WHEN SUPERWOMAN LOSES HER CAPE

It’s been a little over three months since my treatments ended, and almost three months since I’ve been on Tamoxifen.  It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure.

I have a love/hate relationship with Tamoxifen.  I love that it has the potential to keep breast cancer from ever coming back, but I hate how I feel about 10 days a month.  Of course, it’s hormone related and it’s brutal.  For most of the month I have good days.  My energy is increasing and I feel better in general.  Then, HELL WEEK starts. 

PMS has gone from a two day annoyance to an all out war with my hormones.  During HELL WEEK I alternately want to tear phone books in half and smite people (my tolerance for stupid and the judgmental is non-existent) or I want to crawl into bed with a box of tissues and cry myself to sleep, or cry reading the news, or while watching football, or sob during Happy Feet commercials.

Tamoxifen intensifies anything I ever experienced related to my cycle, but it’s only been a few years that I’ve had anything remotely intense.  When I was in college, I never got PMS of any kind while my friends had cramps and crying and mild/or violent mood swings.  I was so oblivious to what other women endured that M (who shall remain nameless because she might not remember she did this) put a curse on my children that they be born breech so I’d at least be able to commiserate with some pain related to my female reproductive parts.

HELL WEEK got so bad last month I almost stopped functioning completely.  I was nearly hysterical one night because I couldn’t stop crying (for no reason).  I wrote an email to one of my closest friends stating:  Is it bad that I hate the way Tamoxifen makes me feel so much that I don’t want to take it anymore and I’d rather take my chances with cancer?

I was serious.

My oncologist, upon hearing this news, was not amused, especially when I added that if we couldn’t at least get HELL WEEK reduced to annoying but manageable days, then she would have to force feed me Tamoxifen once a day and write me a note to work at home those days and pay someone to sit with me to make sure I didn’t cry all day and bankrupt myself on QVC or the internet buying things that made me smile through my tears.

I guess I made my point, because I have another prescription for some medical equalizers that should help HELL WEEK go away.  I will have to wait a week or so to feel any different, the doctor said, but HELL WEEK should lessen and if the prescribed medical equalizer didn’t work, we’d keep trying until we found something that would work.

It’s been really wonderful to have a team of doctors (there are five of them now) who are working so hard so that I will not only survive, but thrive.

The biggest issue I’m having is how limited I now feel.  All of the doctors have told me that I can no longer burn the candle at both ends as I’m accustomed. If I get overwhelmed and stressed, I can’t push through, I have to STOP and relax.  I can no longer dig deep and pull all nighters like I used to, nor can I keep up the wicked pace I sometimes force upon myself so that I don’t miss a moment of any event, day or breath.  If I didn’t have to sleep, I wouldn’t.  There’s so much to see and do in life.

I told my team of doctors (I’ve had 5 doc appts this week) that I am not handling losing my Superwoman cape very well.  I am no longer “invincible.”  I am no longer the queen of multi-tasking, and sometimes I say some words and mean others.  I tire easily.  My joints and muscles hurt (thanks Tamoxifen) and my clumsy moments are multiplying.  My eyes are not as reliable as they used to be, and working around that limitation as a photographer is frustrating and frightening.

I have done some rather stupid things that if I was clear-minded I would never do.  I get confused.  I feel like I’m walking through life in slow motion or in a thick fog.  I don’t feel like I’m the best version of myself right now, and I have fought long and hard to break out of my prison of mediocrity.

People forget that the fight against cancer doesn’t end for a patient when they stop chemo or radiation.  Years lie ahead, years filled with other medications and an endless stream of doctor’s appointments.  Life is forever altered.  The old life can never be regained completely. 

Women have to learn to continue to be Superwomen without their capes.

I’m sure it can be done.  I see examples of it every day.  I think the ones that make the transition learn to let go of their old lives and fully embrace the new, even with all of its meds, new diet and challenges.

Yes, I’ve lost my cape. I think it’s at the bottom of a Tamoxifen bottle.  Regardless of where it is, the cape is out of my reach.  Instead of chasing what was, I will live with what is, and invest in the what can yet be.  My life was more than the cape anyway.

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