For those not in the know, treatment doesn’t necessarily stop after surgery and chemo (and surgery again, or radiation or both). The medical world keeps laying down bricks and extending the path. What else do they want to do with my body? The answer: Hormone therapy. While I await details for surgery, my oncologist has given me the green light to start the next stage of treatment. A daily pill for the next ten years… no biggie *insert sarcasm*.
Let’s backtrack for a minute. I’ll put on my medical hat and try and explain things for you.
Certain types of cancers can be ‘hormone sensitive’. Initial testing of your cancer cells determines three things (apart from size and stage). The cancer is either positive or negative to: ER (oestrogen), PR (progesterone), and HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2). I was ER and PR positive, HER2 negative. I am, hormone sensitive. You may have heard the term ‘triple negative’. It is known to be a more aggressive type of cancer; hormone sensitive cancers are usually less aggressive. The patient would have tested negative to all three things (ER, PR, HER2). If I had a dollar for each time I was told I was lucky, it’s a good cancer to get. Even I’ve started saying it. It must be strange for others to hear, “I got the good type of cancer…”
Have I lost you yet?
Anyone who has hormone sensitive cancer (ER+ PR+) qualifies for hormone therapy. This is where tamoxifen comes into the picture. It’s a synthetic oestrogen, designed to stop the oestrogen your body produces from telling breast cancer cells to grow (so I’ve been told…). Hormone therapy has been used for over 30 years in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. There are promising reports that it can halve the chance of recurrence by up to 50%.
Here we are again, faced with the numbers game. I’ve spoken in the past about the fear of recurrence. It’s the reason I had my genes tested. The reason I struggled with my decision regarding radiation VS mastectomy. Taking tamoxifen seems like a logical option. Listen to the experts, do your research and trust to your intuition. I would like to say my intuition is telling me NOT to take the drug, but I think it’s fear.
Side effects VS benefits.
When I started on my quest to research the drug I was petrified reading about peoples’ experiences. Common side effects reported: hot flushes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and moodiness, to name a few. Then there is the risk of developing endometrial cancer and increased risk of blood clots in the legs, lung, or brain…again, no biggie. I’ve always taken other peoples’ comments with a grain of salt but documented side effects are another thing. Everyone is different. Every ‘body’ is different. I continued to research but continued to feel uneasy about the drug. I’ve endured chemo. Isn’t that enough? Do I really want/need to endure TEN years of not feeling myself? That’s what it comes down to. Yes it may reduce the chance of recurrence, but will I be happy? Will I be living my life to it’s fullest or will I be bogged down by the drug?
I’ve sought information through friends and other cancer patients. Majority of people have taken it. One lady refused it and recently celebrated her 5th year cancer-free. I follow her blog – she’s the one who did 100 air squats in her hospital room post surgery. Champion. There was also an article I found of a lady who refused tamoxifen, follows an anti-cancer diet and is still cancer-free.
So what to do? There’s no harm in trying, right? You don’t know unless you try it, right? Okay. Sign me up…I’ll give it a go. I have to believe that being active and keeping a good diet will counteract the side effects.
Now I have an excuse if I’m feeling moody – blame the tamoxifen.
** Side note: I get to stop taking tamoxifen if and when I decide to have children. Let’s see how many children I can have in the next ten years to avoid taking the drug. Seems like a good solution…