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Shelly McGrew: Endometriosis, Ectopic Pregnancy, Cancer, and the Miracles all Along the Way

☀️ 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 Shelly's story here:

______________________

JANUARY 2013
“Your wife must have a very high pain tolerance.” The doctor told my husband, David, when he spoke with him after the 3 hour surgery that was originally thought to take a quick 20-30 minutes. I had truthfully told the doctor, all the nurses, EMT’s, and hospital staff that I spoke to before the emergency surgery that I wasn’t in any pain. They had asked many times and every time my answer was the same. “I am fine. I feel NO PAIN.” The doctor and nurses probably found that hard to believe after seeing just how bad the situation inside my body was. “It was a lot worse than we expected,” David was told. The state of my condition, what they found, and the fact that I wasn’t in any pain was shocking. It wasn’t any surprise to me though. I had been given the answer the night before after giving a fervent prayer begging the Lord to help me through the long night ahead. An answer that has since changed my life forever.

Hi! My name is Shelly McGrew and this is our fertility story. Our almost 5 year journey to get our little Theo was a WILD ride, to say the least. The road was
filled with MANY twists and turns, forks in the road, detours, and exits closed for construction.

Often the downs OVERWHELMINGLY outnumbered the ups, BUT the MIRACLES we witnessed and the ENORMOUS blessings we received along the way greatly outweighed the downs. Through it all, I’ve learned some valuable lessons and beautiful truths that I hope will provide some comfort and strength for you no matter what trials you are currently facing.

LESSON LEARNED: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” (-Zig Ziglar)

MIRACLE: The destination to our first fertility journey was our MIRACLE boy Theo.

TRUTH: God knows where our paths are supposed to take us. The pathway there is hard, but I know the Lord will walk with you or even carry you through the journey. I encourage you to HOLD ON and TRUST IN HIM and HIS TIMING! God knows what He’s doing!

I’ve condensed 5 years into what I’ll call “The fast and furious edition.” For a more detailed version, you can check out my blog: strongthoughbroken.blogspot.com Buckle up! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

In October 2011, about a month before our 3rd wedding anniversary, we started the quest to grow our family. We suspected we might experience some challenges considering my past medical history. Through my teens and 20s I experienced irregular and heavy periods. I had been told on multiple occasions that I had a lot of cysts on my ovaries. After 6 months of trying, we started seeing doctors and started fertility treatments. After an unsuccessful round of Clomid and Femara, our doctor said we could do one more round of Femara at the maximum dose. If this round was unsuccessful, we would have to move up to more intensive treatments. On Friday December 21st, 2012, we were given the news that the Femara had worked and we were FINALLY PREGNANT!

With a move to Georgia (from Utah) for David to attend grad school and finally being pregnant, our excitement should have been through the roof. I was excited but anxiety and worry overpowered the joyful feelings. If I was pregnant, then why had I started bleeding that afternoon? My HCG levels were continuing to rise but so was the bleeding. Although the doctor, nurse, and my sister told me that bleeding is common during pregnancy, something did not feel right.

January 15th and 16th, 2013 will always be two of the scariest and hardest days of my life, but the events that happened on those days will forever be some of the greatest blessings I have ever received.

On January 16, 2013, I was rushed into emergency surgery to have my ectopic pregnancy removed. As you read above, what should have been a quick procedure ended up taking multiple hours. The ectopic was so large it completely destroyed my left fallopian tube. My tube was unsalvageable and had to be removed. The doctor also found a significant amount of endometriosis and an endometriosis-covered cyst that needed to be removed. A
quick, easy-to recover from (physically) procedure turned into a major surgery which I spent weeks on the couch healing from. You may be wondering how on earth an ectopic pregnancy and surgery could be considered some of my greatest blessings. Well let me tell you about the MIRACULOUS miracles that happened.
The night before the surgery, after being told by the mid-wife that I might miscarry during the night, I turned to the Lord in prayer. Growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, (many call us “Mormons”), I was taught that I could receive comfort, guidance, and peace through Jesus Christ. I also found these and answers to prayer through reading the Bible and Book of Mormon. I ended up turning to the 24th chapter of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon. In this chapter it tells about a group of people who were imprisoned and
mistreated. The Lord visited them in their afflictions, lightened their burdens, and delivered them from bondage.

Verse 14 states: “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

MIRACLE: I believe, whole-heartedly, that the Lord not only visited me during this trial, but He LITERALLY carried the pain for me. At times when I should have been in pain (according to doctors), I wasn't. I remember only feeling significant cramps and pain a few times (while we were staying at my sister’s during our move.)

