Friday, June 26, 2009

Finding The Right Doctor

Having no success in conceiving naturally for about 4 years, I knew that I was going to need medical intervention to have my baby. I was prepared to undergo IVF at the last resort. That meant looking for a fertility specialist. So I was thrilled when I found a prominent specialist at a hospital just half a mile from my home. Yippee! 

She was possibly the WORST doctor I ever had! I had not been formally diagnosed as to what was causing my infertility and the least I expected from her was a fertility work-up to see what problems I had, or perhaps my husband had. But instead, she suggested a laparoscopy straight away without explaining anything or offering other options. And all throughout the few words that she spoke, she was opening and going through her mail. How f**king rude is that? My husband & I left still feeling clueless and extremely disappointed, not to mention pissed and a few hundred dollars poorer. 

We thought perhaps that she was having an off day, and decided to give her another chance. Our subsequent appointment wasn't any better. She, which I will refer to as Dr.Crap, was still as cold as a fish, never bothered to explain things to us and absolutely did not show any genuine concern in helping us. Our relationship with her lasted only 3 visits, out of which we managed to get a basic hormone work-up and semen analysis, which was conducted only because I requested for it. Which was a good thing because she was just useless. At least we found out that my DH was also a factor, in addition to my problems.We were so put off by her that after our 3rd appointment, we decided never to go back to Dr.Crap again. We were pretty much back at square one again-with NO doctor and NO baby. 

By that time, I was pretty sure that I wanted to give TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) a try because western medicine had done absolutely nothing for us thus far. I had read Randine Lewis' book (The Infertility Cure) about treating infertility with TCM a year back and was inspired to try it, but did not get anywhere because we didn't know any good TCM doctors. Most of my friends who had infertility problems never went down that route. So we were really lost. 

One day, a friend told us that she had found a TCM doctor on the internet. I checked out the website and his credentials sounded really good. Too good to be true infact! Alarm bells immediately started ringing off in my head, thinking that this could be a bogus doctor! You can't just believe everything you read on the internet these days! And no way was I going to put my life and my future baby's life in the hands of a doctor I randomly found on the internet! That was just too crazy! But then - that's exactly what I did!!!

After the last visit to Dr.Crap, we were at wits end as to what to do. As soon as we left her clinic, we decided to check this internet doctor out. Besides his clinic wasn't far and we were only planing to pop-in to see if this was a legit practice. When we walked in, we were greeted by a muslim receptionist. I was shocked. It wasn't a typical chinese practice like I expected. And I was shocked by the diversity in the patients that seemed to have come from all ethnic races. After interrogating the receptionist for a while, she suggested we see the doctor since he was available then. So we decided, "Oh! What the hell! We might as well!"  My first impression was - "Great! This chinese doctor can speak English well!" That was such an important criteria for me because I had to be able to understand and communicate with my doctor! Well, one thing led to another, and before we knew it, we had completed one acupuncture session and was prescribed herbal medicine by the end of that first appointment! There was no turning back at that point. To me, we were finally taking steps towards resolving my endo and our infertility, and I was determined to stick around to see if this was at last the solution I've been desperately looking for...



We've seen 3 TCM doctors to date. I got pregnant within 3 months of seeing my first TCM doc. But it ended in a miscarriage. After a total of about a year and a half and no successful pregnancy to show for, we moved on to a second TCM doctor specializing in infertility. I couldn't take the pain, and well, that only lasted a few sessions. Now we're with our third TCM doctor, also specializing in infertility. I hope the third one's the charm!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Finding An Alternative Cure

Font sizeFor the first 6 years we were married, we were meticulous about using contraception because we were afraid we would get pregnant. Ha Ha Ha! Yeah right.....A few months before I hit 35, my biological clock began to tick very loudly. I went to see my gynae for a check-up before trying to conceive. I clearly remembered him telling me that I was almost 35 and that my time was almost up! Oh! How encouraging! From the viewpoint of western medicine, that's the age when a woman's fertility starts to head downhill - without any brakes! He told us to try for 6 months and see how we go. Six months went by. Nothing. Then the months turned into years. Deep down inside, I knew that my endo was a factor in our failure to conceive, but I never accepted the idea that I was infertile. That to me was an ugly word that meant impossibility. I didn't believe I was infertile because I was still having my periods regularly, painful as they were. My body was still preparing a home for a baby every month! Heck! I often joked to myself that a baby had better be worth all that suffering. But I knew the doctors couldn't fix my endometriosis, and therefore my "infertility". I was at a loss.

