Today was the big appointment with my oncologist during which I planned to tell her, vehemently, that I had broken up with tamoxifen, and that I had already noticed a significant improvement in my quality of life. I had my argument planned in my head, had all my answers, research and sass ready. To say I was resolute would have been a huge understatement. I was at peace with this decision and I was ready to live with it and all the consequences.
As it usually happens with me, whenever I am prepared to defend myself or my position – I didn’t have to at all.
My pain, the side effects, everything, was acknowledged. Then she told me that in the last year Texas Oncology has heard the pleas and complaints of the patients under their care and have rolled out an entire program to help patients with their side effects.
I couldn’t hide my surprise. The last time I’d sat in that chair, I was tearfully pleading for help with the nearly debilitating joint pain (among other side effects) and was met with a blank stare and “that’s not my specialty.” I felt that, given that experience, I was in for a lengthy debate to justify my deep, ingrained notion that I was due a better quality of the life that was spared.
Apparently, according to Time Magazine, the entire breast cancer industry is rethinking how they treat DCIS cancers (like the one I had). One patient, Desiree Basila, made this statement:
“What I am doing is not foolproof,” says Basila. “I know that. I also know life is finite and that death is unavoidable. For me it came down to the quality of the life I want to live. I don’t want to be tired and bitchy if I can avoid it. And come what may, I think we really hurt ourselves by trying to just not be dead.”
Just trying not to be dead.
That last sentence stuck with me, and was in my arsenal of defense against the “Tamoxifen machine.”
After explaining how they’re now offering help with side effects, she looked me in the eyes, saw the resolve, and then said, “For your type of cancer and your stage and the size of the tumor, you’ve taken it long enough.”
She glanced down at my chart again. “Your quality of life is too important. You don’t have to take it again.”
I was stunned. I almost started crying, but it would have been an ugly cry, so I sucked it all in as hard as I could.
She agreed with me. I didn’t see that coming!
She stressed good eating, weight loss, continuing my natural therapies (though I know she still doesn’t quite agree with that), and concentrating on improving and enjoying my life.
I cried on the way home, grateful that 1, I didn’t have to take tamoxifen anymore, and 2, that I didn’t have to argue the point. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to stand up for myself and have it rewarded in the way I wanted, but did not expect.
I will end with this: Tamoxifen, I do thank you for what protection and prevention you have given me. I will not, however, miss you, be sentimental about our time together, or yearn for the life-sucking “good ol days.” I am more than happy to leave you behind!