MIRACLE: At a time when you’d think I would be panicked, scared, and over-whelmed with worry, I was enveloped with an ENORMOUS feeling of calmness and peace. I didn’t even flinch when a nurse started my IV and I had a BIG fear of needles.

MIRACLE: Although my fallopian tube was destroyed, it hadn’t ruptured. This in itself is a miracle.

TRUTH: The Lord’s atonement is real. He can and will heal your pain and help carry your burdens if you will let Him. This experience has brought me closer to the Savior and His atonement than ANY other experience I have ever had has, and it will ALWAYS be one of my greatest blessings.

LESSONS LEARNED: We learned that the endometriosis was probably the main reason the ectopic occurred. I never knew I had endometriosis. Having this removed may have helped us to be able to conceive later. Also, if you’re pregnant, bleeding, and feeling cramps or pain, (particularly on one side) GO TO THE DOCTOR!

After weeks of recovery and way too much Netflix, I decided it was time to move forward. I knew I needed to get a job. My degree is in Early Childhood Education and most of my experience was in working with children. I was hesitant to find a teaching job. I felt that working with kids would be too hard and painful after suffering such a loss. The Lord knew better and led me to a private Christian preschool. Working with these wonderful children brought healing to my wounded soul. I met and made the most AMAZING friends who became family.

TRUTH AND LESSON LEARNED: Amidst the trial and pain of infertility (or any trial), I can experience JOY through meaningful relationships, helping others, and doing things I am passionate about. (Teaching is my passion! I love it.)

MIRACLE/BLESSING: I was surrounded by the most amazing community of people who became my support system as more trials came and rocked our world.

In JULY 2013, after months of neck pain and finding a lump in my throat, I was diagnosed with Papillary THYROID CANCER. In August 2013, I had my thyroid removed. In October 2013, I had a cancer treatment called radioactive iodine therapy. The song “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons was my theme song since I was LITERALLY radioactive. I had to be checked with a Geiger counter before I could go back to work.

Before finding out I had cancer, I didn’t know much about thyroids, their functions, or the crucial role they play in getting pregnant. After studying and learning more about thyroid disorders and their symptoms, I realized that I probably had been living with an undiagnosed thyroid disease since my late teens.

LESSON LEARNED: My thyroid disease was most likely one of the biggest causes of our infertility. I strongly advise you to get your thyroid levels checked if you haven’t already. The blood test I had done right after finding the lump in my throat showed my numbers were in the “normal” range. The thyroid specialist (Endocrinologist) that I saw even suggested I wait three months and have another thyroid test done before doing any treatment or further tests.

He told me to just take Aleve for the swelling, but I KNEW something was wrong. I knew my body and I pushed for a biopsy and further tests. I learned to stand up for myself and make myself heard. Even highly trained doctors with YEARS of experience can make mistakes.

SO… do your research, be in tune with your body, get that second opinion, don’t be scared to ask questions and make your voice heard. Look for another doctor (if need be) who is willing to fight for you and strive to find the answers you are looking for.

MIRACLE: We didn’t have health insurance when we found out I had cancer. At one of my appointments, the amazing cancer nurse said she would do some research for us. At my next appointment, a financial administrator told me they had found donors who wanted to help….They paid for my ENTIRE cancer treatment!

MIRACLE: I didn’t have a primary care doctor when I found the lump in my throat. I know the Lord led me to the right Urgent Care doctor who referred me to my Endocrinologist. Although we had a rocky start, he ended up being a very good and knowledgeable doctor. I was blessed with the BEST neck surgeon and an AMAZING cancer specialist.

MIRACLE: I have been completely CANCER FREE since the beginning of 2014.

TRUTH: God is in the details of our lives. Although the path before us is dark or cloudy, it is NOT cloudy for HIM. Let Him be your guide.

As I was going through my cancer treatment, I started experiencing very rapid heart palpitations. I had experienced palpitations on rare occasions years before, but they happened so infrequently that I didn’t pay too much attention to them. Cancer and my thyroid removal surgery put a LOT of stress on my body and heart. This resulted in more frequent heart racing episodes. I knew I couldn’t put off seeing a heart doctor any longer after having an episode that lasted an
estimated 20 minutes long. Meaning, my heart was beating well over 200 beats per minute STRAIGHT for 20 MINUTES. I was playing volleyball with friends when the ball flew and hit me HARD in the chest. I am still to this day VERY hesitant to play volleyball.

In the beginning of 2014, I was diagnosed with SUPRAVENTRICULAR TACHYCARDIA or SVT for short. Tachycardia refers to a heart rate that is over 100 beats per minute. When you have heart arrhythmias it means you have some type of irregularity in the electrical system of your heart. SVT manifests itself differently for everyone who has it. The fastest they caught my heart beating on a monitor was 263 BEATS PER MINUTE! Some might say it’s a miracle I’m alive. Someone actually did tell me this recently.

