Friday, March 30, 2012


I went in for an last-minute appointment the other day. I had written an email via my online patient portal asking about how long this bleeding is supposed to last (because it just seems to be taking forever to go away) and then somehow that turned into a nurse calling saying "We want you to come in today." So, I did.

At least they let me keep my pants on.

It was pretty much just a conversation with my doctor. He is a resident. (Side note: Ever since having doctor friends, I've really come to appreciate all the hard work and long hours they put in. They do not get compensated nearly enough if you ask me.) Anyway, we talked about how long the bleeding would last and he said around 6 weeks for me due to the size of my "mass." We also discussed what signs to look for if something was infected because I was worried about that. You see, my bleeding is not really bleeding. It is weird dark brown who knows what. Sometimes I wonder if having a D&C prior to treating the ectopic would have had much effect on the amount of bleeding or not? My personal feeling about D&Cs is that I don't want people "blindly" scraping out the inside of my uterus, but the bleeding does go away quite quickly after having one, which is nice.

We also discussed trying to conceive again. This is what started brief moments of tears every once in awhile. I was quite surprised at my emotional outbursts because most of the time I am fine talking about things. I think "trying again" is definitely a sensitive topic because you try to discuss in "when" terms, but I always replace the "when" with "if" in my head. When you try again... (you mean, if I try again, doctor...) When you get pregnant again... (you mean if I get pregnant again...). My internal dialogue always needs to be kept in check. I've given myself permission to think these things but my rule is: "You can go there if you need to, Jess, but you can't stay there." I believe it will happen again, but there is part of me that doesn't want it to happen because it is too painful to go through the loss.

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked him what kind of resources they have to help with the emotional healing of all this. Not that I don't have a good support group. I do. But I was curious because I thought to myself, "What about the people who don't have anyone? This would have been a horrible patient experience in respect to treating the emotional well-being of the patient." He said that they usually do it for miscarriages. I would consider ectopics and molar pregnancies types of miscarriages, because in some ways the grief would seem to be the same. He asked if I would still like more information. I said, "Certainly."

A few minutes later, a nurse came in asking me how I was doing. I said "Good" even though I had been teared up a bit. She's like, "No you're not." Uh...Ok. I thought to myself. The nurse proceeded to start talking and, in spite of the rocky start, I instantly connected with her. She just had a spirit of comfort that put me at ease. As she was talking I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Who is this woman?" and I looked down at her name tag.

It read: Gloria.


Back when this all began, I had a lot of phone conversations with a nurse. Her name was Gloria. She was amazing. I had very candid conversations with this woman and she was the nurse that convinced the doctor to start getting blood draws early on per my deeply emotional request. When I felt like no other staff was taking me seriously, Gloria did. It made all the difference, because my fears ended up being confirmed. I can only imagine how much later all the "discoveries" would have been if she hadn't listened to me back from the very beginning.

The day I had my ultrasound appointment where they confirmed the ectopic, I asked for Gloria before I left. I wanted to tell her how sincerely grateful I was for her and all she did for me over those weeks. Unfortunately, she had already left for the day. I was bummed. I didn't think I would ever get to meet her to personally share my gratitude.

But there she was! Right in front of my eyes! I immediately interrupted and exclaimed, "You're Gloria!" She looked at me kind of funny and then I started showering her with "thank yous" and "I'm so glad to finally meet you". I explained to her who I was. She remembered me from our phone conversations and of course I started bawling. On the verge of tears herself, she got up and gave me a hug and said, "I don't mean to get churchy, but do you believe that things happen for a reason?" "Yes, I do!" I replied.

After things died down, she left the room and came back with some literature and a tiny square of baby-theme printed fleece in honor of my loss.

So, my last-minute appointment turned out being not so "last-minute" at all. It was a divine appointment with Gloria, who most definitely lived up to her name; through her I saw God's glory.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grief, Joy, Peace

Latest news is that my HCGs are down to 952! Almost lower than when I got my first draw. We are getting somewhere. I'm still bleeding but am hoping that it will go away sometime soon. After my uterus emptied the first time, things got really light almost gone, but then after the chemo, the bleeding came back and has been there ever since. Not sure what's going on. As long as I continue to bleed I worry at times about if a molar is in there somewhere, but as long as my HCGs go down, I gain more confidence that this is truly going away.

I thought that my grieving was over back during the first week when this all started. I was reliving lots of feelings of "Why me?", "Why again?" "Why now?" and had bursts of intense weeping. But then it was gone, almost euphoric, and I felt so much at peace. Even when I struggled through the idea of having to make the choice to end my baby's life, I felt at peace. Even when I relived the methotrexate shots, I felt at peace. In the midst of dealing with all this behind the scenes, but having to go to work and it being absolutely crazy busy/not normal schedule, I felt at peace.

Then last weekend, something snapped. My attitude stunk and it made everything around me worse. As I look back on this, it seems to me that in times of deep emotional stress, this happens. It's like you're given grace and peace for a period of time to be able to function through the initial blow. It's like you do what you have to do, you're in a dream or something. But then, it will come back and if you're not expecting it, it hits hard. Something triggers the experience all over again. I remember when my sister's fiancee passed away having this experience happen. It happened with my molar. And it's happened again.

I thought I was going to be in the clear! I was feeling so good!  Different things trigger different griefs. There are "pure" griefs. I think I've experienced most of the pure griefs. Things like when the clinic nurses ask me in the appointment, "When are you due?" and I have to say "I'm not. It's ectopic," which proceeds to send me down the mental path that "I was due in October and was going to have a baby to shower with gifts for Christmas, but I'm no longer having a baby." Or when I passed some clot/tissue thing and I thought for a brief moment, "I'm sorry baby. I will see you again someday." However, I must say that for certain "griefs" of mine, they have had time to root. In all honesty, it's transformed from grief to bitterness. Things like:

  • Going to work everyday. I've been working at this place for over 5 years now. Great place to work. Great people. But everyday I go to work is a reminder that I have no children. My famous quote is, "I love my job, but I hate going."
  • My marriage anniversaries. I've been married almost 5 years! It is wonderful! I love my husband. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me. But when I think about how long I've been married and how long we dated before that, it turns into an even bigger number and I think to myself, "I should have had kids by now."
  • Pregnant woman. I think pregnancy is awesome. The gift of life is so beautiful! Babies are beautiful! But every time I see a pregnant woman (and there are so many!) it is a reminder of two things: 1) I will never have a care-free, innocent pregnancy experience. 2) I do not have any children.

Needless to say, bitterness is not becoming and so it is really an intentional skill of mental gymnastics (along with the help of the Holy Spirit) to master my mind. I can't NOT think about these things. They come up practically every day. But I CAN choose to not dwell on them and think about other things instead. I didn't do it last weekend, and it was bad. Oops. Today is a new day and my magnolia bush is blooming, so I will rejoice in this!

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Later after writing this, I read my devotion for today and it had some good things to say about rejoicing. I'm still working on this lesson in my life, so I really needed to hear it!

Rejoice in the Lord - Buddy Riddle, Senior Pastor of Harvest Church in Houston, Texas

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:4-9

What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? I mean really be at peace and rejoice in the Lord. Now some of you may be thinking, “Pastor, you don’t know how bad my life is or how bad my life has been. It would be pretty hard for me to rejoice right now.” Well, we all have a starting point, and you won’t understand how to “rejoice in the Lord” if you start in the middle.

In the verses above, Paul is not saying “don’t worry, be happy.” He’s talking about a supernatural joy that comes not from circumstances, but from a deep contentment in Christ. We so often want to try to get peace and joy from our circumstances, and we keep asking God to change them. But what God wants to do is show us that the path to joy starts by trusting in the sovereign, living God through the person of Jesus Christ. He wants to show us that we can have unbelievable, supernatural joy in the middle of any circumstance. Really. It can happen.

