August 13, 2014, was my one-year cancerversary of the day cancer was cut out of my body through bilateral mastectomy. At that milestone I began to question my decision of quitting the hormone blocker, for the simple reason that so many people in my family have had or succumbed to cancer. I began to fear my decision to stop Tamoxifen could be increasing my chances of cancer recurring.
I was happy to be alive on that anniversary, making it through the year of multiple visits to the breast surgeon, oncologist and plastic surgeon. I was content to sever the relationship with my breasts and not require chemo or radiation. But I began to fear death, a fear which I believe I absolutely, totally ignored during that year as I focused on becoming “whole” again.
I honestly never gave a thought to dying. Dying was an unacceptable outcome and I never entertained any thoughts about what life might be like for my husband and children if I were to die. I closed that path of thinking, sealed it with impenetrable, air-tight, thought-proof doors. But, for some reason, a month after my first cancerversary, on my birthday, all of my fears came rushing to the forefront of my brain and for the first time since my diagnosis, I feared death and decided that I had better quit gambling with my life and start taking my hormone blocker, Tamoxifen, again.
Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker and should work well in preventing any recurrence of my type of breast cancer, it is the same drug that my mother took for the rest of her life when she had breast cancer. By the way, Mom lived to be 92. So, once again, I began taking Tamoxifen, convincing myself that there must have been other reasons for my side effects, which I had not documented.
June 12, 2014, I was diagnosed with a macular hole; that diagnosis was the beginning of three eye surgeries, the first, to repair the macular hole, the second, cataract surgery on that same eye – cataracts typically develop after macular hole surgery. The third surgery was to remove a cataract from the other eye. Note – cataracts are considered a “severe” side-effect of Tamoxifen. Cornea disease and blood clots of the retina are also possible severe side-effects of Tamoxifen. I can only pray that I do not suffer more eye problems as a result of taking this drug.
Feeling weak, vaginal dryness, weight gain, blood clots, stroke, high calcium in the blood, depression and high triglycerides are but a few of Tamoxifen’s other possible side-effects. Of these, I have experienced fatigue, vaginal dryness, weight gain, depression and through the results of a recent blood test, triglycerides that are off the chart!
Besides an unbelievable history of cancer in my family, there is also an outstanding incidence of stroke and heart disease. I was nearly blown into another reality when I saw the results of my recent blood test! That was it! I made my final, hopefully life-saving, decision to stop taking Tamoxifen. Weighing the odds of which disease to die from, as if I have a choice, I feared living life as a partially paralyzed stroke patient (like some relatives of mine) or a BLIND, paralyzed stroke victim.
I feel it’s almost like choosing my own death which is ridiculous, I mean, a plane could drop out of the sky and land on me in my backyard, or more than likely, I could die in a car wreck. But, if those things do not happen, I choose to make the most of my life in between now and my eventual, inevitable demise. I choose to NOT suffer Tamoxifen’s side-effects any longer.
I might still end up with cancer, I might still end up with heart disease, but, if it is due to my genes, that is out of my control, some day it may not be uncontrollable but for now, it is. I am supervising control insofar as lessening the chances of further and worsening incidents of Tamoxifen’s side-effects, by not taking the drug anymore.
Note to self: Remember! Mark this in memory that I have written this experience so that I do not forget “why” I have chosen to stop Tamoxifen.
Here is the Hormone Blocker Effects (in xls format, readable in Libre or Open Office Calc) document I compiled, comparing Tamoxifen’s side-effects to the other hormone blockers offered to women like me. I found Tamoxifen’s side-effects to be a shorter list than the other drugs’ side-effects.