Archive for the ‘Plan B (not THAT kind of Plan B)’ Category

I would like to say that I met with SuperDoc today and he said, “Well, it’s obvious that the problem is X, and therefore, we simply have to do Y, and voila! You will be cured and you’ll have a baby in 9 months.”

I would like to say that I met with SuperDoc today and he said, “I absolutely know that this next cycle is going to work for you.”

I would like to say that I met with SuperDoc today and he said, “You are the most straightforward patient I’ve ever treated – clearly textbook diagnosis X. I know just what to do next.”

I would like to say that I met with SuperDoc today and he said, “I know this has been a long and frustrating road, but with this new protocol, I believe you have an 80% chance at achieving a successful pregnancy.”

I would even like to say that I met with SuperDoc today and he said, “If you look at all the things you have going for you in Column A and all the things you have working against you in Column B – Column A clearly outweighs Column B.”

I would like to say a lot of things, but none of those things would be true. So what really did transpire? Well, honestly, it’s a bit late now, and I’ve got a fair bit of pain medicine in me right now, so I’m not sure I’ll do it justice, but I’ll do my best.

First, I noted that he had a lovely new desk for his office. I told him I’m clearly paying him too much, and that we simply must cut that out. I brought him fudge, for which he thanked me, and I said, “well, we’ll see – I’m not sure you deserve it.” He agreed. “I don’t deserve it – I’m not at all happy about what we’ve failed to achieve for you.” I told him to stop being so hard on himself – after all, that’s my job, and it’s fun for me. He wouldn’t want to take away my fun, would he?

SuperDoc is definitely frustrated. He acknowleged that I’m a “challenge” and said he knows that I don’t want to be the “interesting” patient. Oh please. Who wants to be the “boring” patient, anyway? If I were boring I wouldn’t get to spend so much quality time with such a wonderful person like him! Um… He talked through all of my cycles (including my response to stims in my IUI cycles) and he put the items in my favor into one column, and the items against me in another column:

Good Bad
Age Average to low response to stims (luteal phase lupron protocol)
(some good) Mixed embryo quality (majority poor)
successful triplet pregnancy 5 failed IUIs; 3 failed initiated IVFcycles

He said if he were only looking at the response that I’ve had to the initiated IVF cycles that I’ve had this year (in other words – most of the second column), and he didn’t know my history (in other words, most of the first column) – he’d probably be talking to me about egg and embryo quality issues. But the fact that I have had a successful pregnancy before, and the fact that I’m (relatively) young-ish does change things a bit for him. But on the other hand (there were many “other hands” in today’s consult), he said that there’s still the question of why did it take so many IUI cycles to conceive the triplets in the first place? And why triplets after so long and so little success? (There were, by the way, a lot of unanswered, rhetorical questions asked in today’s consult)

When we were cancelling IVF#2, Take 2 I had asked SuperDoc about considering an Antagonist Protocol (Ganirelix). He said then that he felt that Ganirelix would give me a lower quality cohort of embryos, and that he didn’t think there would be an advantage to changing the protocol at that time. At the time, he said he wasn’t opposed to trying an antagonist protocol if he was forced to – but that it would be a last resort.

Today, he talked through some of my history and my options for moving forward. It seems clear that I no longer respond like a woman with polcystic ovaries, which, he says, is extremely unusual – apparently this doesn’t normally just “get better”. Still, all signs point to me maybe not really having PCOS right now. He does still want me to stay on metformin, on the off-chance that it’s doing me some good – but he said he doubts that it is. It can’t hurt, though. In IVF#1, they treated me like someone with classic PCOS (lots of Lupron, low stims) – I didn’t stim particularly well, but I did have a reasonable outcome with the retrieval. Fertilization was fine, embryo quality was terrible, I had one good quality blastocyst, nothing to freeze. IVF#2, Take 1 was canceled before I got to Stims. IVF#2, Take 2, they treated me with less Lupron, more stims but still pretty conservative – and had to cancel for under-response. Clearly, I wasn’t behaving like a PCOS patient. IVF#2, Take 3 I was treated like a typical average-to-low responder, very low Lupron dose, moderately high stim dose. Good retrieval numbers, reasonably good fertilization, great Day 2 embryology report compared to IVF#1, everything went to hell on Day 3.

He said that there are a very small number of women (about 5%) who simply make crappy (my word) embryos with Lupron, for whatever reason. So he could consider doing a “Lupron Stop” protocol where they just stop the Lupron on Day 1 of stims (no suppression after that), but he doesn’t want to go there, because he thinks the Lupron could be partially responsible for my crappy embryos. (He’s not discounting the likelihood that I simply make crappy embryos – three beautiful babies snoozing in their cribs notwithstanding).