We place such false confidence in our circumstances bringing us joy. You know, the “If I just had fill-in-the-blank, I could finally rejoice. “And just how long would that last if you got it? The reality is that our circumstances are always changing. Think about it; if you found the most wonderful circumstances—your spouse, your baby, a new car, a boyfriend or girlfriend—pick whatever you want. Will it stay the same? Well, will it? The spouse will change, the baby will need changing, the car will soon lose that new car smell, that boyfriend or girlfriend will be disappointing—it all changes. Circumstances are shifting sand and you can’t stand on them—or find deep joy in them alone.

The starting point is finding joy in the person of Jesus Christ; not success, not people, not money, not status, not drugs and alcohol, not therapy, but in a deep, abiding relationship with the Lord. You may ask, “So, exactly how do I do that?” Cultivate a relationship with Him through prayer where you both talk to Him and listen to Him. You know you are having a good relationship with someone when you are actively trying to hear what they have to say. Abide in Him. Spend so much time with Him reading His Word and praying that talking to Him becomes natural. Joy will now come, and over time, you will see that no matter what the circumstance, your joy and peace, as long as it is found in Christ first, will remain.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring's a comin'

I love waking up in the morning when hardly anyone else is up yet. It is so peaceful. I went down this morning to get my blood drawn again. I wonder how much more it will go down today? Maybe I'll be in the triple digits now? I stopped by Caribou afterwards and got a Carmel Highrise with a french toast muffin. Mmmmm! It is my reward for being stuck with a needle. I know that I use that excuse too often to splurge on little things like that (which results in many cups of coffee/smoothies/sweet treats), but I can't use it for much longer so I'm living it up while I can!

When I came home, I took a trip around my house to check on my plants and trees. For the last few years I've been slowing adding to my yard. My husband bought our house before we were married and it was brand new. New houses are such a great blessing but they lack in the greenery department! I grew up in New York countryside, so I had lots of old, tall trees around all the time. I am quite tree-deprived now. However, like I said, I'm remedying the situation.

I have two trees in front, an autum blaze maple (pretty in the fall) and a fruitless white flowering crab (pretty in the spring).
Autumn blaze maple (last spring)
White flowering crabapple (last spring)
Crabapple blooms (last spring)

I also have a white magnolia bush in the front (enchanting in the early spring because when everything else is brown and dead, it is flowering. Just what a Minnesota girl needs to keep her hopes up for warmer weather!).
White magnolia bush (last spring)
Magnolia blooms (last spring)

In the backyard I have a quaking aspen, whitespire birch, fat albert blue spruce, and black hills spruce, and lilac bushes around the deck.
Back yard (last spring)

I can't wait for this spring!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good News and Reality

Good news! No surgery for me. Thank you all who prayed. My HCG levels dropped 36% down to 3482. The doctor said that this is just the trend he was hoping to see. I will get one more draw on Saturday, and if that shows a similar trend, I will end up getting weekly Friday draws until my values are negative once again. I'm hoping these continue to drop! No more surprises, please! Thank you!

As far as the logistics of trying again, it takes about 4-6 weeks for the ectopic to reabsorb itself and I have to wait at least 2 cycles. Like I said before I have a 15% chance of having an ectopic now. A 1% of a repeat molar. And, like all women, a 25% chance of miscarrying. I can't remember math class, but I think I'd add all those together to get a 41% chance of screwiness. However, unlike 75% of most couples, I've consistently been lucky enough to get pregnant within my first 3 months of trying, so I can get more tries to fix it sooner, I guess (assuming it's not the 1%, in which case I'm waiting another whole year...). I always told people if I can beat 1/1000 I can beat X. Well, my new odd is 1/500,000. So, a 59% chance of conceiving a healthy pregnancy? No problem.

