better than I am. My goals for today include doing the bare minimum of chores and buying enough groceries to keep us alive, and catching up on IComLeavWe. Yeah blogs!

Last week wasn't a good week for our extended family, as there were two deaths. Such is the incongruity of life. Sometimes I think that the main lesson of getting older (maturing? getting wiser? Ha!) is that the happy things and the sad things are all mixed up together, and - surprise! - nobody actually has the power to sort them out and hand you only the happy pile.  Long term happiness must be about eating your "mixed salad" with the minimum of bitterness.

In fertility news, the cycle that I was delighted last 28 days has now lasted 40 days (I think? I kinda lost count on holiday) with on-off spotting and 2 BFNs. Of course after a certain point I took a pregnancy  test. Unlike many women who become addicted to "peeing on a stick," I hate testing for pregnancy. Those nasty little sticks are 1) expensive (I'm sure this is because the manufacturers are GREEDY, not because there is anything inherently valuable about them) and 2) I associate them with futility and defeat.  I wait to test till long after a test should be able to detect a pregnancy (about 3 weeks after conception could possibly have taken place in this case).

This time around there was some additional angst because I had had a Chicken Pox vaccine on June 7th (sub cutaneous; live virus).When The Fertility Clinic did my bloodwork they found out I did not have immunity against that nasty little disease. Chicken Pox can be transmitted in utero and can cause birth defects, so all women trying to get pregnant should get the vaccine before getting pregnant. However, you are supposed to prevent pregnancy for a month after taking the vaccine (so that there is no chance of the fetus being infected). Well, we didn't bother with birth control after the vaccine because after all, we have built-in birth control, right? So I went through quite the muddle of emotions when The Period was late (or possibly late; it's hard to tell with my cycles).  Incidentally, there is no record of the vaccine harming a pregnancy although the disease can.  Anyway, I have now had my 2 vaccines, I am Not Pregnant (say the peesticks) and I have no idea when The Period will show, and well....whatever.

Going to get caught up with with everyone else now!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Rockin' the good stuff

While this blog is by its nature future-looking, I think I should occasionally write about the present just to balance things out.

So, here are a few good things going on this week:

  • I went to an African dance class yesterday. I am taking a summer class called "Traditions": 6 classes, 3 different styles of dance:West African, AfroCuban and Caribbean. The studio brings in drummers for the class which is the best part in a lot of ways: dancing to live music is magical. It was great to shake some booty with half a dozen other women (and a couple of guys) and feel full of life and whole (notbroken). Here is a video of African dancing. (I don't dance like those girls but I'm OK for a white girl novice. It's an great workout, feels awesome and any body type can do the dances.)
  • I have been cleaning the house the past 2 weeks. I know, wonderfully exciting stuff...but I try to clean it very thoroughly twice a year, whether it needs it or not, as the joke goes.  And now that I'm almost done it feels good to be in a clean, fresh, more organized space.
  • The yard is also another project. While not done, it too is much more cleaned up and the flowers that I planted are still alive.
  • Going for a week's vacation next week with hubby - to celebrate our anniversary (July 17).  We are going to Gabriola Island where we anticipate doing some biking, walking, kayaking, eating, swimming and a lot of lazing on the beach with a book. I love the West Coast and haven't been there in too many years, so I am looking forward to it a lot. Also it's a totally guilt free reason to not show at a baby-event bahahahahahahaha. (I phoned and sent a nice email.)
  • This month's cycle is going on 28 days, which, as I'm sure you all know, is the text book number for a normal cycle.  My cycles average 25 days with occasional wild variations. Their (usually) shorter span is a symptom of the DOR/POF. So, anytime I can go longer than 25 I'm considering it a bit of a victory over the DOR/POF. Which may not be based on any kind of science, but whatever... Of course the flip side is maybe the The Period will take too long to arrive, but I'm not going to worry about that for now. There. That was the 5% fertility-related content of this entry.
  • I have a Kobo reader on loan from school, and although it has its annoying quirks, I quite like it, especially that I can have several books on it without taking up tons of space. But the verrrrry best part: browsing e-books! Wow what a garden of temptations. I really have to watch my trigger, er, mouse finger. Need some serious mouse control around e-books.
I hope all of you are doing something(s) great for yourselves too!

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Processing (otherwise known as rambling), and Chinese medicine

THANK YOU  to everyone who has left a note of support, encouragement, and a bridge back to her online home on my last two entries about DOR/POF.  I really appreciate that you reach out and I've discovered more great blogs and gutsy women in the process. For more on the DOR/POF, see this entry for the rundown of the medical tests, and this entry for my emotional response. And yes, that is the order in which I processed it.

