Saturday, February 28, 2015

Radiation, Week Four

Kramer as a roasted turkey has returned, which I think is exponentially more amusing than my calendar with 19 roastings crossed off. Twelve more to go. 

Today, I had a port flush (I will be keeping my port in place for at least another year. The reasons will follow in a few weeks) and blood work. I also met with my medical oncologist, and we had an interesting discussion about life after radiation. 

Originally, my doctor told me that I would be taking the estrogen-inhibiting drug, Tamoxifen, for at least five years. This drug is usually given to pre-menopausal women to prevent a recurrence of estrogen-positive breast cancer. Tamoxifen, like almost every other prescription drug, has some side effects, which include hot flashes, blood clots, the possibility of uterine cancer, and others.

I'm now picking this up on Saturday.

Yesterday, our discussion included alternatives to a five year course of Tamoxifen, which might consist of two years of taking the drug, and then taking an aromatase inhibitor for another three years. An aromatase inhibitor also stops estrogen production, but in a different way, and also with side effects. Then he spoke about the possibility of giving me the drug Lupron, which takes the process a step further by putting me into full-blown menopause. Lupron is also given to men suffering from prostate cancer, to slow the progress of the disease. I would receive that every three months by injection for a couple of years, and then I would be assessed to determine if I am post-menopausal.

Then came the most drastic option, which would be having my ovaries removed. I was kind of surprised that he presented this as a choice, since my genetic test came back negative for the BRCA gene. The more I've thought about it over the past 24 hours, the more I see the logic behind that choice; I willingly parted with my breasts to reduce the possibility of recurrence, and since my cancer was estrogen-positive, why not remove the last estrogen-producing body part I have, rather than bombing it with more drugs? Of course, I have not made any decisions yet, other than agreeing to go with Lupron as opposed to Tamoxifen to start, and then I will consider permanently closing down my egg farm. I'm turning 48 in May, so the likelihood of one of those eggs being fertilized is nil.

As liberating as it will be to end the hardcore treatment phase of this journey, I'm coming to terms with the fact that having breast cancer will be with me in other ways for a very long time. Emotionally, it has changed my perspective on so many things, and physically, I have an entirely new attitude towards my body. There is so much living left to do, and I want to do everything I can to ensure that there will not be more revolts staged. It's my body, and I can do what I feel is best for it.

One day, I will be too old, and too decrepit to do much of anything. Until then, stay the fuck out of my way.



  1. Yep - for me the choice would not be difficult at all. I am not using these ovaries and, in fact, their uneven shutdown (a.k.a. menopause) is pretty tiresome. I know there are advantages to keeping the little buggers, but my inclination would be to get rid of them and not have to undergo more drug side effects (as opposed to side effects your body itself creates). But I'm glad you have choices, agonizing as they may feel. I'm glad you have medical folks who respect your ability to make them. And I'm glad you're on the downhill slope of roasting. - EW

  2. It sounds as though your oncologist is really great about listening and informing. Very glad to hear that. Your decision makes perfect sense to me. Having watched a loved ones go through chemo and radiation now, I'm pretty sure I would choose just about any surgery offered to avoid them. I'd feel a lot more confident about my ability to recover from a surgery than to get through either of those. You're doing great, honey. I've learned so much from you, so thanks for that.