bonds & tamoxifen

Sometimes the only way to end a week arguing with doctors about your surgery date is to share a bottle of really good wine with someone who you may never have become friends with if it weren’t for cancer. These people come into your life suddenly and without warning, becoming people who’s friendship is deeply and instantly and awesomely important. Cancer bonds. They aren’t like regular bonds, they are a thousand times stronger and forged in the instant that two people inhabiting the same space utter, together, that there is/was cancer lurking. Cancer can make bonds risky, because the possibility that one or both of you could perish in the near future is in your face real, and is basically the reason you can bond so quickly, because you share an understanding of this absolutely insane, totally inconceivable to everyone else reality. And so last night I went out with my cancer-bonded friend Julia. She is one of the ones who gets it. She can pour wine and lament the randomness and toast the end of chemo in a single breath. I am grateful.

The kind of information these cancer friends have is invaluable. A common side effect of chemo, and of hormone therapy- read, tamoxifen- is hot flashes. I am unsure whether I have had these or not. Julia informed me hot flashes “kind of feel like a hot yoga rush.”Because she agrees with me that seven weeks is too long to wait from the end of chemo until my surgery, Dr. G. prescribed me tamoxifen early. Tamoxifen is a drug that will block the production of estrogen in my body. For the next ten years. Ten years. The first night I took it, I was hot. So hot.

Image

So now I’m wearing tank tops in the rain, and swallowing a drug that will put me in false menopause for ten years, and taking a lot of vitamin D in hopes of saving my bones from osteoporosis. Yah, that’s right. A four page laundry list of side effects, including blood clots, weakened bones, joint pain, swollen hands, hot flashes, and so much more was given to me when I picked up my three-month supply of this drug. It has a very low compliance rate- 25% of folks choose not to take the estrogen blocker, preferring to take their chances at a life well lived with estrogen. For three days, I’ve complied. I could write an entire blog post on tamoxifen, but mostly I feel ambivalence. I’m afraid of having a recurrence, certainly, and so I swallow the pill, and I wonder how each tiny white tablet will wreck havoc inside of my system. How long will it take, and for what kind of uncertainty? People have recurrences, on and off tamoxifen. It lowers rate of recurrence by 10%. Percents only matter when you’re on the right side, though. Ambivalence, indeed.

Image

Because she agrees with me that seven weeks is too long to wait from the end of chemo until my surgery, Dr. G. prescribed me tamoxifen early. Tamoxifen is a drug that will block the production of estrogen in my body. For the next ten years. Ten years. The first night I took it, I was hot. So hot. Julia informed me hot flashes “kind of feel like a hot yoga rush.” So now I’m wearing tank tops in the rain, and swallowing a drug that will put me in false menopause for ten years, and taking a lot of vitamin D in hopes of saving my bones from osteoporosis. Yah, that’s right. A four page laundry list of side effects, including blood clots, weakened bones, joint pain, swollen hands, hot flashes, and so much more was given to me when I picked up my three-month supply of this drug. It has a very low compliance rate- 25% of folks choose not to take the estrogen blocker, preferring to take their chances at a life well lived with estrogen. For three days, I’ve complied. I could write an entire blog post on tamoxifen, but mostly I feel ambivalence. I’m afraid of having a recurrence, certainly, and so I swallow the pill, and I wonder how each tiny white tablet will wreck havoc inside of my system. How long will it take, and for what kind of uncertainty? People have recurrences, on and off tamoxifen. It lowers rate of recurrence by 10%. Percents only matter when you’re on the right side, though. Hard to know. And so I swallow.

Ambivalence, indeed.

 

 

 

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