Saturday, May 10, 2008

The start of Tamoxifen

Last Saturday ~

I started Tamoxifen this morning. It took me a while--two weeks, to be exact--from the time I heard from Dr. Ryan, my oncologist, that I could begin the treatment, to shake my Procrastinator, summon the courage, and actually fill the damn prescription. I suppose I was enjoying not having any meds careening through my veins; after all, once started, this will be a five year course of treatment, and will no doubt be followed up with some other version of the same kind of drug that will be tailored for that specific time in my life to target and blast away my particular kind of cancer cells. So--I delayed the inevitable, enjoying the drug-free, no side-effects-to-worry-about, clear-headedness for just a little longer.

I suppose that I was feeling a little bit nervous about taking the Tamoxifen, despite its reputation as being a time-tested Wonder Drug that has extended and saved countless lives. My grandmother took it for years and I don't remember her ever issuing a complaint. Of course, she had gazillions of other medical issues always on the brew, so to have sorted it all out would have been next to impossible. I never know how my body will respond to something new and foreign. I'm fairly sensitive, so I was starting to wonder about what kind of havoc the drug might wreak on my system. When I picked up the prescription yesterday afternoon, I instantly read the enclosed fine print--always a stupid thing to do, I know, because there's always much more information there than anyone would ever need, and it just aggravates and overloads the interiors of your better sense and sends you spinning into the vortex of worrying and waiting for bad things to start happening. In this case, diarrhea, nausea, hot flashes, yadda yadda yadda. And of course, the more catastrophic risks of cervical and endometrial cancers...but hey! I trust fully in Dr. Ryan. She knows exactly what she is doing. And I will be FINE.

The pills are small, round, white--nothing special or extraordinary about them on the outside, but inside, well, we know they pack a power punch, so all that magnificence has been packaged quite quietly. What was I expecting? A big pink horsepill with a pink ribbon etched on its side? Take this and be breast cancer free forever! I swallow the pill after breakfast, washing it down with my green chlorella water and a handful of other supplements, none boasting as big a promise as the Tamoxifen. It goes down easily. I wait and listen and hold my breath for a few seconds afterwards. Do I feel any change? Ah, yeah, right.

It was the perfect morning to start something new. I slipped out of the house and headed out, by myself, to check out some mosquito-infested yard sales (found some good books for a quarter a piece, and two beautiful ceramic mugs for the same) before heading into Greenfield to shop at the Farmer's Market. It felt good just being out and about, and on my own for a change--and at the Market, being surrounded by what seemed like a bountiful beginning to the season, with cascading piles of fresh lettuces and greens of all kinds, garlic scapes, herbs, vegetable starts, flowers, and fresh baked breads all for the taking. I felt energized; the Tamoxifen must be doing me good already.

Mother's Day ~
A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother. ~Author Unknown

It's a beautiful day--clear blue sparkling sunny skies. My mother arrives at noon. We sit outside, the picnic table festooned with a bright table cloth and a scattering of brunch dishes. We eat well. Later, she helps me mulch the my perennial gardens, blueberry bushes, and fruit trees, and I am so grateful for the help. I spy the raspberry patch and my forearms ache imagining the pruning that still needs to be done. I have fixed up two flower boxes full of herbs for her deck; Dom has dug up some of our overflowing mint and put it in a pot for her. There are beautiful handmade cards. But for now, the boys run around barefooted and armed with water guns. Just when I am quietly praising them to myself for working out a near balance of fun and feist and chasing each other about without hurting, teasing, or blaming, their battle explodes for real, and I find myself being tugged in to soothe and listen and not take sides, and I am reminded of the real meaning of Mother's Day, that as much as you'd like to think you can foist the job on someone else for the day, or take a break from it all, it just won't ever happen. When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. ~Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty
Woman in the home has not yet lost her dignity, in spite of Mother's Day, with its offensive implication that our love needs an annual nudging, like our enthusiasm for the battle of Bunker Hill. ~John Erskine

That night, we head to one of our favorite restaurants around, Hope & Olive, where we sit at the bar and feast some more. Admittedly, I spend the better part of the evening pining after a Thai Gin-tini, but settle for tap water on the rocks in a lovely glass.

I am grateful for the day, for the time spent with family. Motherhood has always been the one thing that I have always been certain about. Not that it hasn't been rife with challenges (after all, Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children. ~Sam Levenson), of course, but it's the one thing that has made me feel fully engaged in the ebb and flow of life and its rhythms. And as for my own mother, My mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune. ~Graycie Harmon. Thank you, Mom! I love you!

Thursday ~

Nearly a week has passed since I started the Tamoxifen and despite a few hours of nausea at the start of the week, which could have possibly been brought on not by the drug but by the fact that I had been waking up with the sun and the annoying little birds chirping their good mornings at 5 AM and was totally exhausted (no, ya think?), I haven't felt a twang of difference in the way I feel. I suppose I'm being foolishly premature, but I'd like to think I'm just being positive in thinking that we are a good match, Tamoxifen and me. I have to believe that. And I remind myself constantly of what the alternative might have been. Taking the Tamoxifen, and the Tamoxifen only, without chemo, every morning has been and will continue to be a lovely little grounding ritual of mindfulness and gratitude.

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