Sarah and Paul were furious with the clinic's failure to label the straws that the embryos were stored in. Had they labeled the straws, they would have known what they were thawing and naturally, would have chosen the best embryos first, and maybe the transfer would have worked. For the next two months, Sarah and Paul sought legal consult and had several meetings with the RE and other clinic staff.
The clinic did not outwardly admit their ineptitude, but they did agree to transfer the remainder of Sarah and Paul's frozen embryos and two fresh transfers with subsequent frozen transfers, complete with medications, completely without cost, thereby saving Sarah and Paul literally thousands of dollars. Sarah and Paul also demanded to have another RE.
While Sarah and Paul had it out with the clinic, I had nothing but time on my hands to sit and think. I was terrified that my newly-diagnosed PCOS was the cause of the failure. I didn't blame myself, per se, but I did begin to have doubts about my body. I was miserably depressed, and I think that all the waiting to find out what was going to happen next made it even more oppressive.
After Paul and Sarah came to the agreement with the clinic, we were hoping that we could go right into cycling again for the next transfer. The new RE quickly put our brakes on, stating that he wanted me to go for new testing just to be absolutely sure that everything was okay before we transferred again. We were disappointed that we had to do more waiting, but at least we were moving forward again, and it really was better to be safe than sorry.
One test that he wanted me to have was an endometrial biopsy, in which a thin sliver of my uterine lining would be extracted and examined. The RE wanted to be sure that I didn't have a particular kind of infection which is common and not harmful in normal circumstances, but in IVF could hinder the attachment of transferred embryos. I would have the procedure done down here in my hometown with a cooperating RE (Dr. Odom), and the results were to be sent to Sarah's RE.
Because the procedure can be a little painful, a mild sedative was given to me and Frank accompanied me, because I would be unable to drive home afterwards.
Before beginning, I had to take a pregnancy test, because an endometrial biopsy should not be done during pregnancy. It was negative, of course. The procedure started with an ultrasound. Dr. Odom noticed that my ovaries were polycystic (nothing new there), then froze when he began scanning my uterus. He asked if I was positive that I wasn't pregnant, and I was.
He said that my uterus had the "full" appearance of a very early pregnancy before a gestational sac could be seen. He confirmed that the pregnancy test I had just taken was indeed negative, then he began the biopsy with the assistance of a nurse. He inserted a thin, long, flat plastic strip into my uterus and extracted it a few seconds later. I felt some slightly painful cramping. Upon visually examining the slide, he commented that it looked "odd," then decided to take a second sample from a different area of my uterus. When he was finished, he asked if my husband was there with me. When I told him that Frank was in the waiting room, he asked me to get dressed, get Frank, and to meet him in his office. He had that guarded "I have bad news" stature at that point.
I was trembling, and it took every ounce of will power that I had to keep myself from crying. I went to get Frank, and as we walked back to Dr. Odom's office, all I could tell him was that there was something wrong.
After we were seated, Dr. Odom proceeded to tell me that just the visual appearance of my uterine lining was abnormal. He said that in all his years of practice, the only time he had seen an endometrial biopsy with that appearance, further assessment of the sample revealed full-blown uterine cancer.
He tried to reassure me that it would take clinical examination to confirm or deny his suspicions, and that his initial impression in no way meant that I definitely did have cancer. In almost the next breath, he also said that if I did, in fact, have uterine cancer, I would need a hysterectomy almost immediately.
Speechless, Frank gripped my hand tighter. And then I did cry. Dr. Odom went on to say that he would call Sarah's RE and my regular OB, Dr. Edwards, to let them know what he found. He recommended that I have a D&C to clear my "full" uterus so that the entire sample of endometrial lining could be inspected for atypical cancerous cells. He said that my next step was to see Dr. Edwards as soon as possible so that my D&C could be scheduled. He said that we should have the results of the biopsy the next afternoon and that would give us a good indication of where we were headed, but it was the results of the D&C that would clear me completely.
Back in the car, I called Sarah and could hardly breathe through the entire conversation. Sarah was equally as terrified. My second call was to Becky, and while I was able to maintain some semblance of a normal voice with Sarah, I bawled through my entire call to Becky. She cried with me, and we prayed. I really don't remember too much of my conversation with Becky, but the one thing that does stand out clearly is Becky repeating, over and over, "God cannot do this to again. He just won't do this to us again, Kymmie," referring to her miscarriage.
