Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pieces Falling Into Place... And a BIG Box of Medicine

This month marks the four year anniversary of Patrick and I starting down the road of trying to have a baby. In the past, February has been a month of mixed emotions for me. Valentine's Day, my brother's birthday, and Patrick's birthday fall in February and those are good days, but it has gotten to be harder and harder for me as it marks another year of trying, and failing, to get pregnant. This year, February holds a new, bright promise-- starting IVF.
Everything is falling into place so perfectly that I really feel like we are finally on the right path.
But let me catch you guys up first...
After my appointment in Dallas last week, I started birth control pills immediately. Patrick was pretty shocked at how fast this was all happening and a little anxious, but he got over his nerves very quickly and now he's just as excited as I am. (He doesn't handle quick changes or too many things happening at once too well)
Even though I didn't have my protocol or calendar yet, the planner and obsesser in me immediately started researching to find the best price on medicine, what side effects I can expect from whatever they put me on, success rates on different protocols, etc. Despite knowing that my insurance does not cover infertility or infertility medicines, I went to their website to see if the meds that aren't categorized specifically under infertility would be covered. We have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, and on their website I found a specialty pharmacy BCBS works with to provide coverage for things not normally covered, or at least discount those meds slightly. I didn't have high hopes, but called the pharmacy (Triessent) anyways to see what they could do for me. They told me they would call the clinic and get the prescription and that they would get back to me in a few days. Two days later they called back and gave me my prescription:
Follistim 600IU cartridge x1
Follistim 900IU cartridge x1
Repronex 75 unit vials x10
Novarel 10000unit syringe x1
Progesterone in oil vial x2
Lupron 2 week kit x1
I listened and wrote down what I needed, thinking that all this was going to cost around $3000, but at least I still had a Follistim 900IU cartridge left from my last cycle that had been cancelled and an Ovidrel syringe.
"We still need an authorization from your doctor for the Lupron," they girl on the phone was saying, "but right now, for everything else, your total comes to $1329.66"
Hold on, WHAT?!
"I'm sorry, the total comes to how much?"
"One thousand, three hundred, and twenty-nine dollars and sixty-six cents."
I looked over the list of medicines again. "Can you tell me the prices individually?"
She broke all the prices down, and I scribbled them down, shocked at how cheap (if you can call spending over a thousand dollars on medicine cheap) it was going to be. She asked me if I wanted them to go ahead and ship right away, and I told her I would wait for the authorization on the Lupron and have everything shipped at once.
I hung up the phone still in shock.
The next week, the pharmacy called me back to tell me they got the authorization for the Lupron. The girl on the phone went back over the prices with me... the Lupron was going to cost about $77. Then she says... "Oh wait, there are some notes here on the bottom that I didn't see." She's quiet for a moment then, "Oooooooooh. Hmmmm." This does not sound promising. After another quiet moment she says, "It looks like you might not have met all of your deductible yet."
Well, duh, it is only February. The only way I would have met my $3000 deductible by now is if I'd had surgery. <-That's what I thought. What I said was, "No, I don't think I have."
"Okay, well the way we work is we bill your insurance on the medical side, as opposed to the pharmacy side, if that makes sense," (Strangely, yes, I understood that) "so your cost is going to vary depending on how much of your deductible has been met." (Oh crap) "Now, like I said, we bill your insurance, so they may cover more than we think," (Unlikely) "but it looks like, on the high end, you're looking at about $1800." (Not too bad, but a bit more than the $1300 I'd been told, and that was after taking off one of the Follistim cartridges)
I'd had a feeling it was too good to be true... but this is much better than $3000! "Okay, that sounds good, let's ship it."
She told me that, while they take my payment information right away, nothing would be charged on my account until they received payment from the insurance, they sent me a bill for the difference, and I called and authorized the charge. I'm considering that a positive... I might reconsider once I see the bill.
Patrick and I were going to New Orleans the next day for his birthday celebration weekend, so I had the meds shipped to my mom's house. Friday night, we're sitting at dinner, eating crawfish fettuccine, jambalaya, gumbo, and spicy fried chicken, drinking a beer, and waiting for the Mardi Gras parade to start, when I get a text message from my mom: Your medicine came. We opened the one with the cold pack and put it in the fridge.
Attached was this picture:
Two boxes?! Wow, that bottom one is big! I'm immediately excited and overwhelmed all at once. And I haven't even seen it in person. I suddenly can't wait to get home and go through that box.

I just nodded.

