I have neglected this blog to such an extent lately that I am not quite sure how to start this post, and I imagine it being greeted only by the sound of crickets. I am still here, though, still alive and well. I'm especially thankful to be well because the status of my physical health was called into question during the past couple of months.
It started with a trip to my OB/GYN in mid-March because I was concerned that I hadn't had a cycle since my miscarriage in January, and that wasn't normal for me. Always before, my cycle was back to normal within four weeks after the bleeding from a miscarriage resolved. This time, I waited and waited...and there was nothing. I started to worry that something was wrong, maybe Asherman's Syndrome. After all, I have had four D&Cs; it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that my uterus had developed scarring that could prevent the normal build-up and shedding of the endometrium. For some reaon, that thought really bothered me. Even if I wasn't ever planning to use my uterus again to try to carry another child, I didn't like the thought of my reproductive system being even more broken than it already is. So I made an appointment with my doctor.
An ultrasound showed my uterus to be empty, with a very thin lining, and a blood test revealed that I still had hcg (the pregnancy hormone) in my body; the level was 13, which was low but would be enough to prevent a new cycle from occurring. I was relieved and figured that the number probably would drop down to normal by the blood draw scheduled for the following week.
Well, the number didn't go down; it went up for three consecutive weeks, and I definitely had not conceived a new pregnancy. No pregnancy, but my body was pumping out increasing levels of hcg nonetheless. That's a problem. My doctor was concerned that I might have developed a type of rare gestational trophoblastic disease, probably the variation known as choriocarcinoma, in which trophoblastic/placental cells leftover after a pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or normal live birth morph into malignant, cancerous cells. Because the cells originated as products of conception, they pump out increasing levels of hcg as they grow. Also, the only marker/test for that type of cancer is increasing hcg levels; it's the only type of cancer that isn't diagnosed via a tissue sample. The treatment is chemotherapy with methotrexate.
During the weeks that my hcg was rising, I went to a different doctor for a mammogram. (My mom is a breast cancer survivor, and I have had problems with breast cysts, so I get checked out periodically by an oncologist merely as a precaution.) Well, you guessed it, the mammogram looked a bit suspicious, which led to me being scheduled for a breast MRI, which also looked suspicious. This breast cancer scare dragged out for a few weeks before it finally was concluded that the areas of concern are benign and there's nothing to worry about. No breast cancer here, thank God.
Now, you probably can imagine how I was feeling during the weeks when it appeared that not only had I lost my dad and my baby in the same weekend earlier in the year, but that I also may be diagnosed with two separate types of cancer at the same time. Really, it was getting absurd, to the point that I was beginning to wonder exactly how dark the cloud was that seemed to be constantly hovering over my head, and to the extent that I didn't even feel like talking about it, much less writing about it.
To make matters worse, in early March my husband and I had pulled out and dusted off our adoption paperwork that had been languishing since late last year (it had fallen by the wayside in October during my mom's cardiac bypass surgery and then again when we unexpectedly discovered in December that I was pregnant), and we once again were getting excited about the hope of building our family through adoption. We even scheduled our homestudy for early April...and then cancelled it because of all my health concerns. If I were diagnosed with cancer, there would be no adoption for us, at least not for a while, not until I was healthy again. I couldn't imagine that an adoption agency would approve/ a birthparent would choose a prospective adoptive parent who was fighting newly diagnosed cancer...and even if they would, I couldn't imagine that I would have the physical and emotional resources to undergo treatment while at the same time caring for a baby in the way that I would want to care for a baby.
At first, I was very frustrated because it appeared the rug was going to get pulled out from under us again in our attempts to have a family, very angry that our hopes were dashed not only with seven pregnancies but also now with the potential path of adoption. I tried to take things bit by bit, to not get overwhelmed with the upsetting possibilities, to let go and trust God...but I must admit that I didn't succeed very well. I was already so emotionally depleted by grief over losing Dad to cancer, on top of losing all the babies, plus I was trying my best to be supportive of my good friend who is fighting ovarian cancer (she had major surgery around that time) and the pace of my job was getting more hectic. To add to all this the prospect that our hopes of adopting a baby could be dashed by my own potential cancer diagnoses on two separate fronts...well, it was almost too much.
But it was not quite too much. Through God's grace, I kept functioning, getting up and going to the office daily, as usual, getting my job done, going to church, cooking, trying to eat healthy foods, going for walks in the evening, being a wife, daughter, sister, friend. My sister said, "I don't know how you keep going," but really, what other choice is there? I just kept on going because there isn't any other good option. Still, I felt so tired, so worn out. I miss my dad so much and still found myself crying often about it. I kept trying to pray, even though I didn't feel much like it. I went to prayer services at church and had people pray for me and with me, and believed that it would have to help in some way, even if my circumstances didn't improve. I knew I had to hang on to my faith in God even when I wasn't emotionally feeling it.
I was grateful when the specter of breast cancer was lifted from me, but I continued to have weekly blood draws to check my hcg. This cycle of getting up extra early for a blood draw before work, then waiting breathlessly (sometimes up to 2 1/2 days) for the nurse to phone me with results continued throughout April. During that time, I had frequent spotting and a few irregular bouts of very heavy bleeding and severe cramps.
After the initial weeks during which my hcg increased, it dipped lower, and then bounced around in between 10 and 20 for a while. My OB/GYN thought that we could stop worrying about the potential of choriocarcinoma because if I had it, my hcg numbers probably would have gotten much higher by that point. Instead, the theory was that I had retained some products of conception that were taking a long time to release; the miscarriage was still dragging out four months after the D&C.
Finally, this week, my hcg finally dropped down to 4.9; below 5.0 is considered to be a normal, nonpregnant level, so it appears that the physical aftermath of my seventh miscarriage is now officially over, thank God.
I am extremely grateful and relieved. Now that we have confirmation that I am in good health, my husband and I have gotten back in touch with our adoption social worker and scheduled our homestudy for the beginning of June.
It took us a long period--years, actually--of talk, research, thought, and prayer to get to the point where we felt as though we could let go of our dream of having a successful pregnancy ending in the birth of our "own" living, biological child and to embrace instead adoption and all the issues that it entails, but now we are feeing hopeful and excited about adopting a baby. Our paperwork is almost completely done, and this weekend we are going to plant annuals around our yard to make it prettier for the first home visit. It feels good to be closing (hopefully) the miscarriage chapter of my life and moving forward on a different path to parenthood.
I am not quite sure what to do with my blog at this point. All the women whom I have connected with through it have been such a blessing to me that I hate to leave it, but at the same time, I am not sure if I want to morph this into an adoption blog. I haven't felt much like posting lately and therefore have been wondering if maybe this blog is something that I was meant to do only for a season.
I'll figure it out, but regardless, I always will deeply appreciate and be grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read my story and to offer words of support and encouragement; they have been a godsend, and I know that in large part your kindness and prayers are why I am still standing despite all the losses that I have chronicled on this blog. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to anyone who is still reading, and God bless.