For the last month or more, I have been agonizing over my options. Which doctor? Which treatment plan? These are my children. My family. This is hugely important. As I mentioned before, doctors will not say disparaging comments towards each other (code of the league of the brotherhood of doctors?!). They just lay out their treatment plans and say “choose one.”
Then, the other day as I was getting ready for work, I realized that if I want an honest opinion of what this whole process should look like, I need to talk to other women who have been through it. They are not bound to honor their doctors. It is just their own opinions and experiences. Problem is, I don’t know anybody that has done this. Then, I remembered an old co-worker who did it successfully, so I reached out to her. I also talked to my minister to see if anyone in my church has done it that would talk to me. I found success on all ends. I have had some awesome conversations this week and have finally found the answers I was looking for.
Before I proceed with my findings and conclusions, let me just say that I really learned something from this. When facing a huge medical procedure, illness, whatever, I learned that part of doing your homework and getting second opinions from other doctors and such, is that you also need to talk to others going through it. We are the ones that actually take the drugs they prescribe. We are the ones that live through the recovery time. Those are the honest opinions that you need (in addition to what your doctors tell you). There are always people that have gone before you, researched their options like crazy, lived through the choices they made, and then have good feedback on things that would absolutely recommend or do differently next time. (This is as much a reminder to myself as it is preaching at all of you!!)
So, here’s what I know now after having talked to some really fabulous women:
The drugs they put you on are no picnic. I am referring to the injectable hormones you must have to do the egg retrieval and implantation. The consensus was that you pretty much feel like you have PMS, and that part of it isn’t so bad. The issue is the longer term effects it can have on you if you go with a doctor who is too cavalier about prescribing them. If you can avoid being on them for round after round, do it. Think about the women who go through menopause who take hormone replacement therapy and get breast cancer. This is kind of the same thing (I have some calls out to a couple of OB’s to get more official opinions on this). But, you do put yourself at risk for ovarian problems down the road the longer you subject yourself to this level of external hormones. A good fertility doctor will be incredibly anal about how much they put in you and for how long.
Also, another great piece of advice I got was that your overall success with getting pregnant has less to do with the doctor, and more to do with the embryologist. They need to be interviewed as well. Those are the guys who actually create your babies, for goodness sakes! Get a feel for their process. They are usually hidden in the lab, so they are not usually in on the introductions when you go screen doctors, but definitely ask to meet them and ask questions.
That said, those of us living in the Colorado Springs area have a few options to consider when choosing a doctor to do this (and, to prevent being sued for slander, I am omitting names. If you want to know who I am referring to here, shoot me an email or give me a call):
Doctor #1: Overwhelmingly negative feedback on this guy. There are plenty of women in the area that have used him and don’t like him. He is tricky because he does monthly free seminars on fertility in town and he does them well. He is extremely personable, and gives a good sales pitch. He very much runs his clinic like a business, and there are all sorts of incentives to save money (come to his seminar and he knocks $1,000 off the price of treatment for example), so it is easy to get sucked in. But, this is the guy that told me (a completely fertile woman) that I need to do three rounds of egg retrieval. That is 3 months of the hormone injections, which as I mentioned earlier is very dangerous to my long term health. The comment that I heard that I felt was very compelling was “he is not as medically cautious versus medically aggressive to get the result.” Enough said.
Doctor #2: Up until just recently, doctor #1 and this guy were the only two in town that do this sort of work. He was the golden boy between the two. I heard good and bad things about him. I hear that he has quite an ego on him. I haven’t seen him. I do have an appointment with him to check him out, and just from being on the phone with his staff – not so nice. One of the women I talked to used him and had a negative experience. I won’t go into details, but I will say the guy kind of screwed up on her. She left him and went to another doctor to complete her treatment. I am strongly considering cancelling my appointment because I think there is better than him here. Obviously, because he has been dethroned from being the top dog in town by doctor #3.
Doctor #3: This is actually a collection of doctors. These guys are new in town. They are a satellite office of a huge group up in Denver that is very well respected. They had a large group of people from Colorado Springs going up to their clinic, so they decided to open an office down here to serve that population. They are not a full service shop down here. They will do all of the exams and monitoring down here, but when you do egg retrieval or your implantation, you have to go up to Denver to the main office. They are the other doctor we have seen, and they were very strict on only doing one round of egg retrieval on me. They are very conservative, and I think they wholeheartedly agree with limiting the exposure to the hormones where possible.
Doctor #4: This guy is up in Denver, but must be considered. He is the best in the country. People fly from all over the world to see this man. His two big things are that he is extremely meticulous and anal about the medications and dosages, and that he is the guy that has pioneered the art of single embryo implantation. Most doctors have told me that they will implant two embryos to give me the best possible odds. This guy would likely implant one and be successful. The only down side that I have heard about him is that his bedside manner is terrible, but he is the best. This man will get me pregnant for sure. The problem is that when you are on the drugs, you have to be monitored pretty heavily. They want you in their office for blood work and ultrasounds every other day for just under two weeks. Again, the guy is an hour away in Denver. If you have a full-time job, how on earth do you make that work?! On the financial side, he may be the best, but he costs the same as everybody else which is great.
So there you have it! I have a few more people I want to talk to, so I will likely learn more. The decisions I am facing now at the moment are:
1. I am between Doctor #3 and Doctor #4. Two great options. I need to decide soon because it will take 3 months to build the specific test we need to screen our embryos for MCADD. I can’t begin the treatment until that is done. I am not in a huge rush, but I don’t want for us to decide we are ready, and then we have months to wait before we can start. The test can be built and just sit there until we are ready. Might as well get that going now if possible. Just need to decide on a doctor!
2. I want to hear more about the long term effect of the hormones. I will have some of it in me, and I want to fully understand the risk I am taking. I am sure cancer is one of the things I would be at risk for. What else?
3. I am debating on going on Chris’s insurance next year. There is a slim chance it might pick up some of the costs of this, which are considerable. There is, of course, all kinds of language around his policy where you have to be officially infertile before they will cover anything. They define being infertile as either trying for a year, and not getting pregnant, or suffering multiple miscarriages. Neither situation is true for us. We have called and talked to tons of people who all just say “well, you can submit your bills and see what they say.” Right. You know how that will go. Is it worth the effort? We have friends raising money for us (we love you if you are reading this!!! THANK YOU!!) so we will be ok no matter what. Just another thing to consider and maybe try. Chris’s insurance is EXPENSIVE, so there is that too.
Thanks for reading, and this is an open invitation for thoughts and advice if you have any.