How ART of IF Intern Kristen Mahan will #FlipTheScript this Men’s Health Month

As most of you already know, we The ART of Infertility will be in Los Angeles during the month of June for Men’s Health Month. We are thrilled to be collaborating with Dr. Paul Turek of The Turek Clinics and to have Men’s Health Network as a Media Sponsor. Throughout the next few weeks, we will have a series of announcements sharing specific programming we will be hosting in conjunction with the exhibit. Here is our first “mini announcement”: we got a grant!

Maria, left, with Kristen at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Throughout this year, The ART of Infertility has been working with Kristen, our undergraduate intern who is majoring in marketing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Kristen worked with Maria to design a research project that studies how social media campaigns can be better targeted at men with experiences of infertility. This work represents a new direction The ART of IF is embracing — mentoring young students about infertility and engaging in small research projects to provide an educational experience that responds to real, world issues in the fertility world.

We will have a lot to learn in this process but are excited and hope that we can #FlipTheScript to learn how to better include men in conversations of reproductive loss. Read more about the research project and Kristen’s take on it.

What is this grant?

With the help of Maria Novotny, I have been awarded the 2018/2019 Undergraduate Student/Faculty Collaborative Research Program grant. The research grant through the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh will allow me to travel to Los Angeles with the project and learn about the challenges men face when experiencing infertility. As a young college student, I really do not know much about this experience. But working with the project for a few months, I have become more acutely aware that even if I’m not infertile — a friend or family member in the future most likely will share in this experience.

What is my research project?

Because The ART of Infertility tries to support marginalized populations experiencing infertility and that the Los Angeles event is held in conjunction with Men’s Health Month, my research project is focused on men.  Meaning, I am researching what educational resources men are in need of when experiencing infertility. We know one issue is a lack of male-focused infertility support. So, my research as a digital marketing student is interested in using social media as a way to foster a sense of support and community for infertile men. I plan to create a social media campaign, run that campaign after the opening of the LA exhibit, and then test the effectiveness of that campaign through a targeted survey. This means, that I need participants! So guys, this means I need you!

Why focus on social media?

A 2010 study found that media campaigns can greatly produce positive changes and prevent negative changes in health-related behaviors. I hope that my social media design and survey results will illuminate a series of findings and recommendations that describe methods of how to improve health-related resources for infertile men. Thus, reducing the isolating, stressful, emasculating, and stigmatized experience of male infertility.

What I’m looking forward to:

As a newer member to The ART of IF team, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity this grant from UW Oshkosh is allowing me to experience. Finally being able to see one of the exhibits that Maria and Liz put so much time and energy into will help me grow as a communications intern for ART of IF as well as a marketing/digital major in general. Throughout the first few months of interning with ART of IF, I have mostly seen women share their experiences with infertility. Having the chance to shift gears towards what males experience as well will be beneficial for my learning of the topic of infertility.

 

A Year Without Answers – Guest Blog from Dr. Paul Turek

This is actually a guest post within a guest post! We had the honor of meeting Dr. Paul Turek from The Turek Clinic in Beverly Hills and San Francisco at our event in Calabasas, CA last week. Dr. Turek is passionate about art and we are excited to have him as an ART of Infertility sponsor!
Maria and I are very determined to include the stories of more men in the project and had two fantastic interviews with men while in California. We’re hoping to hear from more men who would like to share their stories and are working on developing ART of IF programming that will strike a bigger chord with men. Stay tuned! This is a two part blog so we’ll run this one today and another in a couple of weeks. Thanks, Dr. Turek for sharing your blog with us! Here’s a link back to Dr. Turek’s blog so you can read more posts from him. 
Elizabeth
A Year Without Answers

Elemental, a painting by A.J. Russell
“Elemental” Courtesy of the Artist: A.J. Russell

This is a guest post from a patient who lives in Europe. He recently recontacted me about his experience with male infertility and how it affected him.  Moved by his story and by his emotional fortitude, I asked him if he could share his remarkable journey with others. 

“The day we met with Dr. Turek was a week filled with hope and happiness. Almost a year earlier, on the same day, I went through a biopsy with the result that there were no sperm. So when we found out about Dr Turek, this really felt like the last chance, the last hope. Therefore the decision to travel across the world to see him was an easy one. The visit and procedure went well, but, again, the result from mapping showed no sperm. And no answer as to why this is.

It has been a year since I spoke with Dr. Turek about these results, a year characterized by disappointment, anger, sadness and worst of all, no answers. There were simply no answers to be found. Why me? Why now? What now? Literally a thousand questions ran through my head interfering with my daily life, keeping me up at night and affecting my relationships. I had never felt anything like this before.

I wanted so badly to not feel alone in this. I wanted someone to understood my plight, without me having to explain every small detail, because you can´t explain this feeling.

I needed to talk about it. I just couldn’t bury it. But, who was I going to talk to? And what would I talk about? I felt isolated as there appeared to be a big taboo regarding this topic. Anyone I spoke to told me focus on other things in life. But how are you supposed to do that when all you think about is the fact that you can’t have your own children? I knew no one with a similar experience who would step forward and talk about his experiences and feelings. Google searches were pointless, as the Internet does not care and information on coping is useless.

That year was best characterized by the feeling of being lost and trying to find my way in darkness without a map or light. I felt that I was in a deep, dark place, especially when I tried to look forward into the future.

Feeling alone, I began suppressing everything. All feelings, thoughts and discussions were avoided. I told my close family that I did not want talk about this matter anymore. It was a buried subject for me, never to see the light of day again.  The reason for this was that talking about this issue within the family only made things worse. One problem with this approach was that the bright spots in my life also suffered along side. The subject became an 800-pound gorilla that, although ignored, never left the room. Maybe the gorilla was bigger than 800-pounds as the family dynamics changed greatly.

Then I became angry, sometimes uncontrollably. This was when I could see that I was approaching rock bottom. The slightest annoyance, comment or action sent me into a furious rage where I often exploded at whomever was next to me. Many times it was my wife, which led us to the brink of divorce. We were both tired of fighting and there appeared to no other solution to end the fighting but dissolving the marriage. This moment was a real eye opener for me.

What helped keep me going to some degree during this time was my job. As a futures trader, my work was very involving and in the moment. Believe it or not, it was also logical and predictable, in a mathematical sort of way. It could be explained and reasoned with and while doing it, I could leave all my troubles behind. But I couldn´t hide in my job forever.

I turned the corner at rock bottom when I realized that if I did not start controlling my emotions and start being honest with myself, my life as I knew it would change dramatically. It was on that day, a very cold one in December, that I realized that I was just too exhausted to continue to fight with myself and others. I couldn’t bear to face another year continuing on the same as the last. So, I stopped lying to myself and began to face the reality of my emotions.”

The second and final part of this guest series will be available Monday, March 19th.

GET HELP TODAY
Schedule a private consultation or second opinion with Dr. Turek to learn more about your treatment options and get all your questions answered.