Archives for posts with tag: Fertility

I had my penultimate Lupron shot. Yes, my second to last jab, on the right hip this time, with a syringe of Lupron stored in a package decorated with a photo of a smiling African American man, whom I am to assume is to represent a prostate cancer patient. Because, you know, both women and men love it when we get our hormones turned off by Lupron. It’s a party!

Lupron made me infertile by disrupting the signal between my pituitary gland and my ovaries. Yeah, I know, I talk a lot in my blog about breasts, a secondary sexual characteristic. However, the ovaries, primary sexual organs, are also commonly involved in breast cancer treatment. That’s because a lot of breast tumors, including the ones that were discovered in what was formerly my right breast, grew in response to progesterone and estrogen, two female hormones.

I could complain about the fact that a big part of my breast cancer treatment has been both a surgical and chemical warfare on my femininity. Remove my breast, then remove my lady chemicals. Go ahead, make me a man!

I’m not going to complain about this. Yes, losing a breast is a big deal. But that happens to many women, regardless of the hormone responsiveness of their tumors. Having had tumors that are progesterone or estrogen responsive is actually a positive prognostic indicator. Reducing hormonal activity is something that can be done to reduce the chance of breast cancer recurrence.

Chemically induced menopause is rough. I can tell you this first hand. Menopause symptoms, on average, are worse. I can tell you this, first hand. At the peak of my menopause symptoms misery, I had about 50 hot flashes EVERY DAY. Does that sound intensely uncomfortable? If yes, I have done an effective job in describing it. IT WAS RELENTLESS.

Currently, I experience almost no menopause symptoms. Also, I do not menstruate. And it is impossible for me to get pregnant. In other words, I am in a state of bliss.

It is likely temporary. Lupron does not permanently shut down my ovaries. In six months, my body will be adapting to the absence of Lupron. I will be 49 years old. At that time, I may become fertile again. My menopause may pause! Thanks a lot, menopause! Let me get used to you for two years and then throw a wrench into the works!

Yes, Virginia, I’m going to have to start thinking about birth control again. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

The last time I took a pregnancy test was at least five years ago. I knew it was unlikely that I was pregnant, but things were not as usual, and I wanted to be sure.

Based on my family history, I am likely to go back to a peri-menopausal state after I discontinue my Lupron shots. In other words, it unlikely that I will be able to conceive, but still possible. My last method of contraception was an I.U.D, which I loved, but then had to have removed, because it secreted female hormones, and I am not allowed to have those.

Yes, I know that I am solely responsible for contraception. And I have talked to my nearly 50 year old husband about perhaps, just perhaps, getting a vasectomy. The first time I raised the issue was when I was 37 years old. I did not raise it again until I was a breast cancer patient, nearly 10 years later. Neither conversation went particularly well. In my husband’s defense, I probably raised it too early the first time, and the second time, he was likely stressed by the prospect of his wife dying.

I may be a two time champion of menopause achievement. It is not a title that I particularly relish but I guess they are far worse things in life to bear, like CANCER!!!!

As I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past, I am not a psychologist trained in dream interpretation and generally speaking, the area doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me. But in my own flat-footed way, I get information from my dreams at times. For example, when I have a dream that bad guys are chasing me, it tells me that my daytime anxiety has gotten high enough to invade my dream scape so I take it as a cue to get myself to “calm the Hell down”. (And when I used to have Gilligan’s Island dreams frequently as a kid I perhaps should have taken that as a cue to watch less television! I would ask the Professor, “What do you mean you can’t find civilization? There’s a big resort hotel across the water over there, within easy swimming distance!”)

Another popular theme for my dreams has been pregnancy. I remember having my first pregnancy dreams when I was a teen and they continued for many many years. As I teen I thought of what my life would be like, would I be married, would I have children, what would my career be? I think a lot of those pregnancy dreams were about how my identity was shaping up as a woman and since a lot of those dreams involved me giving birth to lots of babies at once, I think I was perhaps more than a little concerned about how I would establish a work/home balance. When I was pregnant, I had birth dreams. My husband had one, too. He said that I gave birth to a baby who looked like a softball with one eye. Not wanting to distress me (thoughtful even in his dreams), he casually asked the obstetrician, “Hmm, so when do you think the baby will get a SECOND eye?”

Now I have middle-aged pregnancy dreams. On more than one occasion, I’ve realized in the dream, “Wait a minute! I’m not in my thirties anymore. I am 47 years old! Good Lord, how did this this happen? This is a very high risk pregnancy!” No one else in the dreams seems to worry about this. And I try to be as excited as I can be for the birth. Even if this cancer mess had never occurred, I would have a very low chance of getting pregnant at my age. And as long as I take Lupron shots, I will be infertile. Eventually, this state of affairs will become permanent as a natural consequence of aging.

So what’s the deal with the dreams? I guess an obvious explanation is that in losing my fertility I am thinking about it. (Yeah I know, “D’uh!”) The only thing I’ve noticed in my attitude about losing my fertility is that it doesn’t really seem to bother me that much. In contrast to much younger cancer patients, I was done having children quite awhile ago and was in peri-menopause when I was diagnosed. I had never planned to bear any children past age 35, anyway so I think I’d pretty much processed the probability that I would never get pregnant again, already.

I think part of this is just the realization that although I am not old, I’m not young anymore. Unlike my historical hang ups with body image, beauty, and weight, I am surprisingly less concerned about getting older. But I do notice it. My father-in-law, Don, a very fit and physically active man in his early 70’s, tells me that it shocks him when he looks in the mirror. Inside he feels much younger and the person looking at him is old. My Great Aunt Blanche had uncorrected vision problems for a number of years. Once they were corrected, she was shocked at her aged appearance because she had not seen herself clearly in quite some time. She died at age 105 years. She was still living by herself and in her own home, tending to her magnificent garden until she was 103. She was extremely fit and good looking for a centenarian.

But we don’t start off life as 100 year olds, do we? And we develop a view of ourselves over the years that changes over time but perhaps not as quickly as we change externally. I imagine that youth has always been prized due to its association with fertility and reproduction. Our culture, however, has gone incredibly and irrationally overboard with youth idealization. Some people decide that they are old when they are middle-aged, that this is a bad thing, and then they interpret the advancing years in a negative way for the rest of their lives. I sometimes tell people that Aunt Blanche chose her burial outfit when she was 80, only to live 25 more years. My grandmother also chose her burial outfit, a decades old pink and black peignoir set, which she used to wear on special occasions. I think she was trying to set her sex appeal setting to Ava Gabor in Green Acres. But it might have just as well been Esther Williams, since Grandma also used to wear an authentic 1940’s era gold lame bathing suit while she was watering the garden. But I digress…

When my father-in-law was a teen boy he asked his grandfather if there were things he missed about being younger. His grandfather replied, “Every age has compensations.” Don told me that he has carried his grandfather’s words with him throughout his life. As for my own life, I am not as fit or beautiful as I was when I was younger but I am a whole lot happier. I don’t sweat the small stuff so easily. I appreciate each day more fully. Finally, I know a lot of cancer survivors say this but I look at aging differently now. Aging is more life. I can’t be old unless I live for a long time. And that sounds pretty good to me.

Christmas at Johnny and Katie Torlai's house. The boys are my brothers. I am the girl. I am guessing the year was 1969.

Christmas at Johnny and Katie Torlai’s house. The boys are my brothers. I am the girl. I am guessing the year was 1969.

For those of you who didn't get the Ava Gabor in Green Acres reference, here she is.

For those of you who didn’t get the Ava Gabor in Green Acres reference, here she is.

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