I’ve been a little stuck on the negative side effects of Tamoxifen. But none of my doctors seem concerned. My oncologist and my breast surgeon agree that the risk of not taking it outweighs the risk of getting sidelined by blood clots or uterine cancer or bone loss. I know I have to trust them on this, but those are some scary side effects.
The truth is, most women tolerate the drug with little or no problem. I was kind of half-heartedly complaining to a friend yesterday. “I know it’s infinitely preferable to chemo, but it still sucks,” I said.
“The whole cancer thing totally sucks at every turn,” she agreed. “But with regard to a shit situation, so far at every fork in the road you have been able to take the better of two bad roads. I know you know that. And I hate that you have to take it, but the positives outweigh the risks.”
I think that just about sums it up.
I have been able to take the better of two bad roads. Not needing chemo or radiation is such an incredible gift — a life-altering gift. And though my surgery was THE big one, I’m pretty proud of how quickly I am recovering. I can’t believe how much stronger I feel, how close to normal everything seems.
On Monday, my oncologist — Dr. S, for those who are keeping score — walked us through the protocol for starting Tamoxifen. Because developing uterine cancer is a known risk, I will need to be monitored every year via an ultrasound. I will also need to be on the lookout for swelling in my legs, shortness of breath and a laundry list of other warning signs. I have been taking a low dose of an anti-anxiety med because, hello?… but I need to come off of it. Tamoxifen and happy pills don’t agree. Which is kind of a shame when you think about it.
Whether I have to stay on the Tamoxifen for five or ten years is still to be determined. The research is evolving. At some point post-menopause, I’ll have to switch to one of the aromatase inhibitors. They more or less do the same thing by decreasing the amount of estrogen in the body. I would have thought that post-menopause, your body stops producing estrogen on its own, but I must have missed that high school science lesson. The ovaries are just the primary source. They have lots of helper organs and glands and other internal thingies that keep generating hormones. And with my kind of cancer, hormones are the enemy.
In other news, I’ve been cleared to go to LA this summer by all my doctors. Assuming everything goes smoothly with booking our flights, we’ll spend the month of July in sunny So Cal. I usually have a long list of things I want to do, but I think I’ll be more than happy to spend this summer doing little more than enjoying my time with family and friends.
It’s still pretty cold here. Officially spring, but not quite. The trees are bare and the temps are struggling to climb out of the 30s and 40s. I keep reminding myself that I’ll be on the West Coast soon enough.
A particularly sweet reward considering the winter we’ve had.