NHS Funding!

Pats and I went to the Nuffield for a two-hour appointment where they would go into detail regarding our treatment. Caroline had been one of the first people I spoke to when contacting the Nuffield and prior to this appointment we had been emailing each other back and forth with various questions I’d had – all of which she answered almost immediately to my amazement.

Caroline called both our names and we followed her up the corridor into one of the offices. She was a lovely warm and friendly lady, was very sympathetic to our circumstances and had a motherly, maternal nature about her. We felt instant relief and very secure that we were in the right place. She mentioned again what good results their clinic had achieved from the recent HFEA audit and told us how her own daughter had received IVF treatment there and had successfully gone on to have twins.  What more could you ask for? A recommendation from a mother who had entrusted the care of her daughter to the same doctors and nurses.

She then surprisingly told us that we’d been accepted for NHS funding!! Oh my god – someone was looking down on us – a little ray of sunshine amongst all of this. I cried tears of joy and Pats and I held hands smiling at each other. This was the first time I’d been to hospital and someone had given us good news. Brilliant.

Caroline then went on to say that the results of my pelvic scan showed that I have multi-follicular ovaries meaning I have more follicles than the average woman. She said this was good news in that I’d be likely to produce a good amount of eggs from the treatment, however they’d have to be careful not to stimulate me too much as this can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

We then completed a whole host of paperwork in relation to our treatment and the storage of our embryos. She also asked if I’d like to be shown how to do the injection. I certainly don’t have a phobia against needles and injections – I do regularly give blood – but I never look at the needle going into the skin, I always have to look in the opposite direction to distract myself. She said I could do the injection in my tummy in the area below the belly button or in the top of my thigh. I felt more comfortable doing it in my tummy, so she handed me a needle (with no drugs in!) and showed me how to do it. I was surprised at the fact that I couldn’t really feel it go into my skin. Phew that was a relief, I felt confident I could now handle doing those!

We left there that day feeling slightly tired from all the information we’d taken in, but pleased as punch that we’d been offered the NHS funding to cover our treatment – that certainly took a big pressure off of us financially and we were so appreciative that they’d pursued my case for us.

The Nuffield Victoria Wing

At our first consultation appointment we met with a nurse who went through some questions regarding my breast surgery and planned cancer treatment.  She explained that the fertility treatment would commence at the start of my period and that I would be put on a “short protocol” to get me through as quickly as possible.

I had an AMH blood test taken – a hormone test that gives an indication of how many eggs I have left in my ovaries.  The result wouldn’t give a number of how many eggs are actually left, it would be a measure of how strong the hormone is (if the level was not very high it could indicate approaching the menopause). The result of this test would help them get the correct dosing for the medication used for the IVF.

She asked if we were self funding the treatment which we said we were because I wasn’t due to be having chemotherapy and because we were over the age of 34. She said how much of a post code lottery IVF funding is and that had we lived in Surrey we would have been able to have treatment up to the age of 39 and would have been funded for two cycles.  Damn it – we just moved from Surrey!!

We both completed a medical questionnaire each and a whole host of other paperwork and then she scheduled in our next appointment which she said would be approx. 2 hours long. This session would cover how to do injections, how they monitor the cycle with ultrasound scans, how they collect the eggs and then create embryos for us as well as storage of the embryos and the hormone supplements to be taken.

The nurse also explained the two types of fertility treatment . IVF (In vitro fertilisation) where the egg and sperm are put together in a dish and they find each other and fertilise naturally. ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) where they manually inject a single sperm into an egg which increases fertilisation rates. She said they would rather prepare us for the fact that we may need the latter as it would cost an extra £1,300 rather than shock us on the day. Jesus, this is all so expensive!

She said that the average number of eggs collected is between 8-10, although not all of those would be high enough quality to freeze – they would only freeze the good quality ones as they’re the ones that will survive the freezing and thawing process. As this would be our only shot at having the treatment they would likely freeze as many as possible.  The storage of the embryos would be done in a batch and would cost approximately £400.

We were then introduced to the Doctor for our initial consultation.  He immediately brought up the topic of funding, and said he couldn’t understand why our case hadn’t been look into in terms of funding on the NHS. We explained what the consultant at QA had said to us about my planned radiotherapy treatment and the upper age limit making us not eligible. He said they would apply for funding for us and see what they would say, it was worth the chance and he said in my situation they may be slightly more flexible.

He agreed that the right decision had been made in terms of having the surgery first, and that in the window between having the op and starting treatment they would take me through a cycle. He said that the recommendation after you have been on Tamoxifen for two or three years is that it’s possible to place the embryos back. Current teaching is that Tamoxifen is taken for five years, however he said that conventionally it’s two to three years (this would depend on the staging and type of cancer from the analysis).

The doctor reassured us that they will do their very best to obtain the best quality embryos to maintain my fertility and whilst it may not be my priority in terms of getting through the cancer, once I am through with my treatment that my ability to carry a baby would in no way be compromised.

He said his goal would be to get around 10 eggs, to then have seven to eight embryos, with four to five blastocysts. We would have an approx 30% chance per transfer of each of those embryos.

He offered us their counselling services and also suggested we take Omega 3, Vitamins B, C and D and a supplement called Proxeed. We were already both rattling with about 12 different vitamin supplements we’d been taking so think we were safely covered there!

We walked away feeling positive about the potential results of the treatment and definitely felt like we were in very safe, caring hands.

Back at home later on that day I received an unexpected delivery of flowers from a colleague at work. They were beautiful and I was touched by her kindness and thoughtfulness.

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