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Shelby Stewart's Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and Infertility Story

☀️ CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BEST SOCKS ON THE PLANET TO HELP WOMEN WITH INFERTILITY! A portion of every single sale will go to an incredible woman experiencing infertility. They make the BEST gifts for women experiencing infertility to remind them they are loved OR to wear to your own appointments while working hard to grow your family to remind you that you have this community of women linking arms with you. You are incredible, sister!

CLICK HERE to join our safe, private Facebook group to meet other incredible women who are walking your path. ☀️

Read Shelby's Story here:

______________________

My journey starts a little earlier than most. At 15 I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. The time between getting admitted to the hospital and starting chemotherapy was less than 2 weeks. After months of chemotherapy, a tumor removal from my heart, and radiation, I was finally cancer free! 

When I was 18 I asked my Oncologist if my treatment would have any effects on me having kids. She explained to me that the chemo I was given basically destroys your reproductive system and that I would most likely begin menopause in my mid 20’s. On the drive home my mom explained to me that they were presented with the option to harvest my eggs, but it would have delayed treatment over a month and that could have had negative effects on my outcome. My life took top priority, and I’m grateful for that. I’m not going to lie, I was angry at first. (As a parent now, I understand on a deeper level how hard of a choice that must have been).

At 20, while I was a nanny in NY, I sought out a fertility doctor. That's when we discovered that my levels weren’t just low; they were practically non-existent. This was a big blow to me. Part of me had thought everything would be fine. How was I suppose to date knowing that I couldn’t have children? What was my life going to look like? This was a huge emotional struggle for me and it caused me so much dating anxiety. 

At 23 I married my husband (who when presented with this while we were dating said that we would figure it out together without skipping a beat. He’s a real good one). With the knowledge that we’d have issues after a little less than a year of trying, I saw a doctor in Utah where we discovered my levels had gone up (VERY SLIGHTLY). But still, HOPE! The doctor recommended IVF, but after a little pushing agreed to allow some timed cycles and IUIs. After 2 years of trying, a few failed rounds of Femara, one failed timed cycle, and 2 IUIs we were pregnant with our miracle baby girl, Bennett. The baby I was never supposed to have was finally in my arms! I was and still am forever grateful for being able to carry her for those 9 months. We kept our infertility journey pretty quiet those 2 years. I felt a huge amount of shame for it. Then I felt guilt for feeling ashamed that I probably couldn’t have kids because it felt ungrateful to me. How could I be upset about infertility when I survived cancer? After I got pregnant I decided that silence is too isolating. It’s toxic in infertility. I started to share our journey to Bennett and I was amazed by all the people around me who were struggling and felt alone in this. I found so much strength in my story by sharing it. 

At just 6 months postpartum, knowing our window for kids was small, we were right back in the fertility office. This time I was confident, I COULD DO THIS! An IUI or two and we’d be pregnant with our second baby. This is when our true trial began. 

Our first IUI resulted in an early miscarriage. I was devastated. But the IUI worked, so I told myself the next one would too.

Our second IUI, not pregnant.

Third, not pregnant.

Fourth, not pregnant.

Fifth, not freaking pregnant. 

At this point, I’d spent 5 months in a row on IUIs and my doctor told us we really needed to start the IVF process. 

I jumped right in. The IVF calendar they gave me completely overwhelmed me at first. Everyday a shot, every few days an ultrasound and blood work. So many shots! Because of my levels, we took a very aggressive approach and handling the side effects while caring for my toddler was a challenge emotionally and physically. 

We completed our Egg Retrieval in September and we were very happy with the 4 good quality embryos we got, especially with my AMH being so low.  

We did a fresh transfer and on 5 days post-transfer, I got my first positive on a home pregnancy test. We were thrilled. This baby would be born 2 years almost to the day of Bennett. It was perfect. 

THIS WAS IT! 

Then came the next few weeks of our personal nightmare.

My levels weren’t rising properly, then they were, then I began bleeding, but levels kept rising.

After 2 ultrasounds, it was finally determined that our baby had stopped growing but my body was hanging on. 

We were devastated. For the first time I felt hopeless and completely betrayed by my body. 

We found out after the D&C our baby girl was genetically perfect. Perfect. That was a hard pill to swallow. I felt like I’d failed that perfect girl, my body had quit on her. I kept reminding myself that this was our first try, and first tries don’t always work. 

The days following my miscarriage we were shown more love and kindness than I ever knew possible. Family, friends, and strangers. Everyone showed up for us. I will never underestimate our tribe. From treats to my in-laws watching Bennett and sending me to NYC so I could tag along on my husbands work trip to get some alone time. 