I'm kinda bummed about the whole methotrexate in my system thing. I've tried for a year to get my body clean and ready to go to start trying again and now it's all dirty again. God is going to need to work some miracles, because I cannot logically prevent myself from dirtying it up when my pregnancies go sour. When your choices are die or take care of this pregnancy gone awry that will kill you, you do what you have to do. Hopefully 2 months is truly enough time to get this junk out of my system. Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.

I'm excited to begin my Jillian workout again (I've been off it for a month) and hopefully get back on track. My work schedule is going back to days, so I am super bummed. I love having the mornings to get things done around the house, workout, drink coffee, listen to the birds, whatever. Maybe I should go to .5? Unfortunately, that's not gonna happen in my current work environment any time soon. Oh, well!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Choosing to Believe

Whenever something crappy happens in life, it is very easy to get depressed about it--at least for me. I am not a person who is defaulted to optimism. I lean toward pessimism and cynicism and realism. But that is not an excuse to run on a loathing rampage because, at the end of the day, we all have a choice. No matter how our personality leans, we can choose to respond positively or negatively to the situations that happen in our life.

I sit here today waiting to find out if my HCGs dropped at least 15% after a second shot of methotrexate or if I will need to have surgery tomorrow to remove what is left of my ectopic pregnancy. I really do not want surgery. It's scary. I also sit here thinking about the future. Do I want to try to get pregnant again after all of this hassle, all of this grief, all of this emotional roller coaster...again? The odds have not been in my favor so far, why would next time be any different? It's too scary to try again.

While I was in the middle of my sulk fest, the lyrics to a song popped into my head. It is a hymn I sang in church as a little girl.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living, just because he lives.

Two years ago, I would have had some sarcastic come back to this. Something like, "Who cares that Jesus lives? Who cares about the future? It's not changing what is happening right now. I'm still experiencing crap." But I think the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart because it's making more sense to me now. My sister reminded me the other day: Even in the midst of the suffering we go through, we can praise and thank Him because He has overcome sin and death. There will be a day when this kind of stuff won't happen any more. Oh my gosh, I just thought of another song that talks about this:

Praise You In This Storm - Casting Crowns (I don't typically recommend Casting Crowns because I find their songs all the same and annoying, so it is humorous that their song is coming to mind as an object lesson)

Here is another one: There Will Be a Day - Jeremy Camp

Here is the truth Revelation 19-22:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS...
(It goes on to talk about how Jesus defeats Satan and how there is a judgement for all people)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” 
This is faith: Believing all of this and believing that it matters right now, even when it doesn't feel like it matters or that it is not logically apparent to make a difference with the present circumstances.

Monday, March 12, 2012

One More Shot

Well, the doctor decided to scrap the idea of getting a baseline draw and just had me come in today for another blood draw and see where the values fell. My values would have needed to be at most 5049 to meet the 15% drop. They came back at 5392. I was faced with the option of another shot of methotrexate or surgery. They seem to really push surgery but, I'm sorry, I don't want someone digging around in me unless absolutely necessary. So, I took the shot. Apparently they are not hopeful that this will be successful because they said their best guess was that I have a 20% chance that the second shot will work. However, the levels have started dropping, which is encouraging, so I will hope that they go down enough over the next three days. If they don't go down15% by Wednesday, surgery is unavoidable. They will not give me a third shot. More to come, I suppose!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lab Drama

My latest drama has been that the lab screwed up my sample somehow for my last draw. I was drawn at 5pm Thursday evening and they ran it Friday morning. The values were 5950 but they had to cancel the test for some reason (sample age, whatever that means...someone left it out somewhere or forgot to send it?). So, I got redrawn Friday at 3:30 so that they could run the test again. Well, that sample must have gotten lost somewhere again because I still have not received the results back (it's been over 12 hours and the test is run continuously 24/7 in the lab).

I'm trying not to freak out. This draw was supposed to be used as my baseline for determining if my levels were dropping enough or if I needed another shot. I'm not sure how they are going to do this if they don't have a proper baseline. I've already put the second draw out one day'd think time is of the essence here!  I spoke with the doctor yesterday and she seemed to think I was not out of the woods yet for the potential of a second shot. I'm just hoping that if I need it they will be able to give me the shot and not wait the 3 days between draws. I'm also more nervous that this is getting bigger and could rupture so I have to keep taking that thought captive. I'm also working 2-11pm this weekend and the rest of the coming week so that adds a little stress. Never a dull moment, I guess.

Theme verse of the week:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.(Ephesians 4:4-9)

Theme song of the week:
"No Matter What" - Kerrie Roberts

Please pray that I can just focus on the present instead of worrying about the future!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Round Two

Well, we found out two weeks ago that I was indeed pregnant. It was exciting, but, of course, there is always a caution because you never know what is going to happen. Within 3 days of finding out, I began to spot. This was obviously alarming to me because this was the same time period--between 5 and 6 weeks--that my molar pregnancy started revealing itself. After 3 days, I ended up calling and requesting a blood draw. The uncertainty of it all was mentally unbearable. My first result came back at 911. Two days later it was 1394. My molar levels were in the 9,000's by this point, so in my mind I ruled out molar pregnancy but knew I had 2 other hurdles standing in my way: Miscarriage or Ectopic Pregnancy.

Based on the results and the fact that I was still bleeding, I went in for an ultrasound. It came back clean. What a relief! My uterus was practically empty. Now all we needed was a blood draw to confirm and I'd be good to go (as good as you can be with news of a miscarriage...but it could always be worse). Unfortunately, I missed the easy route. My blood levels raised more questions than answers because they'd increased to 2447. Two days later, there was another increase to 2965. This was not looking good. Miscarriage was looking more and more like ectopic. The doctor said the ultrasound wouldn't be worth it at this point and I proceeded to wait 4 more days for my next blood draw, hoping that something wouldn't burst inside me somewhere.

My blood results came back Monday at 4376. After speaking with the staff, I was told to come in and get and ultrasound and meet with a doctor. The ultrasound came back positive for an ectopic pregnancy. It was a 2.1 cm spot in my left fallopian tube on the bend near the ovary (apparently most of them occur here). There was no fetal pole and no heart beat, which was reassuring in some sense, because your only options are either 1) wait it out and see if it takes care of itself (if it doesn't, your tubes will rupture), 2) get a methotrexate shot (chemotherapy drug that I had w/molar essentially inhibits cell growth), or 3) have it surgically removed. Apparently I qualified for the methotrexate treatment because the mass was small enough, I have not experienced any pain, and there was no sign of a live fetus. So, that is what we did. I had the shot last night. We are praying that the first shot takes care of the left over placental tissue that has still been growing. They will potentially do one more, but if the second one doesn't work, it is off to surgery. I have 2 blood draws scheduled, one Thursday and one Sunday. There needs to be a 15% decline in the hormone levels between those two days to confirm that the first shot is working.

So here we go again. Round two. Not exactly what I was hoping for with my next pregnancy. I feel like 1 in 100,000 (odds of molar & ectopic...if you factor in complete molar it's 1 in 500,000). The last two weeks I've been grieving in various ways and in some ways I was still dealing with the grief from the molar. Until I have a healthy pregnancy, there is no way to get around the feelings of injustice and jealousy when I hear of others getting pregnant and having kids, but it's something I feel and let go in the moment; it is too ugly of an emotion to allow it to fester and settle in.

Do I understand why this is happening? No. Do I like it? No. Do I trust that God will work this for good? Yes. Will He bring me through this? Yes. Is God still good? Yes.

Please continue to pray:
  • That this first methotrexate shot works according to plan.
  • That my body can heal without too much scar tissue (I'm now at risk of having another ectopic in the future because of this...15% chance).
  • For strength for Dave & I to deal with the emotions/stress of the situation in the midst of other stresses of work.
  • For a future healthy pregnancy at some point in the near future and the courage to try again.
  • For emotional/spiritual/mental healing through the grief.
  • For protection over our marriage from spiritual attack.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.