I am three years breast cancer free as of June 1st. I am on Tamoxifen three years as of October. Because I had the full hysterectomy in late March I am now considered post-menopausal which means the efficacy of Tamoxifen for me has changed. Aromatese Inhibitors (Arimidex, Femera, Aromasin) are my future because well face it, my body has changed again and these are the drug family most effective for me for the next two years.
I have another friend who is literally on the same path, my friend Melinda. We have been talking about which Aromatase Inhibitor will be chosen by each of our oncologists for us. The side effects this time are daunting for me although I won’t fight taking the drug. Curtain number one, curtain number two, or curtain number three?
Yes for two more years I can suck it up because the alternative, a potential for recurrence, is highly distasteful to me. It’s just my body has been through so much change since this started with my initial breast cancer diagnosis. And I think before I experienced the joys (sarcasm) of Tamoxifen I was less trepidatious about the drugs. But now I do get anxious once in a while and I think I have to own that to work through it, which is why I am writing this today.
I read things written by people who have just come through surgery and treatment in the form of radiation and chemotherapy who say things like they are cured and cancer-free. While that all may be true in the end,and you don’t want to burst their bubble, next comes staying that way and unfortunately it all isn’t positive thinking. It’s that and a lot of other stuff.
My body has changed as much as I am forever changed by this disease. For the most part I am grateful and positive, but some days I am tired and frustrated. The weight gain issues with breast cancer drugs while manageable are enough some days to send you towards having an eating disorder. For example, because I was never able to have children I never experienced food cravings…until now. I am glad my endocrinologist who was also a survivor warned me.
Then there is the random occasional joint pain, sleeplessness, hot flashes, and occasional inner emotional turmoil. I apologize, I am not trying to scare the crap out of people new to this journey called breast cancer because the truth is everything is manageable and some never experience side effects. This is just me, venting. As with everything in life there are good days and bad days.
Big picture is I am alive and healthy and cancer-free. I look at this as five years of inconvenience and then I can have more of me back.
I think my other issue is me psychologically adjusting to menopause. That and being sick of seeing commercials for erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness. Have you noticed there are more commercials about drugs for these things than tampons?
The Today Show on NBC did a series all week on being 50. Some of it was interesting and a lot of it was irritating because I felt bad for one of the news team who was a constant focus, Hoda Kotb (who is also a survivor).
Being 50 is still a weird concept to me because I remember being 16, 20, and so on. I have as a matter of fact in the past few months discovered a writer who is my age, a survivor and as funny as hell and she makes sense….or she does to me.
Her name is Diane Mapes, and she also contributed to this being 50 thing on the Today Show’s website. This essay was awesome, here’s an excerpt:
….The truth is by the time you turn 50, things do start to happen. And by things, I mean gravity starts to go all “Game of Thrones” on your body. Everything begins to drop, except your blood pressure and cholesterol, and you suddenly understand why Nora Ephron felt bad about her neck….I feel bad about a lot of things, including the fact that I sometimes feel bad about my body. We’re supposed to love our bodies, embrace our “battle scars.” But I’ve been at war the last three years and I freely admit to having mixed feelings about the woman staring back at me in the mirror. I got hit with breast cancer in the spring of 2011. Lost both the girls to surgery, all my body hair to chemo and by the time I finished radiation, my chest looked like I’d had a run-in with one of Khaleesi’s dragons. The burns eventually faded and most of my hair grew back but the breasts were another matter. Rebuilding those takes time. And, as they say, “work.” Right now I’m in the middle of reconstruction and my chest looks and feels like I’m wearing a coconut bra under my skin.
So I can honestly tell you I am glad I didn’t have to deal with dating and breast cancer at the same time. And I enjoy reading her perspective because we started on the whole circus of breast cancer around the same time and she writes in an amazingly positive and humerous manner. But what she says about her body and the changes she has gone through, I totally get.
Diane Mapes is having reconstruction, and a couple of friends who had partial mastectomies like me are also going to have reconstruction. I have opted not to do this. Mostly because the idea of another surgery is wholly unappealing. Part of it is also because to me fake boobs, well…..always look fake.
When you have had breast cancer you (I hate to say it) start to look at the boobs of others. You learn to spot a fellow survivor at twenty paces and wonder if the fake boobs are a problem when you get a mammogram. For that I actually asked my technician and she said it can be very uncomfortable for women with fake boobs because basically the implant gets sort of shoved as much aside as possible to get the mammography images. To me that sounds dreadful. I hate it enough that post-surgery the mammogram kind of hurts when they are doing my left breast.
I still remember when I was just through my surgery all the helpful and unsolicited plastic surgeon recommendations I received from non-survivors and non-medical professionals. I wasn’t even out of the surgery bandages and people were telling me about boob jobs and plastic surgeons. It was almost upsetting and my rational mind always knew they were only trying to be helpful. But sometimes, inside my head, I was silently saying “shut up already!”
I look in the mirror and yes I am lopsided. But I am alive, and I just don’t see myself with fake boobs. I figure I am already luckier than most because my breast surgeon was an artist and I truly have very little in the way of residual scarring. The only scar you see is a tiny line under my left arm where they took the lymph node out.
Just because I am opting not to have reconstruction it doesn’t mean that I am judging those who have or are going to have e surgery. It’s just not for me. Although I do envy them in one sense as they will have a much easier time finding bras. Finding a bra that is comfortable is a pain in the ass.
I will tell you I discovered a bra I wish I had known about when I was post surgery and going through radiation because I could have worn it. It is seamless and wireless, and doesn’t give you a uni-boob like a sports bra. It’s called an Ahh Bra by Rhonda Shear. I bought the one with NO lace, just plain, and it’s comfortable. It has been since before my surgery that I found a bra comfortable.
Before I go, I have two articles from BreastCancer.org I wish to point out, which are relevant to what I was writing about in part today:
Electroacupuncture Helps Ease Fatigue, Anxiety, and Depression in Women Taking Aromatase
Published on August 1, 2014 at 6:46 AM
Choosing Not to Have Reconstruction — Are You the Only One? Breastcancer.org
By Barbara Kriss on July 31st, 2014
Categories: Treatment & Side Effects
To read more of what Diane Mapes writes check out her blog Single Shot Seattle a lot of her breast cancer specific writing on her blog can be found under the “breast cancer crap” category which as a category name cracks me up.
I also need to mention that this summer I have had a lot of women coming to me with questions about being a patient going through breast cancer treatment. Every experience is different, but my best advice is to be your own advocate is key. You have to NOT be afraid to open your mouth and ask questions. We are not pink robots, ladies. Also listen to your doctors and don’t try to be Wonder Woman….and use your radiation creams!
I think I have finally written my over-thinking brain out of my system for the day. After all my whining I will tell you I remain positive and I know I am one of the lucky ones. My sweet man is an amazing forever life partner and my step son is very awesome in his own right.
For all the inconveniences and body changes the thing called breast cancer has caused, as I have said before, in a weird way it has also been good for me and freed me. I know I am lucky and have an awesome life (and garden!) but having breast cancer has ultimately told me that being positive and doing the work to be that way is indeed worth it.
Yes ladies, I am 50, hear me roar.
Thanks for stopping by!