2007 Breast Cancer 3 Day

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's a Bitter Pill to Swallow

My oncologist was saved today because I was seen initially by his nurse practitioner. SHE was very helpful and actually seemed concerned about my issues. She apparently went back to him and relayed my concerns so when he talked with me his bedside manner was better than usual.

It boils down to this: I have considered myself through with cancer treatment. I thought of the drugs that I have been taking as a dose of prevention. The painful reality is that I am still in the middle of treatment or better yet, I'm in a treatment that will never end. My type of tumor was very aggressive. Even with all of the treatments/precautions we've taken, I have a serious risk of recurrence due to the cancer type as well as the positive genetic mutation. These little pills that are making me miserable are daily treating my body to kill any cancer cells forming. Unfortunately the nurse practitioner had to concede the fact that we don't know long term what these drugs are doing to the rest of my body. So it comes down to basically a roll of the dice--prevent breast cancer recurrence in the short term or possibly cause a different cancer in the long term. Not great options either way if you ask me.

So I caved in and agreed to change to a drug called Femara. It has the same potential side effects as Aromasin, but some women do better on this for some reason--some do worse. I will be going back to the doctor as scheduled in July for a follow-up. We will check my vitamin D levels then and also see how the Femara is working for me.

I'm not happy about any of it. I want to be finished with cancer. I don't want to have to keep fighting this disease. I want to leave it behind and not look back. I'm tired of taking pills. I'm tired of my body being chemically altered. I'm tired of the whole damn process. Oh and to add insult to injury the 10 pounds I've gained since the hysterectomy is normal. As if having cancer and all it's repercussions aren't bad enough, I have to start getting fat too. Thanks cancer--you really know how to make a girl cry.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's been a while...

As most cancer survivors know, cancer is always with you. As you get further down the road though you are blessed with days that you don't think about it and life almost seems normal again. I've been living many of those wonderful days not thinking about cancer. This in turn has made for poor blogging about cancer. Sometimes less is more...

I started taking Aromasin in February. It seemed to be working well for me. I have now come to realize that isn't true. About a month after beginning this drug I noticed that my hands were really hurting. They felt weak and stiff. The joints hurt. Like with any other symptom you write it off as something else. As the months have progressed, the pain has been spreading through the rest of my body. In the last week I have been in debilitating pain each morning when I get up. My genius husband (and I do say that with much love) said, "Maybe it's your medicine?" Ding-ding-ding...we have winner! Why it never occurred to me that I could be experiencing side effects is beyond me. Perhaps it's the brain damage that I suffered from chemo...and I'm serious when I say that.

I did a little research and sure enough one of the "contact your doctor if you experience this" side effects is muscle and bone pain. I have a call into my oncologist to see what he recommends. I am due to see him in July for a follow-up on my vitamin D levels. I didn't post about that before, but mine were extremely low. This is bad when you are fighting off osteoporosis due to a hysterectomy at 33. He has me on a mega-dose of D as well which could also be causing me the pain.

**My doctor just called and wants to see me tomorrow. I don't know if that's encouraging or should make me nervous.

Anyway, I've really been thinking about taking this aromatase inhibitor. I've never been big on taking medicine and I am wondering if it's really necessary. I know I will have a fight on my hands with my doctor--aren't they all hard-wired to prescribe medicine we should be taking? Ed and I talked about it though and unless my doctor can give my some very compelling evidence to continue taking it I don't think I'm going to. It is "helping" prevent recurrence, but what is it doing to the rest of my body. I aggressively treated my breast cancer with chemo and bilateral mastectomies. I even had an elective hysterectomy so that I wouldn't have all of that estrogen floating around in my system. I'm trying to continue fighting this disease but at what cost? If the effects of this drug are manifesting itself in debilitating bone pain what else is it doing to my liver, kidneys, and brain that I don't feel? How many years is this drug adding to my life or worse taking from it?

We'll be discussing this in tomorrow's meeting. It won't be pretty and I can predict that I will probably be looking for a new oncologist before it's all said and done.

To be continued tomorrow...