The other day a reporter asked me if I experienced survivor guilt. I really would not call it that, but I definitely have been feeling something. It feels more like I’m acting like a spoiled child or ungrateful or something.
You see, my breast cancer was the most common kind of breast cancer (hormone receptor positive). It is also the type of breast cancer that has the most tools to help fight it. First it was chemo, then surgery, and now onto hormone therapy. It is a bit of a misnomer really, it should be called anti-hormone therapy, as the therapies suppress your bodies ability to make hormones – because it is the hormones that feed the type of cancer I’ve had.
But a little part of me kind of wishes I had triple negative cancer, so that I wouldn’t need to deal with hormone therapy. Of course, I should really just be grateful that I’m alive – triple negative breast cancers don’t have the option of hormone therapy. It is not known what feeds the triple negative breast cancers, so there is no easy way to starve it.
I feel a little like a spoiled child. I have treatments that significantly reduce the risk of my cancer coming back, and yet, I find myself debating. I find myself wishing that I did not have to undergo these treatments.
I’ve enjoyed the better part of two months with my body’s return to almost normal hormone levels. I say almost normal because chemo messed things up. I’m in peri-menopause because of chemotherapy. But even menopause isn’t enough. To be protected, to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back, I need to take medications that stop the production of hormones (Estrogen specifically). It sucks. I feel like a two year old about to have a temper tantrum!
I don’t really feel survivor guilt. I’ve only known one person who has passed away (crossing my fingers as I know that cannot remain such a low number), but she had triple negative breast cancer. She didn’t have the safety net of hormone therapy. And she died so very quickly – less than a year from diagnosis.
In the mean time, I totally missed my 9-month cancer free anniversary. It is, however, a bit of a milestone. Six months is one of the blips in the survivorship statistics (that is, a significant number of breast cancers recur at about the six month mark). I’m over that bump. Next bump isn’t until the five year mark.
But alas, my first attempt at hormone therapy (tamoxifen) didn’t work out. The headaches and mental fog meant that it was completely untenable. So now, I’m onto option b. I started today. After several mix ups, I’ve had my first low dose shot of lupron. So far, so good. If it works out, then I’ll go to a month long shot. Lupron shuts down the ovaries. Some young women take it before chemotherapy to help protect their bodies, in hopes of being able to conceive a child when they are finished with treatment. I’m taking it because it is unsafe to take an Aromatase Inhibitor while your ovaries are still producing estrogen.
And so, I begin the next round of silent treatment – it isn’t really considered treatment, as I’m cancer free. The purpose of hormone therapy is to reduce the chance of recurrence. I’m glad to be taking baby steps in this, but it is frustrating that it is needed. I am able to do something, so that is good, but it still kinda sucks. I am so ready to just move on to the next phase in my life!