Saturday, July 30, 2011

ABC, Chicago Tribune, and the PR world

As we get interviewed by ABC and the Chicago Tribune, and have photographers come to our home, we are getting asked several questions that we have never been asked before as individuals and as a couple.  I have always been open about our journey and try to help as many people as I can to try and relate to others.  Some of the questions are different though than the usual.  There are things I never thought about or at least never put into words like these journalists do.  It brought up unexpected emotions.  I was 100% ok with it, but I surprised myself.  Tears would roll down my face during our conversations.  I am still learning more about myself everyday.  It was interesting to see how the questions were articulated to me.  Makes me realize all I have been through since I was a child and where I am at right now. has been eye-opening.

There are times I once wondered why this has all happened to me.  I am not just thinking the infertility, but the cancer.  I don't know why out of the entire world, and my entire family it was me.  Of course I have always felt a sense of unfairness.  That is to be expected.  Now that I look back at my life experiences through the eyes of an adult, I am starting to get the answers I have waited for 12 years to know.  I was talking with Pat and we were watching My Sister's Keeper.  Of course I cried through the whole thing (who didn't, right?)  It hit way too close to home for me.  We both knew it.  However, I wanted to watch it all the way until the end.  The most sad thing about this is that I had dear friends who experienced cancer right alongside me.  I had other kids my age fighting for their lives living the same hell I did.  The difference amongst us all is that we had different diagnoses.  Some had better prognosis', others were not so lucky.  There is one dear friend of mine that comes to mind watching this movie.  She was given a better prognosis than me to survive.  She was finishing up her treatment while I was just getting started.  She showed me the ropes!  All the cool places in the hospital...who was nice, who was mean, how to get through treatments and procedures.  She was like my "big sister" in the cancer world.  She was on her way to calling herself a survivor as I was just starting to lose all my hair. We would get our chemo sometimes even at the same time!  We would even get our chemo together in the same room so we can distract ourselves from the bad feelings.  Sadly, her cancer returned, but this time worse.  She was slowly dying.  Her leukemia that we all thought was gone after over a year of treatments, she had it come back much nobody could help her.  She was now a hospice patient, and shortly after she passed.

As an adult, I realize not many people I know were sitting in the same room with other teenagers who were dying in the bed next to them.  Some of my life experiences are so horrible not even words describe the emotions I experienced as a teenager.  I said goodbye to people who I became very close to.  I still talk with their families.  One family even came to my wedding. Of course, I can't help to think that luck was definitely on my side.  I then ask...why did I survive, and not some of my friends?  Why was I saved?  I find myself asking why me with infertility at times?  (not something I do often, because it doesn't help ANYBODY), but in 100% honesty I do at times, naturally.  I get asked the question by family, friends, newspaper interviews, ABC correspondents, "Which is worse, cancer or infertility?"  That is a great question with several answers....cancer is out of our control and affects your physical body in horrible ways making you feel like you are dying.  Infertility is out of our control and has the greatest potential of breaking your heart in the worst way possible.  Having your heart broken is the worst pain.  I think the physical pain of infertility treatments and meds NEVER competes with the emotional pain.  The emotional pain is unbearable.  On top of my own pain, I have to watch my best friend in pain too.  It's just a bad situation.  With cancer, I didn't have to watch anybody go through it with me.  I actually felt almost lucky because I do not know if I could've watch a sibling or parent go through cancer.  I felt lucky it was me so I didn't have to watch anybody else suffer with the disease.  However, I realized later they dealt with much more emotionally by watching me from beginning to end....from losing my hair, several surgeries, and having my life turn upside down.  Both my cancer and infertility are terrible.  Both I would never ever want to see happen to anybody.

I realized that having cancer 12 years ago gave me a strong sense of something.  I do not know if it is courage or strength, but it is something.  Getting through this horrible thing right now forces me to bring back that sense of numbness and determination to just get through it with the least amount of pain as possible - emotional and physical...and strengthening our relationship in the meantime.  What is so wonderful is that we are more in love than we ever have been. We have been on an emotional level that puts us on a different level.  I know our family is going to be a strong family.  There won't be anything we can't do.  It has been validated that I am a LUCKY girl. 

I am STRONG because I am weak
I am Beautiful because I know my flaws
I am a Lover because I'm a fighter
I am Fearless because I have been afraid
I am WISE because I have been foolish
... & I can Laugh because I've known sadness.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Family of My Own Fertility Conference - Glenview, IL - August 13

Pat and I were asked to speak at A Family of my Own - Fertility Conference in Glenview, IL on August 13.  Of course we said yes.  Luckily, we were available on this date.  We really enjoy speaking to the public at events, media, etc about our unique story and our journey with IVF thus far. We really LOVE helping people going through it!  I like to call it a silent sorority.

