It’s been almost a month since I saw the integrative MD and received the forbidden hormone prescription, hands trembling. I felt such mixed emotions that day. On one hand, I knew from experience how wonderful estrogen makes me feel…enthusiastic, outgoing, sexual, and just happy. On the other hand, I was acutely aware that I could be signing my own death warrant.
My first prescription (yes, there have been several) was for a vaginal cream containing mostly estriol along with smaller amounts of estradiol, testosterone and progesterone. Ironically, the day before I started it, I felt fantabulous! I was in a great mood, full of energy. Then I used the cream. At night it gave me hot flashes, and when I woke up I felt slightly hung over, tired, and generally blah.
I recognized my symptoms instantly as the “progesterone doldrums”. I’ve tried progesterone several times before, and I just don’t tolerate it well. I called the doctor’s office to get the prescription tweaked. The second attempt had no estriol (it gives me hot flashes), half the progesterone, and testosterone. No dice. My libido was definitely improved by the testosterone, but the progesterone was still too much.
After another call to the doctor, he decided to separate out the progesterone so I could adjust the dose as needed. The estradiol and testosterone are still combined. I’m supposed to use the cream once at night, but I’ve had to experiment because it seems that I need a dose in the daytime as well. I’ve tried splitting it in half and using it twice, but that makes each dose too small to be effective.
Meanwhile, taking hormones has been causing a lot of stress. I’m so torn about the risks vs the benefits. There are several studies showing that breast cancer survivors who take hormones are at no greater risk of recurrence and actually have better survival than those who don’t. But I can hear my oncologist’s voice in my head, telling me that I’m making a really bad decision.
So what are we to do, the breast cancer brigade? Do we fade quietly into the background with painful joints, weakened hearts, mushy brains and zero sexuality? Or do we forge an unpopular path less traveled and hope for the best, armed with our own research? Yet again, the choices are impossible.
As for my hormonal foray, it has proved to be much more difficult than I was hoping. As I write this, I’m in the middle of a hot flash, perhaps caused by the Arimidex I took an hour ago per my new doctor’s instructions. He’s willing to give me hormones, but he doesn’t want my body producing any extra or the wrong kinds.
And truthfully, I can’t say that I feel better emotionally, which was my main goal in starting this journey. I’m up and down. Saturday I felt on top of the world, but the past two days I’ve been quiet and withdrawn. And my chin is breaking out just a little, maybe from the testosterone.
So, let’s review. I was willing to take a huge risk with hormones for the trade-off of having brighter moods, less fatigue, a sex drive, a clearer mind and protection for my bones, joints and heart. And what have I accomplished? Sex drive…check. Clearer mind…check. Less fatigue..sometimes. Brighter mood…still quite unpredictable and fleeting. And that last one was at the top of my wish list. I’m just tired of feeling blah.
Wednesday I go to get my hormone levels checked. I started to cancel since I haven’t been on a steady dose over these past few weeks. But then I decided that it might be a good idea to get a snapshot of where I am for future comparisons.
At this point I’m not feeling enough of a benefit to justify the risk, and the thought of taking Arimidex goes against my gut. I’ll give this expensive experiment a little more time before I make a final decision. At $55 per prescription, I’m about “tweaked” out.