Incidentally, I think the most uncomfortable moments of the whole IF-journey so far happened while I was receiving the tests results that point to a DOR/POF diagnosis. Not only because it was bad news, but because I was really baffled as to how I should react. Mr. Turtle kept looking at me as if he expected the top of my head to blow off any moment. He's a counsellor and I could just feel him shift into "crisis intervention mode" when we got the drift of Dr. Cotter's message. And meanwhile I'm sitting there, thinking: "Would you stop staring at me! I'm so confused and now I'm embarrassed too!" Ha. The truth is, I was struggling just to process what Dr. Cotter was saying, and as the shock set in it was harder to concentrate. I had no energy available for a dramatic meltdown. Also my mouth and throat was really dry making it difficult to talk properly.  Things you  learn on your trying to conceive journey, number 13.4556: Bring a bottle of water to uncomfortable fertility-related appointments.

I've also realized it's important write down what all the tests are about before I hand in the requisition forms, otherwise I have a hard time remembering what they are and what is the significance. While they explain all that at the follow up appointment, I find things move very fast at appointments and it doesn't help to be mentally behind.

Today I gave up 8(!) vials of blood for the following:
-Anti thyroid ab
-Anti adrenal antibodies
-Karotype testing for Fragile X
-HIV / Hepatitis testing (standard before proceeding with fertility treatments)

I was rather anxious about this bloodwork. Not because I am scared of needles (I just drink a lot of water and point them to the big fat juicy vein in my left arm - the needle hurts more going in than it does in the right arm, but the blood comes easier). No, I was scared because now I am expecting more bad news. The rational part of my brain knows it's silly to worry about that, but the irrational side worries anyway. However, it's all done now, follow up is on August 8th - I know, a long time - and in the meantime I can focus on other things.

The laboratory happens to be near a large shopping mall, so I did some errands after giving it up for Science. Among them was to pick up a book my MIL recommended: The Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis, Ph.D.  My MIL is a Chinese Medicine Practitioner and does acupuncture treatments in  her own highly successful clinic, as well as working with hospital patients at times.  She is a highly informed, sensitive, calm, kind, all-round amazing human being. The catch: she lives on the other end of the continent, so I see her at most twice a year. However, she is fully up to date on the fertility situation, and we had a chance to chat a bit on  the phone this weekend. Because I do respect her greatly and we could use all the help we can get, I picked up the book.

Now, other than a few complimentary treatments from MIL for motion sickness and relaxation (the normal extent of my health concerns prior to infertility) I don't have much experience with acupuncture or Chinese medicine. I've had it flagged as something to look into, for quite a while...but I tend not to be proactive about health matters, if only because I'm usually healthy. So, this book is taking me a bit out of my comfort zone.

I found a cool spot in the house (not easy; it's the first really hot day of summer) and read a bit of the first few chapters and the chapter on POF. It's definitely thought-provoking. The idea of treating the body  has a whole system, rather than focusing on one organ (e.g. ovaries) that is not working is intriguing. So is the idea of encouraging the body to correct its own hormonal imbalances rather than flooding it with outside hormones. There are paragraphs about supplements that are supposed to help balance the body, and dietary recommendations.  The chapter on POF ends with the story of Dannette, age 33, who had POF and had stopped menstruating. (She also had had an earlier pregnancy that ended in  miscarriage.) Dannette had given up on having children (though she still wanted them) but was seeking some relief of the nasty POF-symptoms. After acupuncture and herbal supplements, Dannette's menses restart and she eventually conceives.

There's still a lot in the book for me to read through, but I found even as I read this chapter I was feeling both some interest and excitement but also fear and even anger and frustration, especially when reading Dr. Lewis's happy anecdotal examples. Why? I think it is because "trying naturally" became so frustrating that I really want to put all that behind me. We tried with timed intercourse for a year and a half, and I think we actually were very good at it. However, after receiving the diagnosis of "primary infertility" from our doctor last summer,  I think I have labeled the year and a half of trying unassisted as a failure and a waste of time. The later diagnoses of male factor infertility and especially DOR/POF have just underlined all that as pointless.  I'm goal oriented, and once I identify a path as not profitable, I just don't want to go there anymore. It's onto the next thing.

Even the title of the book bothered me: The Infertility Cure.  Are you kidding me? Somebody thinks they can just CURE INFERTILITY? Yeah I don't think so! Let me give you a big fat list of things you can't cure with some stupid herbs.

One the other hand, ART and traditional medicine don't have all the answers either, and I'm intrigued by what I've read in The Infertility Cure. Considering DOR/POF has underlined to me that IVF alone may well not be the resolution to our infertility, either. IVF is probably still the best way to go; after all we have the male factor diagnosis on top of the DOR/POF. No reason Mr. Turtle can't try some Eastern medications as well, but since we suspect his infertility is related to his Crohn's, which isn't going to go away, there's no quick fix there. Still, some of the Eastern medical techniques coupled with IVF might lead to results; in  the meantime, I can contemplate a diet without dairy (oh no, say it ain't so.)

I know lots of people try acupuncture; has anyone tried a holistic "cure" for infertility?