To Take, Or Not To Take? That is the Question
When I arrived home from Radiation in Marin, relieved to put all of this behind me (the bulk of it anyway), I received an email from a friendly friend entitled…I Know You Like Research. I do, I do! Especially when the research has to do with a pill that I need to put in my body for five years (ten years of hormone therapy, but five will be tamoxifen, the later five an aromitase inhibitor). I will provide you with the link to the article Tamoxifen: A Major Medical Mistake? (click here in fact), but if you are on tamoxifen, or are going to be on tamoxifen, please proceed with caution. It is a wonderful, informative article which prompted me to drop the regimen for four days before my doctor (also wonderful and informative) urged me to forge ahead, embracing the drug.
The article opens with the story of DES, a “medical blunder/shameful chapter” of medical history. Tamoxifen and DES are similar in structure and both produce hormone-like effects. I will try to explain in a nutshell for those not interested in reading the whole article…..Tamoxifen acts like an estrogen blocker. As I mentioned in my previous post, my cancer cells were estrogen receptor positive (ER+). So, they have these “key holes” that are waiting for the estrogen key to click in place and “drive” the cell. So tamoxifen acts as a weak estrogen–the structure is similar to estrogen and for every tamoxifen molecule that plugs into an estrogen receptor on the cancer cells, the estrogen is effectively blocked.
The problem is that while Tamoxifen acts as an anti-estrogen in breast cancer cells (because it inhibits activity of regular estrogen) it also acts as an estrogen in other areas of one’s body such as the uterus (also but to a lesser extent, bone, liver, blood) and is known to cause uterine and other cancers.
So…..treating cancer only to cause another cancer. A dilemma.
The article goes on to explain that the lucrative Tamoxifen is the most widely prescribed cancer medication in the world, generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the pharmaceutical company that produces it. Same old story.
I suppose my point is that none of these decisions are easy. If you have been following my story since the beginning you know that I am a big supporter of “Take One Step At A Time”. It has been motto in a way and I did not take a new step until I was completely in harmony with it. I was actually excited for my mastectomy “can I have it yesterday?”, the same thing for chemo, and radiation. I was ready for each of those things. I know all of these things are horrible (maiming and toxic), but I do not feel like I have the luxury of deciding anything different given the extent of my disease. When it came time I was not super excited about taking Tamoxifen, but now that I have read this article, quit taking it for a few days, and was presented with another article and in-depth discussions with my doctor I am in harmony with it and will do my best to embrace it.
I felt honored that Dr. Gullion read the article I sent and discussed it at length with me. Of course you may say! It seems like that should just be a part of a doctor’s job, but these days doctors are so busy and overwhelmed that things like that may often fall through the cracks. So, he read it, we talked by phone about a multitude of studies and is continuing research. Here is the article he sent me. It is more balanced about the benefits and side effects.
The hardest part for me with taking something like tamoxifen is the thought that I am playing into fear. I am healthy! I did chemotherapy and radiation, have an impeccable diet, get plenty of exercise and rest and am in an awesome emotional space. How could my cancer metastasize? It should be gone. I did all the work! One thought Dr. Gullion shared with me about the chemotherapy, however, is that my cancer cells weren’t rapidly dividing (it is important to know your cancer characteristics! They are all so different) and chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells (hence hair loss). So, my cancer cells may not have been touched by the chemo drugs. Who knows? We will never know! They could have been in a resting phase.
The idea is to come at it from every possible angle.
So, the debate continues. The different camps get in their corners, and in the meantime I will continue to scrutinize, educate myself, do qi gong, take herbs, and for now……take my tamoxifen.
If you have additional information about tamoxifen, please let me know.
I am heading home and ready for the cozy holidays. The Scoop is closing for a month, and I am ready to hunker down and play with my family! Happy Holidays.