Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TAMOXIFEN - the long brain fog, the aches, relief, and aftermath

When I first came to my new state, I was disoriented, and just 10 weeks past a lumbar fusion.   I had lived in CA for more than half my life - felt lost.  Before I was completely "unpacked" I had a scary mammo.  And fell into what sometimes felt like "the breast machine."  The mammo was repeated.  A very kind doctor made a little sketch for me of what looked like a kitchen tool, and told me I should have a needle biopsy.

On biopsy day I looked longingly at the Ultrasound Dept. sign as I went toward the Stereotactic room.

A few days later, the biopsy doc's cheery, happy voice on the phone said, "There was cancer."  (May she get a large zit on the end of her nose for being so jolly.)

Then the wires, the surgery, the pathology report, and the hours on line where I found only one interactive decision aid. And the radiation.  (Thank Heaven for two kind, fun radiation therapists who made me feel normal.  And no real chemo,  Much to be grateful for.

By the time I met my wonderful oncologist and heard him say "You're cured. But we have..."
I had already heard stories from another patient about her uncomfortable meds, and was leaning toward Tamoxifen.

I started the white pills about a month later, and became a nut case, an amnesiac.  With aches.  As I mentioned before, he told me they call Tamoxifen the schizophrenic medicine.  It acts differently in different parts of the body, and the body gets confused. (No kidding!)

Slowly I turned completely absent-minded, freaking out, couldn't find my keys or anything else, couldn't make plans. Worse, I felt like a thousand-year-old woman.  And I thought like a thousand year old woman.

And then my feet started swelling.  A foot doctor was no help.  All shoes were torture.

The oncologist must have thought I was about to quit Tamoxifen.  He reminded me gently that we had a choice, because Tamox was preventive for me.  He gave me a month vacation.  No white pills. It wasn't long enough for a miracle, but I did seem to feel better.  At the next visit, he let me go on 10 mg instead of 20.

It took some time for a real change; sometimes I still feel older than I am. Sometimes I just have to lie down.  At least now I can think, plan, look around at my situation and my world.

But...after those foggy months, I still don't quite trust myself.  Driving to an area I'd never been to took several "trial runs" with my daughter.  If I don't see my keys I'm first slightly panicked. I have to remind myself that they aren't at the library because I got here and unlocked the door.  It may take a while longer before I trust myself again.  Before I get L.A.brave again. I need  to.

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