All of those acts of kindness big and small kept me going and gave me the extra push I needed to get up and try again.

We decided to do an ERA cycle to narrow down my exact fertile window. Science is amazing. 

We did our last transfer in January of this year.  The transfer was actually on my birthday. What better luck can you get, right? 

After our transfer, during the 10 day wait, I tagged along on another business trip to London. I didn’t get a positive home pregnancy test this time until day 9! And on day 10 my HCG came back perfect, nice and high! I was pregnant! I had cramping and spotting the next two weeks but every blood test came back perfect. I was assured that those two things were perfectly normal. 

We had an ultrasound on Friday morning. Our baby was measuring exactly on track at 5 weeks 6 days, we saw the flicker of a heartbeat.  We finally breathed easy. We got our due date for October 4th! I sent texts to both our families with our ultrasound photo and the good news! 

Friday evening I noticed my belly popping, I stopped feeding Bennett dinner to take a photo in the mirror. I couldn’t believe I was so big at 6 weeks! A few minutes later I started bleeding, bleeding a lot. The panic I felt I can’t really describe. I was crying harder than I have in my life, praying, pleading with God out loud to let me keep this baby. This couldn’t be happening again.  

The next morning an ultrasound confirmed that I’d miscarried our third baby in 11 months. 

A perfect baby I’d seen just hours earlier. 

This miscarriage was harder than the others and possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. My hormones took a huge dip and it was physically more painful than ever. Recurrent miscarriage is something I never imagined I’d go through. I’m not all the way through it, and I’m not 100% sure the pain of loss or infertility ever goes away fully. But I’ve begun to learn to live with it as a companion, one that has shown me the lowest lows but also my highest highs. 

After our 3rd miscarriage I was diagnosed with Adenomyosis, a less common form of Endometriosis that effects the uterine lining. I quickly began an 8 week medication to suppress the Adenomyosis and  hopefully fix our problem. The 8 weeks were hard on my body. I was so excited to be off it and start prepping for our transfer at the end of May. After lots of thought, calls with doctors, and friends we decided to transfer both of our embryos. Our last and final 2. Literally ALL our eggs in one basket. I was so hopeful this was it. We’d get our triple rainbow baby and this would be our happy ending. This transfer was emotionally hard, but physically I felt pretty good. We finally got my levels under control and everything went textbook. 

On June 1st we got the call that neither embryo stuck. We have no more chances. We are back to square one. I got the call and immediately Chase and I went out to get all my supplements for another Egg Retrieval. 

I never thought at the beginning of IVF that almost exactly a year later I’d be gearing up to do it again. Spending the amount for a brand new fully loaded SUV on our second baby wasn’t in my plan. But I look at Bennett and I’d pay any amount for her. She is priceless.

I can honestly say I couldn’t have gotten through it, or any of this journey without my husband, Chase. He has supported me, picked up my slack, cried with me, and just loved me through it all. I am grateful to have opened up about this journey, it has made the load so much easier to carry. I’ve learned to have more compassion and empathy than I ever knew possible. I’ve realized most insensitive comments and remarks toward infertility are rooted in misunderstanding. I have learned that I never feel better than when I can help someone else who is struggling. Even when I am at my darkest. These last few years, but especially the last 15 months, I’ve learned that we never know what someone else is going through. Even if it’s not the same as what you are going through, it is still hard. 

I don’t know when our second baby will get to earth, but both Chase and I feel strongly that that baby is meant to be a part of our family here. We are getting ready for another transfer in a few months and I’m terrified but still hopeful. 

To anyone starting this journey or in the thick of it too, infertility sucks, it’s freaking hard.  Please, don’t make it harder on yourself by isolating yourself. Lean on your spouse, your family, and friends. It’s truly a trial that we can only overcome with support. In our case, it really takes a village to get our babies here. 

Instagram: @shelby.stew

☀️ CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BEST SOCKS ON THE PLANET TO HELP WOMEN WITH INFERTILITY! A portion of every single sale will go to an incredible woman experiencing infertility. They make the BEST gifts for women experiencing infertility to remind them they are loved OR to wear to your own appointments while working hard to grow your family to remind you that you have this community of women linking arms with you. You are incredible, sister!

CLICK HERE to join our safe, private Facebook group to meet other incredible women who are walking your path. ☀️

To read Dana Hnatyshyn's IVF story, click HERE 

1 comment

  • Shelby you are quite possibly the strongest girl I know. Thank you for sharing your story and being so open. Thank you for reaching out to me when you heard of my miscarriage. Praying for your rainbow so hard, friend!

    Lindsay on

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