So one day, I decided to go the bookstore to read up more about getting pregnant. It wasn't like a military precision-planned, goal-oriented mission, but rather more like a "Hmm... I'm bored. Let's just snoop around the pregnancy books and see what it's all about" kind of a thing. I headed to the pregnancy section and there at my eye-level, the first book I saw was about - Infertility! It was called "The Infertility Cure - the ancient chinese wellness program for getting pregnant and having healthy babies" by Randine Lewis. Why they put infertility books together with pregnancy and baby books is beyond me - A tad insensitive if you ask me! Anyway, "infertility" and "cure" and "healthy babies" all in the same sentence? I was hooked! And it had a whole section dedicated to endometriosis! That book changed my life! That book is the reason why I am seeking treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) today.

Having been pro-western medicine for all of my life, understanding and appreciating TCM was very difficult for me because chinese concepts like "wind", "heatiness", "stagnation", "ying & yang","pressure points" and "qi" were so abstract, intangible and unquantifiable. I preferred scientific explanations in terms of chemical/biological analysis. But what the author did for me was to bridge the gap between western and chinese medicine and explained TCM in scientific terms that made sense to me. And she was able to do that because she had been trained in both western and eastern medicine. And I liked the fact that it was her own infertility that spurred her onto TCM when she herself found western medicine lacking in areas of infertility. She came from a place of empathy, compassion and determination.

TCM, as explained by her, made a lot of sense to me. TCM treats your body as an ecosystem, and addresses the imbalances that are the root cause of our fertility problems. Its holistic approach makes sure that everything in our body functions as it should so that our conceptions and pregnancies have everything in place for them to be successful. To illustrate this point, take a woman who is not ovulating as an example. A typical treatment in western medicine would be to administer clomid, which chemically forces her to release eggs, usually many at one time, with unfortunately, some possible undesirable side effects. It treats symptoms but does not resolve her hormonal issues that caused annovulation in the first place. TCM however will go to the root of the problem and resolve why she wasn't ovulating in the first place so she could ovulate naturally. TCM infact sounded more logical, and much safer. The treatments usually involved natural herbs, not synthetic man-made chemicals. The more I read her book, the more I liked the TCM approach to resolving infertility. And best of all, it seemed that infertility in all its forms were treatable. WOW! It was like the dark clouds had parted and a ray of hope had shone down directly onto me! From then on, I knew that TCM was the path for me. I finally found a reason to be hopeful and I was determined to beat my endo and infertility, and have a baby - naturally.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Diversion

I used to be sceptical about Oriental Medicine. Needles, herbal medicine and invisible Qi sounded so hocus pocus and unscientific to me. That was until I was almost blown over by the power of the Qi, demonstrated on me, by a Qi Gong Master. It made me a believer! I had gone to his class about self-healing through Qi Gong because of the many cases of cancers in my immediate and extended families. When you learn that conventional western medicine cannot cure cancer, you look for alternatives.

In our first lesson, The Qi Gong Master made it a point to prove to us sceptics that Qi really existed and what it could do. He called me up together with 2 other people to stand in a single file, one infront of the other facing the wall, with our backs to the rest of the class. He called up a 4th volunteer and gave him a piece of paper which had been "zapped" with the Master's Qi. Not knowing what was happening behind us, we just stood and waited. Suddenly, I almost fell backwards. I felt an overwhelming sensation of something pulling me backwards and then pushing me forward. All of us 3 in line were swaying back and forth in tandem with each other. We could hear the whole class crack up. It was only after the "trick" was over that we found out we had been played! The 4th volunteer had stood behind us, holding the paper out infront of him. And as bizarre as it sounds, when he pulled the paper back, he pulled all three of us backwards too! And when he pushed the paper forward, we all fell forwards. I swear, there wasn't a gust of wind anywhere near us! We had absolutely no control of our bodies and were moving like puppets. That was the power of the Qi, surging through our bodies - invisible, but extremely real and effective. That blew me away and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of medicine, the chinese way.

As I attended more classes and practised the Qi Gong exercises, I learned to harness and feel the Qi, which is a natural energy within us. By then I had been converted to a firm believer in the existence of Qi. I had learned to tap into it and guide the Qi to search wherever my body needed healing. My body would automatically move in response to the Qi, swaying or jerking involuntarily wherever the Qi is working. It's astonishing to experience this energy controlling my body. Qi is something you have to feel to believe because you can't see it. The more I practised the more convinced it was there. When I generate enough Qi in my hands, I would always feel a resistance whenever I try to clasp my hands together. It's like an invisible ball of energy in between my hands. Have you ever tried to force two magnets of the same polarity together and feel it repel each other? It feels EXACTLY like that! What you can't see doesn't mean it's not there! It is just amazing to me that we are actually equipped with all this energy and power within us to heal ourselves. Qi Gong has won me over because of its safe, all natural and non-invasive approach to health and healing. It's just you, your mind, your body and your breathing.

