Recently, I shared my experience of jumping through hoops to get my pharmacy to order me the Teva brand of Tamoxifen – the brand I’ve been tolerating well so far (click here to read the story). As I’ve discussed, fortunately, I haven’t yet experienced what I consider to be the worst side effect of this medication – one that I’ve been thinking of as a “dramatic uterus.”
A “dramatic uterus” is what I call a uterus that is not behaving normal – for instance, heavy bleeding or not bleeding at all while being pre-menopausal, polyps, thickening of the endometrial lining, or in worst cases, endometrial cancer. I am definitely not ready to begin facing such drama, because I am still deeply attached to the hope of one day having a child.
However, lately I’ve been experiencing some changes with my menstrual cycle. My doctors seem to think it’s all related to stress. But we also know that Tamoxifen can contribute to these changes. And as I get older, I know that other age-related issues can come up.
Over the past few months, my periods seemed to be fading away — until a few weeks ago, when I experienced very heavy bleeding (but still within the “normal” 21 day-cycle range). Still, I panicked, as usual, and contacted my GYN who suggested I come in for a sonogram the following day. We decided to check my hormone levels so my doctor could look at the entire picture and make a recommendation.
Now, if you’ve read enough of my posts, you would probably guess what I did next. I reached out to Dr. Google and to other patients who have experienced similar situations. And basically, it is what it is. These cancer treatments cause a lot of collateral damage and we either deal with them or make a decision to stop them. Both are very hard decisions to make and hard courses to follow.
After all my examinations and tests, my doctor concluded that I’d just had an unusually heavy but otherwise normal period (for the first time in a while). She said that my uterus doesn’t need any procedure done at this time – such as a D&C or a biopsy – because there was nothing really suspicious (thank goodness!). She reminded me that I am still young and my ovaries are still functioning. “If you have sex right NOW, you can get pregnant!” she stated bluntly. Apparently all that bleeding could have been related to the fact that my body is still trying very hard to adjust to the Tamoxifen AND to act normal, even after all these years of treatment.
My GYN suggested I do another sonogram in three months. She also talked about my level of stress during the last year, as she has noted some changes in me, including loss of weight. She is aware I am under too much stress at work and recommends that her patients be open with their employers about their health risks, and the potential that excess stress symptoms can interfere with patients’ treatment and progress. Work is always a complicated situation when it comes to managing health issues, and I agree that patients need to speak up for their own well being. And hopefully their employer will be supportive.
I am meeting with my Oncologist next month to have a discussion about my overall health plan. She has also expressed some concerns about my level of stress.
As many of you already know, I have no children. I still would like to have a child, if my circumstances allow. The thought of cancer taking that option away from me makes me feel emotionally devastated (yes, I am aware of options such as surrogacy). Having a healthy uterus represents hope for me, even if I am not trying to achieve pregnancy at this time.
It is true I have taken a long time to make the decision to get pregnant. It is a hard decision after all, especially with my health situation, but my Oncologist seems supportive and is open to this idea. However, some people judge, and feel I’ve taken “time” for granted. Apparently it is my fault that I have not taken the risk to have kids, as someone insinuated recently – such kindness. (Not that stopping Tamoxifen and getting pregnant will automatically cause a recurrence, but it’s still a risk.) I wish people would just stop blaming patients for their circumstances, shut their mouths, and mind their own business — especially when patients are trying to stay alive as long as possible while dealing with survivorship challenges. Unless these people want to offer to carry my child or offer some other rational solution — then we can talk business.
So, going back to this latest episode with my dramatic uterus, maybe my uterus really isn’t acting too dramatic at the moment, after all. I hope it stays that way for a while though. Dealing with one cancer is bad enough.