He would, instead, like to move to an antagonist protocol. Shocking! Compared to the 5% of women who make crappy embryos with Lupron, about 20% of women make crappy embryos with Ganirelix. He said that with Ganirelix, you run the risk of a certain amount of unevenness in the cohort, which is something he’s particularly concerned about with me, given my propensity to have lead follicles in my cohort -but he’s hoping that without any Lupron on board at all, we’ll see a different trend than we’ve been seeing. He believes that we have a 30% chance of seeing a lower quality cohort with the Ganirelix and a 50% chance of seeing a better quality cohort. I believe we have a 100% chance that this is all a crapshoot no matter what.

As for his overall recommendation – he said this is really about my personal stamina – and what I think I can handle. He said that he thinks he knows me well enough by now to know the answer to that, but that it’s really up to me. We talked around the insurance issues a bit and I told him that I have one covered cycle left in my insurance and that after that my husband’s insurance covers us, but only at The Hatchery. Interestingly – the Hatchery is merging with Ye Olde Fertility Clinic in the next few months, and this may seriously impact whether we’d be able to pursue additional cycles after this one. It was actually quite comforting to know that we may not be as limited in options as we thought after this cycle. I thought about it for a few minutes and told him that my husband and I were both committed to wanting another baby. But that most likely what we would do is do this next cycle and then take some time to re-group and consider the insurance implications of continuing on with another couple cycles under his insurance. Even with the merger – which would mean taking away the logistical nightmare of forcing me up to a city an hour away in the wrong direction at all the wrong times – my husband’s insurance still isn’t as good as mine, and the upfront cost is still significantly greater th
an mine, so that’s still a lot to swallow. But … I do like knowing that we’re not at the end of the road come August if we don’t choose to be.

SuperDoc said pretty clearly that “this cycle is going to be very telling – we’re going to learn a lot from it…. of course, hopefully you’ll simply be pregnant at the end of it.” It wasn’t lost on me that the pregnancy possibility wasn’t the immediate thought, and was more of an… afterthought. Just as it wasn’t lost on me that SuperDoc’s recommendation to move to an antagonist protocol – once his “last resort” – was now his next step.

I asked about whether I should be considering a 2 embryo transfer on Day 3 – rather than continuing to dig my heals in about the Day 5 blast eSET transfer. He said that we need to look at what the embryo quality is with the antagonist protocol – if there is an improvement in embryo quality, he would still encourage me to transfer one embryo (Day 3, Day 5 – we’ll see when we get there). But if we’re still looking at the same embryo quality issues – then it’s a matter of talking through the statistics and making an informed choice when the time comes. With embryos of the quality I’ve been looking at on Day 3 these last couple cycles? He’d have put me at 5-10% odds of having a twin pregnancy – odds I can live with. If we were looking at transferring 2 high grade blastocysts, the twin odds would be closer to 50% – odds I could not live with.

And so… Friday I’ll be getting my progesterone drawn to see if I’ve ovulated on my own (my period was 14 days ago- if I am, we’ll wait for my period to come. If I’m not, I’ll start progesterone for five days. When I get my period, I’ll start birth control pills for 21 days – go in for BW and U/S, and start stims 3 days later.

He’s starting me at 375 units of Follistim, 75 units of Luveris. Once I start the Ganirelix, this is going to mean 5 shots per day. Awesome.

He doesn’t sound super optimistic, and I’m not either. He and I are both realistic about the fact that nothing with me has gone quite the way we’ve expected. He’s been doing this a long time and has never quite been able to predict what’s going to happen with me, and that … is frustrating, and a little worrisome. I’m beginning to realize that I’m … not the boring PCOS patient I always figured I was.

We did, by the way, talk briefly about the shabbos incident with Dr. Hate. I may write more about it later, but the long and the short of it is that SuperDoc handled it appropriately, and with the care and sensitivity that I needed. He assured me that he would do everything he could to be the doctor who was present for all of my procedures no matter when they are, but that if he can’t be there for whatever reason, he will ensure that whomever is on call will be well-versed ahead of time in what needs to be done to accomodate the religious restrictions that I have on Saturdays, should it come up again. I assured him that I don’t expect him to be at all of my procedures – it’s a big practice, and I know how the practice works – different doctors are on call for procedures on different days, and I know that.

“After all you’ve been through, the least you can expect is that I’ll be there for your procedures. I will always do my best to be there for you,” was SuperDoc’s reply.

Take that all you ridiculous competing clinics out there with your radio commercials calling Ye Olde Fertility Clinic a “revolving door of doctors” – implying that my clinic is impersonal, without contact from individual doctors. Take that!

And this, my friends, is why I love SuperDoc. Why I love my clinic. Why I sing their praises. Why I’m willing to put myself on television and in print media for them. Why I refer patients to them consistently and frequently.

Because they care.

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Change in Plans.

Let me back up.