Our trip to New Orleans was AMAZING! It was so nice to get away with Patrick without family or friends with us. We did Better  Than Ezra's Krewe of Rocckus event because Patrick is a huge fan so it was a perfect birthday surprise. It was so much fun and we needed that time to reconnect and regroup before starting all the stress and pressure of daily shots, frequent blood draws and ultrasounds, trips to Dallas, days apart, bloating, hormones, scheduled(withheld) sex, and uncertainty every step of the way.
Once we got home, things slowed down a bit as we waited to get our calender and get started on the meds. That box of meds was WAY more intimidating in person! What got to me the most was the amount of needles and syringes. I'm not afraid of needles and I've gotten pretty use to injecting myself, but pack after pack of what looked like huge needles totally overwhelmed me. I stood, staring, for a few minutes, then started sorting them to go with their respective meds, which actually made it much easier to take.
Now, I would not be a respectable blog without a picture of all my supplies, so, without further ado... my medicines!
All the needles are next to the meds they go with. There is a pack of needle/syringe combos that are for mixing, and a pack of just the needles I'll then switch onto the syringe for injecting. The mixing needles are BIG... they really freaked me out.
The cartridge out of the box is the 900iu Follistim that I didn't use from my last cycle, and "pill bottles" above the Follistim is the progesterone in oil that I will be injecting intramuscularly for (hopefully) 10 weeks into pregnancy, starting the day after my egg retrieval.
We also got our calendar! As of right now, I'll be starting Lupron on March 4, stopping birth control on March 12, and starting stims on March 18. My projected ER is March 29... exactly one month from today!!!! Eeeeep!
We are shooting for a 5-day transfer, which would be April 2. If we follow this timeline, and it takes (it will take, it will take) my due date would be my dad's birthday! I'm excited. Beyond excited! I'm actually getting giddy writing all this!
Okay, this has been a long post so I'll wrap it up. Monday can't get here soon enough!

Thank You, God, for all Your gifts. Give us strength as we continue on this path Your grace has put us on.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Holy IVF in a Hurry, Batman!

Wow! What a weekend... well, what a Monday!
Yesterday I had my appointment up in Dallas to see if I qualify for the IVF study there. My mom came with me because Patrick couldn't get out of work. We drove up Sunday and stayed with my sister, who lives about 20 minutes from the clinic and works for a gynecologist not even a mile from the clinic. Sunday night I had a hard time sleeping because I was so excited for my appointment and because I had started my period earlier that day and my cramps were making me very uncomfortable.
Monday morning we had breakfast with my sister and then made our way to the doctor. As soon as we got there and checked in, a couple came out of the back holding sonogram pictures and grinning from ear to ear. As they went to the window to check out, she told the receptionist, "Its twins! He just told us we're having twins!" Turns out she was seeing the same doctor that I was going to see. I think this is a good omen! ;)
Soon the nurse called me back and led me to the doctor's office. He sat me down and asked me why I was there, when my last cycle was, what my history was, what my family history was, etc. I told him I had started the day before, outlined everything Patrick and I had been through, went over my family history, told him about what tests we had done and what they had found. He seemed pleased that I knew so much, had prepared so well, and was doing my best to stay healthy.
When we had gone over everything, he considered me for a moment, then said, "I normally do not examine patients the same day as the consult, but I think we are going to fast track you, and since you are on day two of your cycle, the timing is perfect."
He went to get the nurse, told her to get me set up in a room, and told her I was going to get a full workup and blood work panel that day. The ultrasound looked perfect (except for that blasted tube on the left, which I showed him where it always looks like it separates and they always think its a cyst or follicle) and he took measurements of my ovaries, uterus, cervix, the left tube, and a quick count of resting follicles.
The only thing that he found that he didn't like was an irregular heartbeat. He told me he was an internist before he became an RE and that he thinks I have mitral valve prolapse and a slight arrhythmia that he wants me to clear with my GP here. He said its probably nothing, but he wants it checked out before ER.
After the examination, he said everything looked great and that he wanted me to start on BCP right away, and come back next Monday for a HSG and pre-Lupron blood work and ultrasound.
WTF, really? Already?
The doctor said that normally they do the testing over two cycles before starting IVF prep and meds, which would have put me into May for IVF, but since I have already done a lot of the tests, and my cycle matched up so perfectly, he is going to condense it down to one cycle for me, putting my ER sometime in March!!!
I then had to give up about 7 vials of blood... which I had to call my mom back for to distract me... to check everything, they handed me a prescription for BCP, and the doctor told me he was very excited to work with me.
At check out, they made my appointment for next Monday to have the HSG and hopefully the IVF orientation, gave me an information packet for the HSG, another packet for IVF, and a run-down of costs. I will have to talk to the financial director to go over my exact costs with the study and getting most of my monitoring done here in Houston, but so far we are looking at a substantial cost reduction.
Patrick will be coming with me this time and will likely have to do another semen analysis since it has been a year since his last one and the doctor wants to make sure "nothing has changed". He's not very excited about that part, but we are beyond excited about everything else!
My mom told me that while she was in the waiting room, a woman came in that was driving all the way from Brownsville, who told her that the clinic was fantastic. She told my mom that if they have amazing success rates and if they had a higher volume like the bigger clinics, they would be #3 in the nation.
I have a very good feeling about this, now. All my fears and uncertainty about what our next course of action needs to be has gone away. It makes me soooooo excited to think that I have a very good chance of being pregnant by April! God is good.

Thank you, God, for leading me to this point and giving me this chance. Please be with us as we take this next step.