My Friend Tamoxifen
It’s incredible how much I appreciate my normal little life now. Tasks that once seemed monotonous like going to work or doing “the big shop” bring me such pleasure. During chemo these things felt like a struggle, now they feel like a reward.
Trying to forge a normal life whilst undergoing treatment does present some challenges though. I shrugged off the long list of side effects associated with Tamoxifen. Surely anything had to be better than chemo and now that surgery’s off the table I don’t have a 3-6 months of recovery time to dread.
Tamoxifen’s a hormonal treatment and they say the side effects mimic menopause; hot flushes, fatigue, mood swings. It took me a while to figure out what the hell was going on. Turns out your hormones control everything. Temper. Weight. Even bone density!
Oestrogen is one of many hormones released by the adrenal gland during a fight or flight response. Sometimes I get anxious butterflies in my chest for seemingly no reason at all. This can affect my breathing, like I’m constantly on the cusp of a panic attack. It also means I can’t drink coffee anymore because I get all jittery and weird.
Then there’s the meltdowns. These tend to happen if I overdo it, not in a physical way. It’s more like sensory overload. My brain gets tired and if I ignore the nagging fatigue mental exhaustion hits. Then I start crying and I can’t stop. Yesterday I had a meltdown in Tesco. I won’t bore you with the details, let’s just say an irate checkout assistant got more than she’d bargained for.
I feel everything now. This heightened sensitivity is my superpower. Last week I watched a group of students performing a graduation haka. It was so powerful I had to lock myself in the toilet cubicle and have a little cry. I get chocked up at the sight of my boyfriend hugging an old school friend. Not sure there’s anything on this earth more beautiful than man love.
Hormonal imbalance has certainly made my relationship more interesting. I’m perpetually pre-menstrual now. Often a complete bitch until I realise that I am in fact being ridiculous. Shane’s grown used to the ramblings of a mad woman, that man has the patience of a saint.
I’m back in the UK for Christmas at the moment, a time of year when emotions run high anyway, Tamoxifen or not. I’ll be spending the holidays with my fabulous family and no doubt I’ll start crying at some point. I welcome these tears, they only serve to remind me how lucky I am.
Despite all its faults the treatment seems to be working. In the past 4 months my cancer’s remained stable, it hasn’t spread. I’ll continue to take Tamoxifen until it stops working and in the mean time I hope to embrace this mixed array of emotions. There are sad tears, happy tears, thankful tears and exhausted tears and when I laugh, I laugh hard. I suppose you just have to take the good with the bad.