As part of this cancer journey, I have learned — well let’s be real — my partner has learned, to be a pretty damn good nurse. One part of his role as caregiver has been to give me shots.
I wish I was referring to the glory days back in our early 20s — romantically buying me something fancier than the well liquor the local pub had on the bottom shelf …
But I am referring to a different kind of SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!
This act of service was stabbing me with my meds. He would race home on the NJ transit to perfectly time my Neulasta shots the day after chemo, and throughout our IVF journey, it was his role to make sure all of the injections went smoothly … Menopur, Gonal-F, and Lupron, OH MY!
I know I am beyond lucky to have had a partner do it for me. A lot of people going through this will be tasked with the job to inject themselves.
The IVF process is overwhelming for many reasons, but getting through the countless at-home injections is anxiety provoking yet empowering.
So as a self-proclaimed expert, here are some tips to ensure your shots go down smoothly (no chaser needed … except maybe some chocolate post-injection, because … hormones.)
Everything about fertility preservation/IVF is overwhelming. It’s a meticulous process that relies on timing, following directions, and consistency — with little room for error. For me, I found getting organized helped to make me feel a bit more in control.
- Use a calendar Input all of the medications you are prescribed and the times you are instructed to take them. Since the process is updated based on your frequent bloodwork, I found that a planner and google calendar worked best, so I was able to update it when the nurse called me, even if I was out and about.
- Set an alarm It’s easy to forget to take your medicine, even with that handy dandy calendar, so set an alarm for back up.
- Check the needs of your medications and dosage ahead of time Don’t wait until shot time to read your medication instructions. Some medications must be refrigerated, some must be at room temperature. You want to make sure you are properly caring for all medications. Make sure you have all medications you need, and refill all medications as necessary. Believe me – from experience – you don’t want to have to do a scavenger hunt to all local pharmacies/clinics before your injection.
Set Up Your Space
Have your shot station ready to go. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Alcohol wipes to clean the injection site
- Needle disposal bin for dirty needles
- Gauze in case there’s some blood
- Soap and water for hand-washing
- Medications and supplies (syringes, q-caps, needles, etc.) — check your medication instructions for supplies needed, each medication is different
- Your notebook / calendar to know what you’re injecting
- Ice pack for when you’re done to ease the pain
Side note: It can be helpful to do your shots on a carpeted floor — just in case you're clumsy (guilty), and drop your needle/a vial of medication. You don’t want it to break!
I always injected my shots in the bathroom so we were near a sink for easy access to hand-washing, but made sure to have a bath mat under me. These meds are expensive!
Remember There’s a Learning Curve
Unless you’re in the medical field, this is likely a new process. There is a lot to learn and it can be overwhelming to do it alone. Good news, you don’t have to! There are amazing resources out there to get you through this.
- Watch videos I found that watching youtube videos for each of my medications was SO helpful. For each injection, we had my laptop handy with a video preloaded, just in case we needed to follow the instructions step by step. My medications were sent through Freedom Fertility Pharmacy, which has a dedicated youtube channel for patient education. Ask your doctor if they have any resources like these!
- Ask questions Head to the Breasties Community Facebook page, or ask some of your Breasties what helped them during this process. Maybe even find a shot guru who has been through this before, so you can text them in case you have a last minute shot question. I emergency texted a friend when we couldn’t get a large bubble out of a syringe, and after facetiming, she told me we simply weren’t flicking the needle hard enough).
Tips for Injecting
Shots can hurt, but they will quickly become part of your routine. Here are a few tips that can help ease some of the pain.
- Nail down the technique Most of my shots prior to the egg retrieval were subcutaneous injections (into the fatty tissue under the skin). For these, the needles are smaller and inserted into the stomach or thighs. Pinch the skin, insert the needle quickly, and pull it out slowly. Inserting the needle at about a 45 degree angle will help it insert into the skin easier.
- Switch it up For your injections and blood work, I found it helpful to switch sides during the process. Repeatedly poking/injecting the same spot, can become uncomfortable. If I was sore, or had visible inflammation or bruising, rotating injection sites helped me!
- Ice, ice, baby Icing the area of injection after the shot helped with soreness. Some say heating the area beforehand, also helps. Check in with your doctor and team to see if they have any suggestions for pain management.
Take Care of Yourself
Fertility treatments are a lot on the body. Make sure you are taking care of yourself during this process.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the process to keep your blood vessels and organs healthy. Stock your fridge with water, coconut water, and electrolyte drinks ahead of time.
- Try to relax Easier said than done, but your shots will be smoother if your body is in a relaxed state. Deep breathing right before your injection works!
- Treat yourself and rest Have something to look forward to post-shots. I saved dessert until after my injections. Highly recommend, chocolate cures all (especially when hormones are involved).