Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A Long-Awaited Cancercation

I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that cancer never ends. It lasts days and weeks and months and years. Even decades. I thought 15 months into it that I was nearing the end. I assumed by this point, I’ve pretty much seen and done all there is to see and do in the arena of cancer carousal, and my treatment was finally nearing its highly-anticipated demise.

Boy, was I sadly mistaken.

Now don’t go getting all worried on me. I’ve not had a recurrence of cancer. I am, as far as I know, cancer free right now. That’s something that should be celebrated. I should be embracing my new lease on life. Living it up. Getting in touch with my inner wonder. Following my bliss. Blah…blah…yackety blah.

That is not to say that I would not like to be following my bliss. I would looooove to follow my bliss right outta town right now. Unfortunately, it’s hard to follow your bliss when she has yet to show her smug little face. I imagine my bliss is soaking in the sun on some Caribbean beach or another. Or maybe she’s sipping tea and happily perusing dusty old books in a tiny book store on a rocky crag on the Scottish coast. Or probably more likely, she is cursing in traffic on I-35W. Whether she is sunning or sipping or stewing, she’s definitely not sitting at my kitchen table as I write this.

I saw my oncologist yesterday and had to tell him that it’s been a rough couple of weeks/months. I was feeling great following my radiation. My energy was coming back, my neuropathy was clearing up. Even my chemo brain had finally dissipated (somewhat) and my grasp of the English language was once again returning. I was riding high on a wave of this-shit-is-finally-coming-to-an-end.

Then I starting hormone suppression therapy and everything went to hell in a pink ribbon adorned handbasket.

I started out taking Letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor. That stuff is NOT for the faint of heart! Almost immediately, I began experiencing bone and joint pain that became more intense as time went on. It was brutal. Suddenly, I was unable to walk without a painful, pronounced limp. Rolling over in bed was excruciating. I started missing work because it hurt, literally, to move at all.

After holding back tears in my oncologist’s office, we made the tortuous decision to switch from the slightly-more-effective Letrozole to the slightly-less-effective Tamoxifen because it was not supposed to cause bone pain – or least not as severe.

I’ve been on Tamoxifen for about a month and a half now, and the pain is still there. I walk around like a 100-year-old woman. Every step shoots pain from my hip, down my thigh, to my knees. My feet ache constantly. I can’t sleep on my back because my tailbone hurts, but I can’t sleep on my side because my hip hurts. Sleeping on my stomach is completely off the table because with no boobs to provide a counter balance, my stomach seems three times as big as it was before. I would look like a freaking teeter-totter!

So, in short, switching to Tamoxifen did not help at all.

I saw my oncologist yesterday and we came up with the following brilliant 4-point plan:

  1. Stop taking the Tamoxifen and the study drug (Palbociclib) completely for a 2-3 weeks. 
  2. If the pain goes away (fingers crossed), we confirm with 100% surety that my symptoms are related to the meds. If not, we will explore the possibility of other underlying medical conditions such as osteoarthritis. 
  3. Start taking the meds again because I had 7 positive lymph nodes, so I really have no fucking choice whatsoever if I want to remain alive and cancer free.
  4. Develop pain again. 

Though the plans sounds ludicrous in its utter uselessness, it will (hopefully) give me a break from the pain while I am on vacation with my family for the next few weeks. If the pain goes away, it will rule out any other issues contributing to the pain. Once we determine that there is no underlying medical condition to explore (which I suspect will be the case), we will work on ways to deal with the medication-related pain. These may include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Referral to a pain clinic
  • Physical therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Switching my Celexa and Gabapentin to other drugs, such as Effexor and/or Lyrica
  • Crying
  • Curling up in a fetal position in my bathtub and refusing to budge
  • Eating enough potato chips to nudge my BMI from morbidly obese to oh-my-God-she’s-gonna-blow!

In the meantime, I hope to be pain-free and frolicking on the beach next week.

Yeah, I frolic.

It's not pretty.   


katsue63 said...

If you can stay away from Lyrica, do so. My Sister took it for Fibromyalgia; it caused her to gain approximately 30 lbs and did not help alleviate her pain. God be with you as you continue this journey.

katsue63 said...

If you can stay away from Lyrica, do so. My Sister took it for Fibromyalgia; it caused her to gain approximately 30 lbs and did not help alleviate her pain. God be with you as you continue this journey.

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