Melissa's Story

Written by Melissa Perez

“Our infertility journey began back in August of 2018 when we decided after eight months of marriage to start trying for a baby and thought it would be a quick and painless process. I went to my OBGYN, had my IUD removed and we immediately started trying. After six months of trying with no luck I followed up with my OBGYN who recommended Clomid as a kick start. 

Mind you my periods had never been regular and the pain was so bad that I turned to the help of an IUD while I was in college to eliminate my periods all together and help with pain. Clomid ended up not working and I felt like my concerns were not being validated or listened to by my OBGYN so I changed providers to someone who validated all of my concerns and led me to our fertility specialist in May of 2019. 

We went through our initial consultation and a whole bunch of testing only to determine everything was normal with my husband but I had clear signs of endometriosis. In October I underwent HSG testing, as well as my hysteroscopy to explore the findings of my HSG testing which suspected my left tube was completely blocked. During this procedure I had scar tissue removed, as well as endometriosis and was diagnosed as stage 2. We decided to move forward with another medicated cycle in November [2019] with the same medications as an IUI but with timed intercourse instead of insemination.

"The toll of everything seemed to catch up with me at this point"

To our delight, we got pregnant off that cycle but I miscarried at five weeks right before Christmas. The toll of everything seemed to catch up with me at this point so Anthony and I decided to take a break and save up as it seemed there was a lot more medication and fertility costs in our future. 

In May of 2020, we returned to our clinic with renewed faith and were ready to start again. Ironically as I was leaving the clinic that day with my medication protocol and start date in hand I found a large lump on the left side of my neck. Alarmed, I immediately called my PCP (primary care provider) who got me in for an appointment on the same day. Within the week I was consulting with an ENT (a doctor that specializes in ear, nose and throat medical care) about removal and further testing given the large golf ball-size lump. How I never noticed it before is beyond me. 

On June 12th 2020, I had the mass removed, tested and on the following Monday I got a phone call from my ENT with results that no one wants to hear. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and had been referred to an oncologist for further consultation and planning. My fertility clinic got us connected with LiveStrong Foundation to get some of my eggs frozen prior to starting chemotherapy so we immediately began our stim cycle and plan for retrieval and fertilization. 
Our egg retrieval was on July 2nd as I was set to start chemotherapy on the 7th of that month. Prior to my retrieval I was feeling nauseous and achy but my doc chalked it up to the change in hormones and medications, as nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All went well and we had 22 eggs retrieved and I was home within hours resting with my handy dandy heating pack. 

Now this is where things take an interesting turn of events. 

The next day I woke up feeling like death. My stomach was twice the normal size it was the day before, I couldn't keep any fluids or food down and was in pretty excruciating pain. I called my clinic and they had me come in later that afternoon so that my doc could examine me further. I had done enough research at this point on everything to know what ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) was and when my doctor said that's what he thought it was, I understood. He however was perplexed because of the severity of my symptoms just 24 hours post retrieval as what he was seeing was more consistent a week or 10 days out. While he was examining me further he asked me if it was possible if I was pregnant. I couldn't help but laugh at him with this remark as at no other point had I ever been able to get pregnant on my own and considering everything we had going out my husband and I had only had sex once within the last month. 

Well I guess what they say about one time is all it takes is really true because my fertility doctor tracked down an expired pregnancy test in the nurses station and that thing turned positive in literally a few seconds. The assumption at this point is that I had a fertilized egg lingering and when I started the meds for the retrieval it encouraged the egg to implant. My doctor doesn't generally do pregnancy testing the morning of retrievals but says even if he would have there would have been no way for my body to ovulate 44 eggs on its own, so he is glad he did the procedure without knowing I was pregnant. We then called my husband, both in shock and asked him to come over to the office to drive me home as I was getting sicker by the minute and was in shock at all the news. 

I wasn't really allowing myself to hope or dream about the baby much at this time

By Saturday the 4th of July, I had become so dehydrated and ill that I was admitted inpatient at a local hospital where I remained for 11 days. During that time I had liters of fluid drained from both my stomach and lungs to help relieve the pain and swelling from the OHSS. At this point we weren't sure the baby would withstand all the trauma and given my previous miscarriage I wasn't really allowing myself to hope or dream about the baby much at this time.  I was later discharged and we had our first scan where we were able to measure the baby and everything was on track. I laid low for a couple weeks and we were discharged back to an OB at 12 weeks. Due to the pregnancy we couldn't do a whole lot of staging for my lymphoma but based on the information we did have, it was determined that I was at least stage two but my oncologist decided to treat it as stage 4 because the bone marrow testing and PET scan which determine if it is stage four is not safe to do while pregnant. 

I started chemo at the end of September 2020 with the plan of continuing until I was 35 weeks pregnant. As I’m writing my story, I am 35 weeks pregnant with a healthy, on track baby. We are waiting to find out the gender as this whole thing has been such a surprise so what's one more!"

Later this month, I’ll be inducted at 37 weeks pregnant and be able to finish up my chemotherapy shortly after giving birth. Oh yeah, and somewhere along the way, I also got COVID. It’s been quite the journey but no matter how we got here, we are so excited to welcome out rainbow baby. The journey has been wild, emotional, and scary at times but it's going to all be worth it once we welcome our baby.”