(17-02-16) Quantity Vs Quality

“…but you NEED to take it.”

I’ve heard this statement a lot over the past month or two.  Whenever i tell a friend, a relative, or a doctor that i don’t like the side effects from Tamoxifen, their first response is reminding me that i “need to take it.”

So let me remind you about one of the things you probably love AND hate about me the most:

I do what i want.

Now tell me again what i “need” to do?

I get it.  You don’t want my cancer to come back.  We’re in the same boat with that one.  Cancer treatment fucking sucks, and i would definitely like to avoid having to travel down that path ever again.  But you know what else fucking sucks?  Being miserable. Being miserable fucking sucks, and sometimes when you find yourself being miserable day after day after day, at some point it’s probably a good idea to figure out how to STOP being miserable.

Will Tamoxifen help me live longer?  Possibly.  I mean, that’s the point of the drug – to stop cancer cells from binding to my estrogen and thus being able to grow all throughout my body.  However, it’s not 100% guaranteed.  I could take that effin pill every day for ten years straight, but then still end up with cancer again at some point.  And in the meantime, that pill just got to spend an entire decade wreaking havoc on my body and spirit.  I mean, i’ve only been taking it for a few months, and this is what i’ve noticed:

  • I gained 12 pounds in two months.  My body fat was 1% away from being considered “overweight.”  Fat deposits were collecting in my abdomen and thighs, in a way they hadn’t before.
  • Joint pain was suddenly an issue.  Seriously – joint pain?  I am thirty-seven freaking years old.  I am young and athletic.  It shouldn’t hurt to stand up in the morning.
  • My insomnia was becoming medication-resistant again, just like when i was going through chemotherapy.  How many of you are okay with me doubling or tripling up on my sleeping meds on a regular basis?  … ‘cuz that’s what i was doing multiple times per week.
  • Hot flashes and night sweats infuriated me.  I know it seems silly, but YOU try standing in a desert and having 18 hot flashes in one day and see if you’re not ready to kill the next person who looks at you strangely.
  • Depression and anxiety cycles were creeping up on me more and more.  You know what increases depression?  Body image issues and lack of proper exercise.  You know what increases anxiety?  Insufficient amounts of sleep and lack of proper exercise.  It’s all creating its own little cycle, and i’m standing here, watching it all go ’round and ’round, feeling powerless to stop it.

In the end, it’s not worth it to me.  Many of you may not agree with my decision, but i’m choosing quality of life over quantity.

I haven’t taken the Tamoxifen since January 25.  In these past three weeks, i’ve lost 6 pounds, seen a slight improvement in my sleep cycles, dealt with half as many hot flashes, and noticed how much better my emotions/moods have been.  Dr. Curley prescribed me a different option, Femara, which i picked up from the pharmacy on January 30 but never bothered to even open.  For now, i’m going to try to fight cancer recurrence through diet and exercise.  Trying to completely eliminate sugar from my diet has been, HANDS DOWN, the hardest thing i’ve ever tried to do in my life, by the way … but i’d choose this battle over taking Tamoxifen any day.

(17-01-27) Weight Gain

After repeated Internet research, consultations with an oncology exercise specialist and an oncology nutritionist this week, five days of obsessive-compulsively logging my food and exercise, and a heart-to-heart with my oncologist, my fear has been validated:

The Tamoxifen is causing my weight gain.

9 pounds in six weeks.  12 pounds since October.  This is not an acceptable option for me.

I requested to meet with Dr. Curley to discuss alternatives.  “You need to be on Tamoxifen,” he tells me, before explaining to me once again that without taking a medication to block the estrogen in my body, my chances of recurrence are high.  My particular cancer NEEDS estrogen to survive.

I stare at him, unblinking.  “Yeah, yeah, i understand this … but i need YOU to understand that what i am currently doing to try to keep myself from gaining more weight is not sustainable, and it’s borderline unhealthy.  Going to the gym 1.5-3 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, and eating 1500 calories or less is not going to work long term  … and if i gain any more weight, you and i both know i will just abruptly stop taking these meds.”

We go back and forth about this for a while, stuck in our own perspectives of what is “best” for me.  He sees “keeping the cancer away” as best for me.  I see “being proud of what i look and feel like”  as best for me.  We are not on the same page; i get that.  Still, in the end, i am the one who gets to make the decision, and i am not willing to take this drug for the next 9.5 YEARS if it’s adding 4-5 pounds a MONTH.

In the end, we reached a compromise.  I agreed to take a smaller dosage of the drug every OTHER day.  Meanwhile, he’s testing my blood to see if i am eligible for a different type of estrogen-blocking medication.  I agreed to spend the next three weeks strictly abiding by the food and strength training plans that the oncology nutrition and exercise specialists laid out for me, and he agreed that we would figure out a different plan if i gain any more weight in those next three weeks.

I went home and hosted a book club social at my house that evening.  I overindulged in food throughout the night, snacking continuously on cheese and crackers, vegetables and hummus, dark chocolate, 1/3 of a vegetarian burrito, and 4 ounces of tequila.  2,531 calories for the day – way over my daily limit, but hey, at least i burned 591 calories from being on the elliptical for an hour.  That has to count for something, right??

This morning, the scale showed i had gained 2 pounds.

I didn’t take my Tamoxifen.

(17-01-22) Menopause @ 37

Hot flashes.  Mood swings.  No more periods.  These were the three pillars of menopause, as far as i was concerned.  I remember being in 8th grade and watching one of my best friend’s moms go through this.  We would run up to Lizz’s bedroom and laugh after watching Mrs. Gloner stick her head in a freezer to cool down.  We would turn our faces away and pretend we couldn’t hear her extensively screaming at one of the children for some minor offense.  We would sit beside her and console her silently when she broke down into hysterical sobbing.  This is what we knew of menopause; sure the hot flashes and mood swings were enough to turn a relatively stable womyn crazy, but at least there were no more periods.


  1.  Menopause messes with your weight.
    Menopause lowers my estrogen level, which affects my lean mass and my bone density.  Suddenly, despite exercising 6 days a week (typically for 1.5-2.25 hours each time), i am GAINING weight.  So i adjust my diet.  Nothing.  So i adjust how i use weight lifting machines.  Nothing.  So i get more sleep.  Nothing.  So i get less sleep.  Nothing.  So i use pre-workout mix before the gym.  Nothing.  It’s been six weeks now of intensively working out, and i am still a good five pounds overweight.
    *** I’ve been hesitant to discuss this with anyone.  Most of the womyn in my life are bigger than i am, and they probably don’t want to hear some skinny bitch talk about how she can’t fit into her size 4 skirts anymore.  So… let me break this down another way.  I just spent the last year getting sliced open and surgically implanted and constantly drugged.  I lost my hair and breasts and one of my implants – essentially losing my sense of femininity.  I lost my energy, strength, and the muscle mass that i had literally spent the last two decades cultivating.  Now here i am a year later, all scarred up and weak and squishy and physically deformed … and all i have been wanting to do for the last five months of treatment is start putting my returning energy to good use at the gym so that i could get back to looking and feeling like myself.  Except no matter how much i monitor what i eat, how much i eat, and when i eat, and no matter how many days i play racquetball or hike or lift weights or climb 123 flights of stairs on the StairMaster or run 7 miles on the elliptical at a resistance level of 12, I STILL CAN’T GET BACK TO LOOKING LIKE ME.
  2. Menopause messes with your sex drive.  
    Sex used to be fun – right?  I mean, I’m pretty sure i liked it.  I’m pretty sure that there were periods in my life when i associated with some pretty questionable people *because* of it.  But now?  Now, i don’t think about it.  I don’t want it.  I don’t miss it.  And when i find myself about to engage in it, i dissociate from it.  My parts and my drive have both dried up…at 37 years old…seriously, living another 3-6 decades without ongoing sex is going to turn me into the biggest bitch anyone has ever seen.  I already know.
  3. Menopause messes with your ability to watch television like a normal human.  
    If i cry over a Subaru commercial one more time, i seriously might throw my computer monitor through my bedroom window.  And can someone please tell me WHY the plights of vampires and werewolves are so overwhelmingly emotional to me?  (Okay, that’s always been true.  I’m just trying to figure out why we’re all so obsessed with these types of shows.)  Seriously, though.  I’m *always* crying about some character, or actress, or plot twist, or commercial break.  I get these breakouts on my face whenever i cry, and for the last two months, there has been this permanent trail of whiteheads along the right-side edge of my face, a testament to me lying in bed in fetal position, crying over yet another scenario that isn’t even real.
  4. Menopause messes with your appetite.
    I might be making this one up.  I just can’t figure out why all i ever want to do is eat, even when i am not even fucking hungry.
  5. Menopause messes with your sleep.  
    I’ve honestly had insomnia since i was an infant.  My mother will attest to this.  I take comfort in reading articles about how people who sleep less are typically more intelligent than the average person.  Still, it’s annoying.  I take a lot of drugs (prescribed and otherwise) to get normal amounts of sleep.  It used to be that as long as i didn’t drink alcohol that night, and i abstained from coffee after 11am, and i worked out that day, and i took some melatonin an hour before taking 1-2 sleeping meds, i would eventually fall asleep and STAY asleep for 6-7 hours.
    Not anymore.
    Now i still wake up throughout the night to pee or stress or wonder if the latest episode of Scandal is available on the Hulu website yet or think about how many more pets i will have in the course of my lifetime.  I wake up, even while drugged on the highest allowed dosages of prescription medications, and i stay up – compelled to stay in bed just in case i do get tired again, but fully aware that this will be yet another night where i’ll be missing out on at least one REM cycle.
    I even wake up early now.  Automatically.  No matter what time i went to sleep the night before.  “Sleeping in” used to mean waking up in the P.M. hours.  Now, “sleeping in” means not waking up before the sunrise.
  6. Menopause messes with your finances. 
    I’m already hungry from extreme exercising, and emotional after watching all this TV drama, and irritable because i stopped giving my body bursts of oxytocin and sex-induced endorphins … and now my sleep is further disrupted because these hot flashes are suffocating me all night?  Sleep-deprived Tarah typically uses her insomnia to peruse the Internet … which leads to Internet shopping … which leads to things like a $700 purchase of sheets and a mattress pad that are specifically designed for thermally incompatible couples but seem like they could also work well for a menopausal Party of One.  The sheets and pad are pretty damn cooling … but yeah.  I’ve noticed a significant increase in my impulsive purchases.  (That reminds me: Where the hell is that Himalayan sea salt lamp with the built-in dimmer switch?  That should have been delivered by now, and i need that to balance out the ions in my bedroom atmosphere!)
  7. Menopause messes with ALL OF YOUR BODY PARTS.
    It’s not just the weight and the vagina and the hormones.  My skin is dry…and dehydrated-looking.  It itches.  My hair is growing back with a vengeance, but there are still patches on my scalp where it’s barely visible.  I sweat in places i never even considered – like at my knees.  My bones ache … like, for no actual reason.
  8. Menopause messes with your memory.  
    Chemobrain was pretty terrible, but i continually reminded myself that it was only temporary.  Little did i know that chemobrain would leave, only to be replaced by memory problems brought on by menopause.  I had trouble remembering all the names of my exes even BEFORE my cancer treatment started.  Now it’s downright impossible.

I always knew the time would come when my body and mind would start to slow down, affecting my appearance, sex life, feelings, and mind.  I really just never considered what it would be like to go through all this before i even hit 40.