Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Testing Our Resolve

Apart from wanting to be a dad, there are a few other reasons that I'm putting myself through all of this. The biggest is K, she wants to carry a baby and to be a mom, and seeing as she agreed to marry me on the condition of the vows I made to her, it's my responsibility to do the best I can for her and for our family. Additionally, since I'm the reason she has to endure all of this, I figure the least I can do is everything I possibly can to keep that promise. However, until now, I haven't really explained what "everything I possibly can" means, mostly because I'm figuring this out as I go along.

So I'll give it to you straight, and I promise you, it's not pretty. There are a lot of different treatments that can be done to assist an infertile couple get pregnant and they are recommended on an escalatory basis:

To start off with, there's Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) where the doctor would take my sperm sample, wash it, and place it in K's uterus during ovulation, hoping that one of my swimmers would make a break for it and fertilize the egg. This relatively simple procedure costs $400. Unfortunately, this procedure would be recommended in a situation where my sperm was 6 million, not 6. So that's out and we move on to the next.

With oligospermia (low sperm count) the recommendation is to complete a sperm retrieval procedure to go in and get the sperm needed, which can be done in two ways:

The first is an aspiration with a needle, which yes, is exactly how it sounds: a big-ass needle would be inserted into my nut to suck out my soldiers. This procedure, at the time of this post, costs $2000; and would not likely be recommended due to the severity of the absenteeism in my testicles.

The second possible recommendation for sperm retrieval is called MicroTESE. This fun little operation requires "removing the testicle from the scrotum and opening it widely while the patient is under general anesthesia", a direct quote from Calgary's Regional Fertility Program website. I'm probably just being dramatic but a broken can-opener comes to mind when I think of this procedure. What makes it even better, is that the fertility clinic charges $5500 to open this can of oysters and with my count, this is the recommended form of retrieval. Unfortunately, when I called the clinic, I discovered that the clinic in Edmonton doesn't yet offer this surgery, so they would have to refer us to B.C., requiring quite a bit of travel. In addition, the sperm retrieved during MicroTESE is not as mature as the sperm that is collected naturally, so it doesn't freeze nearly as well and K's eggs would have to be harvested the same day the sperm is collected, so we would both have to undergo procedures, on the same day, in another province.

The consult room can crush your dreams,
make them come true, or in my case both.
I'm not going to go into details about the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures K will have to undergo, but I can tell you it's no picnic. It's a lot of self administered (or administered by me) injections, a lot of invasive examinations, tests, hormones, time spent in appointments, and emotions. So if K has to go through all of this just because of me, you're damn right I can pull up my socks and do what needs doing. To top all of this off, this procedure comes out to $9000 on top of my surgery, and medications, and teaching fees, and sperm tests, and ultrasounds. So basically, $15,000 to $20,000 for a 59% chance at pregnancy...but like I said, with cancer out of the way, we can do anything.

Since all of this would have to be completed at the Burnaby, B.C. clinic, the Edmonton clinic referred our file there, and we were booked for a telephone consult on Thursday, March 2, 2017 with their IVF doctor. Although the added procedural costs and the complications of travelling were weighing heavily on our minds and ramping up our stress levels, we were eager, even excited for our phone consult. The last time we spoke with an IVF doctor, we were so caught off guard we didn't even know what questions to ask. Now, we were ready, and we could have all of our questions answered and get some movement towards our actual goal.

On the day of the phone consult the clinic in Burnaby called me half an hour early. I was a little concerned because K wasn't there yet and I didn't want to start without her. I picked up the phone and it turned out it was the IVF doctor's assistant who was calling me. She said she was calling because the lab in Edmonton contacted their lab and recommended that our file be referred back to Edmonton. I was getting a little annoyed at this point because it felt like I was getting the run around and I had enough of that when dealing with my tumour. I asked "why?" in the most polite voice I could muster and what she told me next shocked me so much that I'm only half certain I didn't utter the words "Shut the fuck up!". She explained that my second semen sample was not only viable for freezing, they had enough to freeze two whole straws of semen! I must have asked her three or four times if she was sure before I actually accepted she was telling me the truth. She followed it up by telling me I wouldn't need the expensive and painful sperm retrieval surgery and all of our procedures could be completed at the Edmonton clinic! I was ecstatic! She said they would be recommending another sperm freeze to get some more and that the Edmonton clinic would be contacting me to book the appointment.

When the call was over I immediately called K and told her the news, she was in complete disbelief. I have no idea if it was the Snowballs, the healthy diet, or the Chinese medicine, but something I did worked. Although IVF would still be required, I had managed to bolster my army from a measly militia of six unwilling fighters, to a force of 100,000 sperm with a motility rate of 29%!

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