What the Clomid?

You never imagine you will be the one person who experiences the worst side effects of a medication. But it happened to me. Read on to learn more about my experiences with Clomid and all of the Clomid side effects I dealt with!

“Clomid” is a bad word.

It’s even worse than “monkey.”

For those who know me well, especially Kristen circa 2004, you know that one of my favorite expletives is “monkey.” Stub your toe on the foot of your bed? “Monkey!” Receive an unexpected medical bill in the mail? “What the monkey?” Open your inbox to 60 unread messages? “Holy monkey.” You should try it. It feels really good.

But now, CLOMID knocks MONKEY out of the park. Clomid, what used to be a benign sounding name for a commonly used ovulation stimulating medication, has now turned into the Devil’s word. Clomid hurt my feelings, and now we don’t play nice.

Three months ago, Cory and I met with my OB-GYN after six unsuccessful months of trying to get pregnant. Since I’m 32-years-old, my doctor recommended we come in for a fertility consult earlier than the typical one-year of trying, a recommendation that sure didn’t help my already ticking-time-bomb feeling. During this appointment, my doc prescribed a round of Clomid to help my body ovulate. In layman’s terms, this medication works like this: it travels through my body to my ovaries, sneaks up to my sleepy eggs, and shouts through its megaphone, “C’mon, little eggs. Wake up!” (I’m sure this is a highly accurate description how the med works.) I felt hopeful to try something new.

So I took Clomid and wished upon a star every night that this magical medicine would work. Meanwhile, I kept militantly tracking my morning temperatures, obsessively peeing on ovulation predictor kit (OPK) sticks, and carefully monitoring my body for any new pregnancy signs. One night close to the end of this Clomid cycle, I woke up at 1 AM, hot and soaking wet. Hot flashes. After drying off and changing my shirt, I quickly turned to the internet for answers. I opened up a new search: “are hot flashes a sign of pregnancy?” The first thing that popped up read, “Hot flashes are indeed a pregnancy symptom.” I silently rejoiced, smile spread wide across my sleepy face. Before I could get too excited, my rational self recommended a follow-up search: “Hot flashes and Clomid.” The first thing that popped up this time read, “Clomid does have some side effects. The most common side effect is hot flashes.” Damn. With a tug-of-war-feeling in my heart, I tried to fall back to sleep. But my thoughts raced on:

“What if I never get pregnant? What if I am pregnant right now? Should I have had that glass of wine last night? What if it hurt the baby? I wonder if I’ll have morning sickness like mom did. What will I do if I have to puke at work? I bet I’m not pregnant. I’m definitely not pregnant. I’m going to be so tired in the morning. Fall asleep. Fall asleep. Fall asleep!”

After an hour of mental spinning, I turned to YouTube and the stress-reducing effect of any Jimmy Fallon clip, and finally drifted into a restless slumber.

The next few days, I had all the early pregnancy symptoms (which also happen to be identical to PMS symptoms). Tender breasts. Increased appetite. Fatigue. Mood swings. But deep in my gut, I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I just felt it. And I was right. Our Clomid cycle did not result in pregnancy. Aunt Flow rang the doorbell at my house on May 19, announcing another unwelcomed visit. Unfortunately, quietly hiding behind the door and peering through the peep hole, waiting for her to go away like an annoying solicitor, didn’t work. She barged right in, carrying a picnic basket of cramps and zits, with a side of disappointment and hopelessness. “Clomid you, Aunt Flow. Clomid you!”

Just four days later, after Auntie had packed her basket and left, I had another surprise visitor. Cysts. I woke up at 5 AM on May 22 with a weird ache on the right side of my back near my kidneys. I had a kidney infection once before, so I was familiar with the unsettling pain. Crap, I thought. I guess I’ll need to get an antibiotic before it gets too bad. But then it got bad, fast. Really bad. And really fast.

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As the pain worsened, it also spread to my right lower abdomen. I got worried. I texted my mom and Dr. Stepdad to ask for advice. After a phone call with Dr. Stepdad, we had ruled out appendicitis and kidney infection. He thought it sounded like ovarian cysts due to the Clomid, and told me to take some Ibuprofen. Usually cysts are controlled with over the counter meds and go away on their own. So I headed downstairs to get some medicine and collapsed on the stairs. I couldn’t move. The pain had evolved from achy to stabbing. From a 3/10 to an 8/10 within minutes. I slowly made my way back up to our bedroom and woke Cory up. A few minutes later, he helped me choke down a couple bites of toast and take some meds. But it didn’t help. Now I was writhing on the bed, moaning, screaming. When I started to plead with God to take the pain away, Cory knew we needed help. We headed to the ER.

