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Fertility Treatment — Like Training for a Marathon

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a blog by Traci Shahan, RN, WHNP-BC, Doctor of Nursing, Albrecht Women’s Care: A Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, August 22, 2011

To read more of Traci Shahan's Fertility Chick Chat blogs, CLICK HERE.

I got suckered into training for a marathon. The story goes that I donated money to a way cool foundation that provides resources for suicidal teens. I have a soft spot for troubled adolescents, having worked with them as a counselor in a halfway house as an undergraduate student.

So right after I clicked the “Submit” button, I got a call from the director of the foundation who goaded me — guilted me? — into joining his cadre of marathon runners who take part in a race to bring awareness to and raise funds for the Second Wind Fund. I regularly do more than what I think I can, and, yes, I like to run, but 26 miles? On concrete? With eager beaver runners whom I will see only once when they pass me? But my nursey self, with her soft underbelly of wanting to help the kids, got the better of me. I consented to the marathon.

Marathon Training

So now I spend Saturday mornings racing around tracks and over trails throughout Denver. I am the token middle-aged mom runner, so they try to cut me a little slack. They haven’t quite offered to carry me back from the farthest point of the out-and-back loop but I am always the first one to be offered water, and they always say "great job!" as they pass me. But still, it’s a little daunting to show up at the start line every week knowing that I’ll get my butt kicked and that I’ll be sore the next few days, but also that I will feel really great that, no matter how unlovely my performance, I did what I said I would, and I showed up when I didn’t want to — to do something that is awkward, sometimes painful and uncomfortable, and always inconvenient.

The last time that I felt so very much like this, Quasimoto-esque, was as a fertility patient.

How Marathon Training is Similar to Being an Infertility Patient

You read that right. I am equating some of the dynamics of training for a marathon with the price tag of fertility treatment. How so?

  • First off, like I said above, you show up when you don’t want to; other people are waiting for you and counting on you. In my case, of course my fertility doctor and his team were waiting, but so was my effervescent husband.
  • Second, it hurts. Running is not comfortable, especially after all the commotion of showing up for a training run after the endorphins have waned, and we runners have returned to our pedestrian lives. Infertility hurts, too. Ultrasounds and hormone levels may not go as wished. Of course the negative pregnancy test can crush your spirit, at least temporarily.
  • Third, it’s not fast. We live in a microwave-mentality society, whizzing through drive-thrus to pick up dinner, surfing channels or selecting expedited delivery. Fertility treatment, although faster than it used to be, still takes time. Same for training for a marathon. I think the trickiest part of all of this for me on both counts is persevering, taking the advice of experts — the coach, the medical team — and taking the next step, however uncomfortable it might be.

The Pay-Off

Few things in life have paid off for me like long-term running and fertility treatment. (Okay, my education continues to reward me deeply, but that was another very, very long, arduous process.) Today, because of running, I have a healthy heart, outlook and musculoskeletal system. And because of hanging in there for a lot of years, infertility treatment continues to reward me richly too, thanks to a wonderful support system and a top notch medical team.

Although no one can guarantee each patient’s success, we certainly know that the vast majority of patients who persevere with treatment end up with the family they desire.

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