So the BIG question you're probably asking - Why haven't I healed myself from endo? Idiotically - I am just too darn lazy! I wish I had the discipline because it requires daily practice, for an hour each time to be effective. It requires you to clear your mind, and focus on breathing and meditation, which, for a whole hour seems like an eternity of boredom. If I have to suffer for health, running on a treadmill with music blasting into my ears while watching TV is more my kind of thing! The MTV generation like me are used to sensory overload and quick gratification. We prefer to pop a pill and have others do the healing for us, at a predetermined schedule that we can follow mindlessly. I believe Qi Gong works, and I am glad I have the knowledge and skills to fall back on. But I don't have the patience. Yet this experience has turned me around and put me on a different path. Western Medicine offered me no cure and little hope, but with one door shut, another opened for me. I knew there was something worthwhile in Oriental Medicine, which had been around for thousands of years longer than Western Medicine. And so my search for a treatment continues...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Diagnosis

It was only about 7 years ago that I finally managed to put a name to the menace that wreaked havoc on me every month. And I regret to say that it wasn't a doctor who diagnosed my nightmare-it was a self-diagnosis. For years, doctors would brush my concerns aside and tell me that cramps and heavy bleeding were quite normal, but I knew it was not - because I remembered a previous life before pain. They investigated little beyond my annual pap smear and sent me home. For years I just lived with mild painkillers that did nothing for me. A switch to ibuprofen helped but aggravated my gastritis. I was desperate for a cure or anything that would take away the pain. But how do you look for a cure when you don't know even what you've got? Then I met someone who experienced painful periods like me and took meds that relieved her pain. That was when I first heard that E-word: En-do-me-trio-sis. Could that be me? This clue brought the Sherlock Holmes out of me, and with Google as my magnifying glass, I looked through pages and pages of information about endo. The more I researched, the more I realized what a textbook case of endometrosis I had!

  • Pain before and during periods - Check!
  • Pain with intercourse - Check!
  • General, chronic pelvic pain throughout the month - Check!
  • Low back pain - Check!
  • Heavy and/or irregular periods - Check!
  • Painful bowel movements, especially during menstruation - Check!
  • Painful urination during menstruation - Check!
  • Fatigue - Check!
  • Infertility - Check!
And none of the doctors could tell me this. They didn't even bother to ask me the right questions that would have pointed them towards a diagnosis. What the hell was I paying them for? And from what I have read, I learned that there was no cure for endo, and I was devastated.

One day, I consulted a doctor about my infertility and told her that I suspected I had endometriosis. Based on my symptoms, she told me it was likely I had endometriosis - Gee Thanks! Tell me something I don't already know!! My ultrasound had also shown that I had a tipped uterus. There was a thick mass behind it, indicating that endometrial cells had been growing and forming adhesions to the back wall of my uterus, possibly pulling it backwards. Wee! Another problem to add to my infertility! The only sure-fire way to know if I had endo was to have a laparoscopy. That meant cutting me up, blowing my tummy up like a balloon, poking a camera in there to have a look, sewing me back up and then telling me - Yup! You have endometriosis. They could remove endometrial adhesions while they were in there, but they would just grow right back. So-No Thanks! It seemed pointless. Sure - it would have been nice to have visual proof, but it still wouldn't cure me of endo. The straight-from-textbook symptomatic pain in its wonderful variety and intensities was proof enough. I am one of the 80 million women worldwide suffering from endometriosis.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What's Wrong With Me?

Pain wasn't always a regular part of my life - only half my life. I remember the days in high school where I used to wonder why girls made such a big deal out of their periods. "Just shove a tampon in and you won't even know Aunt Flo is here", I used to think. A period never stopped me from doing anything. WOW! Who was that? I don't know that girl! Years passed and an occasional cramp would turn up. And then it got worse and worse, until I was popping all sorts of painkillers like they were candy, but to no effect. The pain and the volume was typically enormous. The blood would flow as if a dam had suddenly burst open. One time, the blood gushed out with such tremendous speed and volume that it overflowed past my super-duper heavy nightflow sanitary pad (which I need to wear in the daytime) and trickled down my legs, to the horror of bystanders, and me, at the mall (yes, that really happened to me). These days I can't do anything for at least 3 to 4 days of my life each cycle. I would be keeled over in pain, crying my eyes out and praying that I would just pass out from the pain. As if that wasn't fun enough, a very eager gastritis would join the party, usually on Day 2. A Double Whammy! Yippeee! With excruciating pain in both the upper and lower abdomen, and blood threatening to overflow and stain everything I lie or sit on, which I don't have the energy to clean, it was just impossible to function beyond my bedroom and toilet. Thankfully, my dear wonderful husband, who is my rock and my life support system, would feed me in between sobs, and be at my every beck and call, bringing me everything from hot water bottles to Kleenex to my cat - anything to soothe me. He was always thinking one step ahead of me, even before I knew what I needed. He's my hero! I can never make it through without him and I love him dearly for it. This is a typical scenario for me month after month. And for many years I never knew what was wrong with me.