I know I’ve devoted a great deal of time and space these past few weeks to the agonizing decision of whether or not to take the hormone blocker Tamoxifen as the final piece of my breast cancer treatment. Frankly, I’m as tired of thinking about it as you are of reading it, so you’ll be glad to know that something happened yesterday that allowed me to put the subject to rest.
I was sitting at my kitchen table, browsing through some blog posts and dreading my afternoon oncology appointment with every bone in my body. I had already postponed the appointment for 2 weeks because I was not looking forward to being scolded about the Tamoxifen…again. Now, scold is a harsh word when it comes to my doctor. He is about as threatening as a teddy bear wrapped in velvet sitting on clouds.
No, I think I was really dreading….the look. You know the one. Like your favorite grandparent who catches you doing something wrong and doesn’t spank you. That would be too easy. Instead, they sit you down, their head hanging with the weight of their disappointment, and tell you that they never would have expected this of you…and it hurts them that you would do such a thing. By the end of the lecture, you feel like the lowest of the low, and you’ll do anything to get back in their good graces.
That’s how I felt after our last appointment. I came in ready to fight, ready to bring in research and statistics to back my argument. And I left in a haze of confusion and shame. I even went to the drugstore and filled the prescription. I couldn’t bear to let Dr. A down. He cares so much; it’s palpable.
So, back to yesterday. I hopped over to one of my absolute favorite blogs, chrisbeatcancer.com. He was diagnosed at 26 with Stage 3 colon cancer and refused chemo and radiation, choosing to heal himself through nutrition. He is now an eleven year survivor who lectures around the country and offers much of his wisdom for free on his site. I’ve visited many times before, but this video struck a chord in me for some reason.
I’ve been somewhat beaten down by the medical establishment over the past year, and I’ve started to compromise my core beliefs. Namely, The belief that our bodies are designed to express health, not sickness. Yes, there are genetic aberrations, environmental insults, etc. that challenge us, but this is not destiny. We can radically transform the terrain inside the body by the way we treat ourselves. Proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, and healthy relationships are essential to disease prevention.
Chris is a very articulate, warm person who expresses these ideals perfectly. I am in no way against doctors or medicine when it is necessary, but the whole “fear culture” surrounding cancer puts so much pressure on patients to “go with the flow” or face dire consequences. Take Tamoxifen, for example. In my case, the statistics show that I have a 12% reduction in recurrence over the next 10 years if I take the drug. The mortality reduction is about half that.
For these slight statistical improvements, I will endure hot flashes, night sweats, depression, fatigue, joint pains, weight gain, and the possibility of aggressive uterine cancer, blood clots, and cataracts, or worse. There are very, very few people who have pleasant tales to share about this drug. And the kicker is.. the research will show that Tamoxifen is not curing cancer, but rather putting it to sleep. And it almost always finds a way to get around this “trance” eventually.
So..yesterday I had what could almost be described as a revelation. I found my convictions once again and decided that my body is not suffering from a Tamoxifen deficiency. I plan to do a hard core re-examination of my life and change the things that need changing. I went in to the doctor’s office, ready to defend my decision once again. Dr. A must have seen the look of determination in my eyes. He asked if I was taking the Tamoxifen. When I explained why I wasn’t, he simply looked at me and said, “Ok.”
I think that in a way he knows he is asking a lot of women, but he feels that it is his duty to try. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even has a sliver of doubt about the standard treatment in his most private moments. As for me, the Tamoxifen train has left the station, and I’m at peace as I wave goodbye.