I’ve been working at my current job as a subcontractor to BIG LARGE CORPORATION (BLC) since January. As a subcontractor, I did not have medical benefits (or any benefits, for that matter), which was fine, because I have medical benefits through my husband’s employer. I was recently hired on as a regular employee with BLC. Before I agreed to explore permanent employment with BLC, I reviewed their benefits packages to see what I was in for, just to see if there was anything exciting about it. The corporation is based in a state that mandates fertility coverage so my hope/expecation was that they would cover fertility treatment. Alas, it appeared that BLC “self-insured” and it said quite clearly on their benefits summary data sheets that fertility coverage was specifically excluded from their plans.

In fact, the exact wording under “What is Not Covered” was:

Actual or attempted impregnation or fertilization including, but not limited to, in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, ZIFT, GIFT and injectables, except for initial diagnosis

That seems pretty clear that fertility treatment is excluded, no? However, when I was looking at the plan information back then, I was looking at information that described the BLC “Total Health Plan” which was pretty clearly a “self-insured” plan.

My first official day at BLC was last Monday and in my over-the-phone orientation with my HR manager (I work several states away from my manager), she kept talking about plans with Well Known Insurance Company (WKIC). I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they were getting around my state’s mandated insurance coverage if they weren’t self-insuring. Over the weekend I finally got my benefits package in the mail and was able to access the website today with all of the plan data on it.

I searched and searched for the information about fertility coverage, but found nothing. NOTHING. Nothing about coverage, but also nothing about exclusions. What could this mean? I couldn’t find anything anwhere on the site that talked about plan exclusions at all. And the summary plan descriptions were pretty high-level and just didn’t give me enough information to know whether fertility treatment was covered.

Soooo…. I called the Benefits Service Center (BSC) at BLC and asked them if they had a listing anywhere of Plan Exclusions. The representative helping me had no idea what I was talking about and referred me to the summary plan descriptions. No, I countered, those are too high level and don’t really explain exactly what is covered, nor do they address plan exclusions. She didn’t have any further information for me, but would be happy to research the information for me and get back to me. Meanwhile, if I wanted, I could contact WKIC directly if I wanted. Oh! That would be lovely, thanks.

I called WKIC directly and spoke with an absolutely lovely representative who was happy to help me sort this all out. No, they didn’t have a list of plan exclusions, but was there a particular service I was looking to find out about? Ahem. Well, yeah, actually, there was. What about fertility treatment? Oh, well, fertility treatment is covered just like any other medical claim – same copay, coinsurance, deductible, etc. There’s a $100K cap on coverage for fertility treatment/medications, etc. A limit of 6 IUIs per lifetime. Limit of 3 IVFs per live birth. No coverage for ICSI or Assisted Hatching. No coverage for freezing or storage of embryos (this is pretty typical).

This is way better coverage than my husband has, particularly when you factor in that I’m not limited to the one clinic that is 40 miles away, which makes life logistically difficult. So the choice is clear. Or it should be. I mean, obviously, I’ll switch to BLC’s insurance pronto.

It’s just… Gosh. I’d really decided that I do like Dr. McBrusque. And that while his manner may not have been perfect, I did like that he was willing to hear me out and he was willing to think about doing single embryo transfers despite the fact that he’s never done them before, and the fact that he had an innovative solution to the hyperstimulation problem. I liked that he called me himself about the metformin/breastfeeding problem. The things I didn’t like were basically out of his control. With Dr. McBrusque, I have a protocol laid out, a timeline set, and all I have to do is wait for my next period, and we’re ready to get started as soon as the first of the year rolls around.

I don’t deal well with change. So obviously, I’ll change plans and start over, but it’s going to mean delays and changing mindsets and reorganizing my thoughts, so it’s going to mean a bit of whinging on my part. I apologise in advance.

So here’s the current plan:

  • I will still have my HSG tomorrow.
  • I still plan to schedule a pre-pregnancy consult with my perinatologist to determine whether it would be wise to even consider allowing more than single embryo transfers.
  • I will schedule a consult with another RE… I have to decide who this will be – should it be my old clinic? Should it be someone entirely new? I don’t know! And if it’s my old clinic, should it be the first doctor I saw there, or the second doctor? I love them both, but one moved to a location further out, which is the only reason I stopped seeing her. The second doctor was great, but he definitely didn’t love that I didn’t reduce the HOM pregnancy. I dunno.
  • I will find out if the current clinic (the one that is 40 miles away) accepts the insurance that I’m switching to. If so, I’ll continue to proceed as planned with them, until I determine whether I should be switching to a clinic closer to home.

That’s the plan so far. I can work with plans. I always need a plan. This can work, right? I mean, after all, it’s GOOD news that I’ve got coverage, and that I’ve got better coverage, and that I can now have my choice of clinics, even though it throws off my entire timeline, right?

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