You know that story about the boiling frog? I think I was a little like that frog. Looking back at my own words, it was clear to see that I began having pain within weeks of beginning the tamoxifen, the maintenance drug for premenopausal women with estrogen receptive breast cancer. Tamoxifen is supposed to be taken for five years, but the pain became more and more of an issue. Since it was not constant, at least initially, I tended to ignore it, to push on through and keep going. I have a high threshold of pain, and I always felt this was a good thing. It got more and more severe, but like that frog, I simply endured the changes. I really didn't feel that I had a choice, I guess. I don't want to sit through a repeat of cancer, and Tamoxifen seemed to be what you do. So I did it. At least for a year and ten months, I did it.
This winter, when it began to get cold once again, things got very, very worse. So much so that my sleep was disrupted. Debbys, short sleeped, are not very high functioning critters. Keeping up with anything became a struggle. I was getting discouraged. Worst of all, the more tired I got, the more unable I was to ignore the pain, which had moved from my legs, into my hips. From my hips, it began to badly affect my back and neck. I knew that I had a problem one memorable night. After a day of classes and four hours of work, I came home, my neck so stiff that I could not turn my head.
When the oncologist asked, "Have you ever thought of stopping tamoxifen?" I could have answered 'Yes. Every single morning when I take it...' I didn't. I didn't want to sound like a smart aleck, but it's the truth really. I thought about not taking tamoxifen every day, and every day I thought, 'But gees. I don't want cancer again...' and I took that pill. This time though, hearing the question from her mouth instead of my own thoughts, my reply to her was not the same reply I'd been giving to myself. This time, I looked across the room, and I said, simply, 'Yes.' When she said, "We could give it a try, just for a couple of weeks and see if it makes a difference," my answer was immediate. "Yes," I said again.
Sometimes, I guess, a person just has to 'go with their guts,' and that's what I'm doing here. Initially, contemplating this decision in my own heart, fear guided my decision to suck it up and continue on. But Friday, there was no fear, just relief that the decision was made. I walked out of the office relieved. I walked to the car, and I was relieved. I called Tim and we discussed the decision. I think that he was relieved too.
Today just five days later, I cannot believe the difference. Most of the pain is just gone. I'm sleeping better, so I'm not so flipping exhausted. At school today, I knocked out another project, and I posted it on line. Going through my assignments, I realized that I'm getting ahead. That's a good feeling. At home, I polished my kitchen cupboards. Tonight, I'm folding laundry. I'm getting ahead here, too, and that's a good feeling. I took on a couple projects for myself: I'm sitting on a panel to encourage other adult learners who might be wavering about coming back to school. I'm working as a guide at a 'Dining in the Dark,' where people pay to have a gourmet meal, but eat it blindfolded to experience what it is like to have a visual impairment. In short, I'm feeling productive again, and whoooo boy! I cannot tell you how marvelous it feels. I'm coming back to life again, and I feel like spring personified.
Today at school, I had a 'moment'. I was eating my yogurt and marveling at how the pain has really, in large part, simply disappeared. I was busy being grateful for that fact. I thought to myself, "I will not take the tamoxifen again." I froze a little, holding my spoon, waiting for that prickle of fear, that little 'but...'
There was none.
Sometimes, sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut.