Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A bitter pill

I had a follow-up appointment with my oncologist a few days before we left on our Myrtle Beach vacation in June. She gave me a prescription and also a two-week supply of the estrogen-blocking hormone pill (Arimidex) that I'm to take for the next five years. She agreed that I could wait to start taking it until after I returned from vacation.

So, I waited. And then, when we returned on June 26, I waited some more. And then another week went by and I was still waiting. It's odd, because with the chemo, I was kind of anxious to get started. My mantra became, "The sooner we start, the sooner it's over." The 7 weeks of radiation? "The sooner we start, the sooner it's over."

Well, you could make the same case for the hormone therapy. The "sooner, sooner" theory. But it's hard to tag five years with the word "sooner". We're talking long-haul here. And while chemo and radiation both had their possible side effects, they were temporary. But with these little white pills come all sorts of possible undesirable companions: insomnia; joint disorder; hot flashes. It gets worse. Check out the laundry list of possible adverse reactions:
1. Asthenia (no clue what that is, but pretty sure I don't want it)
2. Reduced bone density (osteoporosis)
3. Fractures (see #2)
4. Joint pain (for my cortisone-injected knees?)
5. Abdominal pain
6. Chest pain
7. Hypertension
8. Nausea
9. Dyspepsia (irritability?)
10. Arthralgia (again: huh? and no thanks)
11. Myalgia (don't they hawk something on TV for that?)
12. Arthrosis (????)
13. Depression
14. Bone pain
15. Hypercholesterolemia (translation: elevated cholesterol)
16. Cyst
17. Anxiety

Well, who wouldn't be depressed and anxious after looking at that list -- and it's only partial. There are about 66 possible adverse reactions listed, and that's before I decided not to turn the page for more. Among them -- are you ready? -- breast pain and endometrial cancer. And I've saved the most unacceptable for last: weight gain! C'mon! That's just cruel.

How can one little pill pack so much potential evil doing?

So, I waited some more. And finally, I took the first pill Sunday night. Tonight will be my third pill. Who knows what's brewing inside this old carcass, but, so far, to my knowledge, no asthenia, arthralgia or arthrosis -- whatever they might be. No neoplasm either, that I'm aware of. But if I see one crawl by, I'll be on it with a flyswatter.

With a little luck, in five years this little poison pill and I will have warded off a recurrence of breast cancer, but potentially every other body part will have collapsed into a powder and I'll have a skin rash to boot.

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