When I first started IVF several months ago, Pat and I weren't sure how open we really wanted to be about such a personal thing, if not the MOST personal thing to me.  Since I was 12, I always thought I would be very private about it.  I wasn't sure how it would be perceived by others that I would have to go through this.  Once we were engaged and the arrival of my beautiful niece came, the big question was thrown at Pat and I.  "When do you guys plan to have kids?" , "Can you have kids?"  How did your cancer affect your ability to conceive?"  At first my reaction was, it really is nobody's business.  However, when we started IVF, we realized how many people in this world involved in it making it so common in society these days.  We started to talk because of the sensitivity of the situation we were in and how we were going to move forward.  The more people we talked with, the more we wanted to share our story.  We know that we are in the minority of those who are open to share their story, but I am so glad we did.  There are days where I get random emails or facebook messages full of hope and inspiration from other couples with their stories.  I always feel that every story is full of sadness and tragedy early, but end with such success and jubilation.  To know, we have helped just one person feel more educated, not alone, not diseased, how to make it as affordable as possible, but just one of the many who are currently hurting from this disease of infertility, makes this journey different to us.  We have formed lifelong friendships from this.  We wanted to be able to help other couples for the rest of our lives going through this.
Don't get me wrong, I hate infertility more than anything in this is the only thing that is out of our control.  When I first started in IVF, I thought of course why me?  why cancer?  why am I still hurting from it?  It was all centered around me.  I did not once prepare myself for the exposure I was headed to meeting the most AMAZING people that are in this world.  We hear so oftenly, thank you for sharing your story and being open, when reality is, Pat and I thank you all for showing us the true amazement of the pure kindness and generosity of people.  It has bettered both of us.  We have grown so much as a couple from all this.  We do not regret sharing our personal lives with everybody.  The support from everybody has been so helpful to both of us.  Thank you for your support and for those of you who opened up and shared your story with me.  It has helped me VERY MUCH!  There is a reason this has happened to me.  I know I had cancer and am going through IVF for a reason.  I feel that reason is to share it with the world and to help other people feel not alone and not scared of what the future holds.  Knowing there are others in the same boat brings a sense of comfort.  I like to give that comfort to others.  It makes the process just a tad more easier to handle. 

Good News!  Back to the conference!  We have just been informed that the raffle giveaway is a FREE IVF cycle!!!!  Yes, you heard correct!  Sound familiar?!  That is how Pat and I got started in this journey and without a prize like that we would not have had the opportunity to even start. For those of you without insurance coverage who are looking for means to help the start of your family, come to the conference and be sure to enter the raffle!  It can and will change your life!  Come and enter the raffle and also get informed from many of the small educational pieces that they will have there!  I wish there was something like this when we first started.  We were infertility virgins and went in with much naivety.  Knowledge is power.  Also, meet some infertility experts and some couples going through it!  It is being held at the Wyndham-Glenview!  Come join us for a fun day!  Register today!!  :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Couple's Yoga at the Moon.

Pat and I attended our first couple's fertility yoga class together with Beth Heller at Pulling Down the Moon at the River North location downtown.  Pat was very hesitant at first about attending.  Being that he had never done yoga, he wasn't sure if he would be any good at it.  I told him not to worry, but it is more about the time for us to share together, connect, learn more about ourselves, and just relax and calm our thoughts.  He saw that it meant alot to me to attend so he did not hesitate to continue with it.  Also - he thought he could be more flexible.  He cracks me up.  Our class is every Sunday evening.  Usually I hate Sundays to begin with, but this gives us something to look forward to.

When we arrived, we saw many other couples who were all in this same journey as us, but with completely different stories.  It was an instant bond between all of us.  We all knew why we were there with our partners.  It was kind of magical in a weird way; a bond was formed.  The room was filled with a shared respect.  It is hard to explain that feeling of an instant bond, but this class portrays this idea.

We introduced ourselves and gave each other a little bit of information on our stories, where we are at currently with things, and our future plans.  Following introductions, We started poses.  Of course, I am next to Pat and it was a pretty neat feeling to be next to him while we are in a very different state of mind.  I didn't think I would like it as much as I did.  After about 20 minutes of individual combined poses and breathing techniques, I look over at Pat for the first time in between poses and we are both just FULL of sweat as if we just ran a marathon.  I smiled and I said I told you this gets pretty intense.  I could tell he was liking it alot!  He was being challenged by the poses and was doing a fabulous job.   I was proud of him!   The class closed with couple poses and stretches.  We agreed that this was our favorite part.  It was a neat energy to experience together.  We worked together on the poses and it was pretty fun.  As we finished up we laid flat on our backs as we restored back to normal and were preparing to end class as we laid there with our eyes closed next to eachother...I opened my eyes slowly and read a quote on the wall...something I had not noticed the last time I was in the yoga studio...  The quote read, "I am happy; I am healthy; I am whole.  I closed my eyes again back in restoration mode, and I started to just cry.  I was thinking why on earth am I crying.  I am in a very happy place, doing yoga with my hubby, and surrounded by such supportive people...why am I crying and why can't I stop?!?!?!  I couldn't answer this question for the life of me.  As we rolled to our sides and I faced Pat we were instructed to just gaze at eachother as we were awakening...we then instructed to roll up to the seated position and each put our hands on each others heart and synchronize our breathing.  We were so connected on a level we never connected on it was very magical.  Pat saw the tears I was wiping away and he just smiled and whispered, "why are you crying" and I whispered back, "I don't know, but my eyes won't stop tearing."  We put our shoes back on and started to pick up our materials in the studio and grabbed our tea and we were leaving to go home.  As we walked along the riverfront, I told Pat about that quote I read on the wall and that is what triggered my tears, and I asked him why did it hit me in a very strange way.  His response made 100% sense.  (This is why I married him.)  He said well, a very important and special part of you (my ovaries) was taken away a long time ago due to the cancer and you have not felt healthy and whole in a very long time.  So reading that quote reminding yourself that you are very happy, very healthy, and very whole regardless of your medical past.  Even though we have not reached our happy ending yet, doesn't mean we are any less happy, any less healthy, or any less whole.  We hugged and walked back to the car.  I still don't know how he just gets me like he does....I am convinced he was made for me.  I am still being amazed by him everyday.

Our first yoga class was beyond a success!!  Pat has a new hobby....he now practices poses throughout the day and wants to make our living room a yoga studio.  He is so cute about it.  ;-)  Fertility couple's yoga was such a great idea for us and where we are at right now in our journey.