I was in nearly a complete stupor for the rest of the day. I got home, and all I did was sit and stare at Kyra, Jaiden, and Jordan. I felt that my world was crashing in on me, and all through the night I saw flashes of their lives already lived and the lives they had yet to live. I saw Kyra's wedding, Jaiden's high school graduation, and Jordan's first day of kindergarten, and suddenly, those scenarios seemed much farther off than they already were.
I also thought of Sarah and of Paul, and at that point, I just knew that I was the cause to blame for the failed transfer, and the guilt that I felt from that compounded the agony that I was already in. I got no sleep that night, and in the morning, I found myself empty of tears, having cried them all out.
At school the next day, I got a movie for my students to watch, as I was in no condition to teach. I spent the day behind my computer, emailing both Sarah and Becky and researching uterine cancer. I also received calls from my OB's office to confirm that my appointment with him had been scheduled for the next morning.
Later that afternoon, I finally got the call from Dr. Odom's office. As I held my breath, the nurse told me that the biopsies showed NO atypical cells, indicating that I DID NOT have cancer. The biopsies did reveal that I had a disordered uterine pattern, and that the D&C would clear me of that and restart a normal uterine lining, as well as provide the larger sample of tissues to test. She said that things looked really promising, but did emphasize that it was the results of the D&C that would tell the whole story.
I called Sarah and Becky, and we were all immensely relieved. We knew that we still had to wait on the results of the D&C, but we all felt that my answer had already been given. I was cancer-free, and I was 90 percent overjoyed, 10 percent still cautious.
The next day Frank and I met with Dr. Edwards, who rehashed the biopsy results. I felt much better after talking with him, because he felt it highly unlikely that I had cancer. My D&C was scheduled for the next morning, and the procedure was easy because I was completely knocked out for it. I got my results the next afternoon -- all clear!
Despite my joy and the relief that I didn't have cancer, I still felt a huge, oppressive weight on me. With my mind mostly dominated by the fear of cancer, I didn't really have the energy or attention to focus on the impact the situation would have on my role as a surrogate; my thoughts until that point were dominated by my role as a mother and wife.
With the cancer weight lifted, the fear of the disease was quickly replaced by the fear of my body doing damage to Sarah's embryos. Even though both Dr. Edwards and the RE believed that my disordered lining was a freak event and cleared me for surrogacy, I still believed in my heart that I was doing more damage than good to the surrogacy process.
My heart and mind was telling me that I had to give Sarah the opportunity to find a completely healthy and fertile surrogate to improve their chances of having a baby. My goal from the beginning was to help Sarah and Paul have a baby, and if it meant that I had to step down to give them that chance, I was more than willing to do it, however much it broke my heart to do so.
I felt like I had already let Sarah down once, and though I knew that ending the surrogacy aspect of our relationship would come as a devastating blow to her, I really did feel that she would be better off with someone else and I didn't want to hinder her chances any longer. Sarah and Paul NEVER for even the slightest second assigned any blame to me. If there was anyone to blame, it was the clinic. Even through the PCOS diagnosis, the failed transfer, and the cancer scare, they never ONCE doubted my abilities and reassured me that they wanted me and only me. Unfortunately, no doctor, expert, or professional could have told me otherwise. At that point, I'm not even sure if God Himself could have convinced me that I wasn't to blame.
With a heavy heart, I told Sarah that I no longer felt capable of being her surrogate due to my concerns about my health. It was not easy, and both of our hearts were broken that weekend. I couldn't escape any degree of guilt; I felt guilt over the transfer and over ending things just when we were gearing up to get started again. Most of all, I felt guilt for letting Sarah and Paul down.
Though we had made a mockery of our psych consult months earlier, I did breakdown into tears at one moment when the psychiatrist asked me what my greatest fear of doing the surrogacy was. I answered that it was not being able to get pregnant or disappointing Sarah and Paul in some fashion. I never once thought that I would actually find myself in that very situation.
To read Week 5, part 7, click here.