As a young 18-something, you never worry about dealing with infertility. When you’re that young, just starting out in the world, finding love, finding yourself… it’s just something you never really think about. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with my husband and I. This is our Infertility Story.
How We Met
My husband and I met back in July 2008 on YouTube. How it happened was one in a million (I’ll write about this someday). Eventually, we confessed our feelings for each other after a short time of even knowing each other. I honestly believe it was love at first sight. We would talk for hours on end… our record being a 9.5 hour phone call! We were long distance, me being in California, and him in Texas. It was hard, but we managed.
Frequently I would visit him in Texas. Those short week visits would go by so fast, then it was back to skype calls. The pain you feel when you’re separated from someone you care about is unlike any other. I will write another post about our story.
Things Started to Change
In January 2009, he came to visit me in California. His first time flying out of state and first time in California. I was so excited to finally show him where I’m from and show him all the Southern California things! Hollywood, the Beach, theme parks…
His visit was going great! We decided to visit one of my favorite amusement parks growing up called Knotts Berry Farm. The day was going amazing and we were having so much fun. We decided to ride the wooden coaster called Ghost Rider. It was a pretty aged ride, but one of my favorites growing up. If you’ve ever ridden a wooden roller coaster, you’ll know how rough they can be. This ride was brutal!
After the ride, he complained about his back starting to hurt. We chalked it up to the rough ride and didn’t think anything of it. We went home that night and slept it off. Little did we know… that this was the start of one of the worst times in our lives.
The Nightmare Begins
Over the course of the next 3 months, his back pain got worse and worse. It got to the point where he couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes. Sitting hurt, laying down hurt, there was no relief. Chiropractor did nothing and pain medication didn’t help.
He finally went to his general doctor for help, who immediately prescribed him pain killers and muscle relaxers and called it a day. Those didn’t help at all. He might as well have been eating tic-tacs.
One night, he called me, crying, begging for relief because he couldn’t sleep. I felt helpless… 1500 miles away and couldn’t do anything but tell him “it’ll be okay”. I told him to go to his doctor first thing in the morning. No appointment… just wait at the door until they open and demand to be seen.
His doctor immediately scheduled an MRI and off he went. What came next… was our worst nightmare.
After the MRI was done a phone call was received 30-minutes later. “You need to go to the hospital immediately. I’ve called and they’re expecting you to arrive”. He immediately calls me, crying, telling me the news.
“They said it could be Lymphoma”
My heart sank and I immediately started to cry. How could my boyfriend of only 7 months have this happen to him? Why us? What did we do to deserve this? What did HE do to deserve this? Feeling helpless, alone, and so far away… all I could do was lay on the floor and cry.
I was able to fly out to see him the next day. When I landed, the drive from the airport to the hospital was the longest I had ever experienced. Pulling up to the hospital made my heart sink and I tried everything to keep it all together. I had to be strong for him… even though on the inside, I was dying.
That’s when he got the official news. It wasn’t Lymphoma… but Testicular Cancer.
At this point, the cancer had progressed to stage 3, and was growing up his back via his lymph nodes. Doctors said if we waited any longer, it could have gone to his lungs and eventually the brain.
Cancer Treatment Begins
The next two weeks were rough as he needed two surgeries and had to start Chemo. Before Chemo, we had the rough talk of freezing his sperm. Again, him being 19 and me 18… it was such a heavy topic that normal teenagers shouldn’t have to discuss. We were together for only 7 months at the time… now we have to talk about possible future children as a backup plan “just in case”?
Well, thankfully, he did go through with freezing his specimen after some talking to. I still remember sitting down with his parents talking to him about the pros and cons of it all. Sitting in his room having one of the most awkward conversations I’ve ever had… Probably a discussion I will never forget.
The first week of Chemo was rough on everyone. I couldn’t stand to see him looking so sick and miserable. I hated that I felt helpless and didn’t know what to do. I felt like everyone was competing to be the caretaker at the time, while we all felt simultaneously helpless. Chemotherapy is rough on the body and mind. All I could think about was how badly I wished it were me instead of him…
Chemo went on for several weeks. I don’t recall the exact amount he needed… but I remember it being one week on chemo, then one week off, then back on, for a couple months. We then got the word that he will need a pretty big surgery… Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND). After a routine scan to check the progress, the lymph nodes in his pelvic region showed significant scar tissue which worried the Oncologist about the cancer returning.
Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND)
Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND) is a surgery to remove and dissect the lymph nodes in the pelvic area. It’s a common surgery for Testicular Cancer patients… unfortunately, it was this surgery that led us to deal with Infertility.
His surgery was scheduled for August 3rd and I will never forget this month in my life. Frustrating at it was, I wasn’t allowed to be there for him and I didn’t get to talk to him for the better part of a month due to recovery. I was depressed all month long, feeling helpless in California while my boyfriend was in the hospital recovering from a major surgery. All I can really remember is crying myself to sleep most nights, just waiting for some sort of sound to come from my phone, hoping to hear an update.
His surgery went well and they needed to remove 77 lymph nodes from his pelvic area. Fortunately, some patients are able to have a nerve-sparing surgery… we, however, were not. It was because of this, the nerves around the bladder were damaged… resulting in a condition, and our infertility, called Retrograde Ejaculation.
Our Infertility Diagnosis: Retrograde Ejaculation
Retrograde Ejaculation is a condition where semen/sperm enter the bladder instead of going out the urethra upon ejaculation. RE is a common condition among diabetic patients and patients who have had RPLND surgery and is resulted when the nerves in the bladder neck are damaged and doesn’t properly function. Males have channels that determine which is for reproductive fluid and which is for urine. Because the bladder neck is damaged, it does not close properly upon ejaculation, so the semen flows back instead of out.
For some patients, their retrograde ejaculation is temporary and returns to normal after a couple months or even a year (if they have a nerve-sparing surgery). My husband’s surgery was not classified as nerve-sparing… so we’re unfortunately left with a very permanent diagnosis.
Obviously, it’s impossible to conceive if you don’t have sperm. We’ve tried home remedies for years with no hint of success. 10 years of infertility… we’re ready for our family.
We also have a Facebook Fundraiser Page
This was the first post I wanted to write to start off our Infertility Journey series. In the next post, I write about moving forward with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and our experience with that.
I hope you join us on our journey and be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel as I will be posting video updates and vlogs about our journey.
Are you dealing with infertility? You are not alone. I’d love to hear from you… leave me a comment and let’s start a discussion!
Rissa is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer alongside with managing her blog, So Very Me. She also runs a YouTube channel making family style vlogs and videos. When she’s not working, she’s usually playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her two pups, Kiba and Zoey.