On March 18, 2014 I had my first heart procedure, called a Cardiac Ablation, to try and fix the issue. My heart responded well to the procedure and for a little over a year, I had no heart racing episodes. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2015, I started having issues again. On September 1, 2015, I had my second Cardiac Ablation. I had better results the second time around and didn’t have any issues until January 2018. On October 16, 2018, I had my third, and hopefully last, heart procedure.

I often wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t had an ectopic pregnancy and carried to full term. Would the stress of labor and delivery put my heart at risk? I think the Lord in His wisdom knew I needed to discover, understand, and seek treatment for my heart condition BEFORE I could have a safe pregnancy and delivery.

In 2014, I started seeing a new Gynecologist. This doctor was a ROCKSTAR! His father, too, was a doctor…. a Fertility Specialist! So I assume he gained a lot of valuable knowledge from him. Having him as a doctor was a HUGE BLESSING. When I told him about my history with ovarian cysts and that I thought I had PCOS, he didn’t just assume that I did. He actually did the tests to find out…. Which, come to find out… I DON’T. He also did a hysterosonography to check for
growths, known as “polyps”, in my uterus... which he thought he found.
In June 2016, I went to the hospital to have the polyp removed. To the doctor’s surprise, I didn’t actually have any polyps. So, he ended up just doing a D&C to clean me out. I believe this may have helped me get pregnant later.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t settle when it comes to choosing a doctor. Find that rockstar doctor who will listen and do what’s best for you! All the health issues had put our journey to have kids on hold. After years of surgeries, procedures, and grad-school we were left emotionally, physically, and financially drained. We didn’t know what would happen when we did start trying again. We knew that considering our financial situation, IVF and adoption would not be possible for years. Once again, I poured my heart out to the Lord… I told Him that I felt I was doing EVERYTHING I could do to grow our family and to get my body to the point where I could carry a baby. I told Him that we couldn’t afford fertility treatments or adoption SO if that was His plan for us then we would have to wait. I also told Him: “If you want us to have a baby anytime soon, YOU WILL HAVE TO MAKE MY BODY WORK.” I then let go of the control and PUT IT IN HIS HANDS.

LESSON LEARNED: My beautiful and incredibly wise sister who fought for YEARS to grow her family, was a big source of support. She shared with me some amazing words of wisdom. She knew she was supposed to be a mom. She told me that she KNEW the Lord had her kids and He would get them to her however He could. And he did! (They have 3 adopted children.)

MIRACLE: On the morning of December 23, 2015, to our utter shock and amazement we found out that we were pregnant!

LESSONS LEARNED: Do everything within your power and capacity to grow your family or reach your goals (whatever that goal may be). We sought help from fertility doctors, I kicked cancer's butt, and I pushed to find answers and get tests done. I learned important dietary and other healthy lifestyle tools from my good friend (and health coach). After doing everything you can do: HAND IT OVER TO THE LORD.

MIRACLE: On July 19, 2016, our little miracle, Theo, was born. Despite being 5 weeks early, he was healthy overall, and he rocked the NICU. My heart had to be monitored closely throughout labor and delivery. I was blessed to have absolutely no heart issues. In fact, at the times when my labor was the most painful, my heart rate was the most calm and stable. Life as a new mom was rough for me. I was hit with anxiety and postpartum depression that was very overwhelming at times. I’ve found that the ways I found joy during my years of infertility were some of the things that have helped me overcome the depression and anxiety. (Along with getting my hormones regulated.)

LESSONS LEARNED: I have learned and must consistently remind myself that our circumstances don’t determine our happiness. You will never win when you play the “I’ll be happy when ______ happens” game because new trials and hardships will always come. You can find true joy, even when times are tough.

TRUTH: When I was going through my cancer treatment, one of my sisters shared with me the song, “BLESSINGS” by Laura Story. My favorite lines in the song are:

“Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops                                      What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You'e near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise."

I have witnessed so many miracles since we started our fertility journey in 2011. Even though it didn’t feel like it then, I KNOW those trials were the Lords mercies in disguise and I will FOREVER be grateful for them. We don’t know what our future holds or when we will start trying to grow our family again, BUT I do know that Lord will be with us every step of the way.

Instagram: @shellymcgroovy

Facebook: Shelly McGrew

Blog: strongthoughbroken.blogspot.com

☀️ 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 Gretchen Amen's Enodmetriosis & IVF journey, click HERE.

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