At this point in the story, I could retell our time in the ER minute-by-minute, but most of it is a blur to me. Instead, I’ll share just the goriest details. Like the emesis on the drive there (it’s up to you whether or not you want to look up that word). ;)  And more emesis upon arrival. The 30+ minutes of an uncomfortable vaginal ultrasound by a student radiology tech who couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag, let alone navigate the inner world of a person’s anatomy. Incompetent medical staff who failed to identify an accurate diagnosis. Needles and IVs and blood draws. In the middle of my worst pain, being told I was infertile by an unqualified PA after looking at my CT scan results. Tears and screams and more tears.

The worst of all was being sent home at noon with continuing raging pain.

I was discharged from the ER in a wheelchair, unable to walk. In the lobby of the hospital, children stared at me – the moaning, writhing, crazy lady – as I waited for my mom to get the car. My pain was at an 8/10, and they sent me home. What the Clomid?

Cory's homemade "entertainment center." Thrifty fella, eh? ;)

Cory's homemade "entertainment center." Thrifty fella, eh? ;)

At home, pumped full of Hydrocodone and Naproxen, the pain raged on. Cory tried everything he could do to help me feel more comfortable. He brought me piece after piece of dry toast to try to help me keep something in my stomach. He carefully helped me take small sips of Gatorade. He rigged together a haphazardly balanced entertainment system near our bed, with at TV set on top an upside down Home Depot bucket (we don’t normally have a TV in our room). Best of all, Cory discovered the new season of Jane the Virgin had been released on Netflix and put that on for me. And you know what? I didn’t care. No, I couldn’t care. I knew I was in bad shape when I couldn’t even muster the attention to watch Jane, Rafael, and Petra’s weird love triangle unfold.

I writhed and twisted. I screamed so loudly our neighbors probably wondered if they should call the police. I paced back and forth in our room, hoping to walk it off. Nothing helped. So at 9 PM that night, we returned to the ER (with more emesis before leaving – just had to say it).

Thumbs up for Ketamine. :)

Thumbs up for Ketamine. :)

Long story even longer, our second ER visit was filled with equal incompetence as our first. It was so bad, in fact, that I sent a detailed letter of complaint directly to the hospital’s CEO, CFO, CNO, and patient advocate a couple weeks ago.

The doctor was absent most of the time. When she was attending to me, she was completely argumentative, defensive, and clueless about what to do. Traditional IV pain meds didn’t touch the pain. Cory called in additional troops. My mom and Dr. Stepdad drove to the hospital at nearly 11 PM that night to join Team Kristen’s militia. Dr. Stepdad advocated for me, reviewed my CT scans himself, and spoke directly with my OB-GYN on call. Meanwhile, I was administered a dose of Ketamine, a “dissociative anesthetic” that induces a trance-like state. (Some people even use Ketamine recreationally to achieve the feeling of “derealization” – a feeling that one’s surroundings aren’t real.) The pain wasn’t gone, but I was.

And I loved it.

I was awake, but didn’t care. It was the first feeling of peace I had all day.

Around midnight, I was admitted to the hospital for pain management and possible surgery the next day. Probable diagnosis according to Dr. Stepdad: hemorrhagic ovarian cysts and ovarian torsion. Something was exploding and twisting inside my body. EXPLODING!

I had surgery at 1 PM the next day. My doc drained the cysts and untwisted the ovary. It had twisted on itself three times, significantly reducing blood flow. The ovary was “ashy” in color, per the doctor, signifying potential death. Thankfully, once she untwisted it, it regained its normal coloring and function (white, by the way. Did you know that ovaries are naturally white!? I didn’t).

WARNING: Scroll really fast through the next few pics if you don’t want to see my ovaries.

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***I just need to pause the story for a second and proclaim a big, fat Jimmy Fallon, "Ew!" Gross. (But also kind of cool, right?)***

Thanks to my amazing OB-GYN and the talented anesthesia team, I came out of surgery with practically no issues. I spent the next few hours slowly waking up in my hospital room and was discharged later that evening. 

Two ER visits, an overnight inpatient stay, laparoscopic surgery, three new little scars on my belly, two weeks missed work, and the worst pain of my life...all because of you, Clomid. I don't like you. I don't forgive you. And I never want to see you again. And when my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) recommended your use and uttered your horrid name at our most recent visit, I wanted to scream. You can monkey hit the road and never return, you monkey terrible medicine, you. Clomid you, Clomid. And I mean it.

Healing in my hospital room right after surgery with Cory.

Healing in my hospital room right after surgery with Cory.