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My love/hate relationship with tamoxifen

My love/hate relationship with tamoxifen

For those that do not know what tamoxifen is; it’s a drug often prescribed to women with certain types of breast cancer; cancer that feeds off of estrogen and other hormones. This drug blocks estrogen and helps reduce the risk of getting that particular type of breast cancer again.

This is the medication I need to be on for five years, possibly 10. I have been taking it now for one and a half years. Every day, same time (within an hour or two) I take this little white pill; this little pill that is preventing me from having a baby but is also helping reduce my risk of letting the beast back into my life. Don’t get me wrong, grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel that there is an actual medicine that I’m able to take to reduce my risk. I’m very aware that this is somewhat of a luxury because a lot of these cancers don’t respond to any drugs, so please know that fact doesn’t escape me.

I’m going to start with the shorter list, what I love about it:

  1. It helps reduce my risk of reoccurrence. Yep, that pretty much sums up what I love about it.

Now, for what I hate about it. I’m not going to get into possible side effects because quite frankly from what I have been told, the list is extremely long. Like any medication, there are risks and I completely understand and accept that. I had plenty of time to research side effects before I started taking it, but I made the decision to not get “google crazy” for the following reasons:

  1. I had no choice (well, technically, we all have a choice, but I am not looking at it as a choice.) This is helping reduce my chances of reoccurrence, pretty easy decision.
  2. I believe the mind is very powerful and when you start reading about what can possibly happen, you can easily make yourself believe it’s happening to you.

I will only speak about how it affects me personally; it’s obviously different for everyone. Now, for the hate list…

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Night sweats
  3. Irritable/emotional
  4. I cannot have a baby while on the meds
  5. It’s a reminder that what I knew as “normal” no longer exists

The exhaustion, night sweats and irritability are all related to menopause; that is basically what my body is in, chemically induced menopause. Usually women also experience these symptoms right before their monthly menstrual cycle; however, I have these symptoms almost every day. Sometimes I don’t even like myself because I’m so crabby and at times unreasonable about very reasonable things. Thankfully, my husband is extremely understanding about my mood swings, supportive of my need to sleep until 11 am on some weekends and isn’t disgusted when I wake up covered in sweat. It’s not pretty; none of it is, but its reality, my reality.

I, like a lot of other women took for granted that I would be able to have a child whenever I wanted. I vividly remember sitting in the room at the doctor’s office when they told me that while on the tamoxifen, I unfortunately, would not be able to have a baby. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. No, we weren’t planning on having a child at that exact moment, but that choice was being taken away from me which was and still is very upsetting.

To clarify, getting pregnant while on tamoxifen would be harmful to a fetus; therefore it is strongly advised that every precaution is taken to make sure that does not happen. It is still our hope that we will have a baby one day. Whether we have a baby the old fashion way, or with the help of science, we strongly believe there is a baby in our future.

At the beginning of my journey all I wanted was to be “normal” again.

Normal; when my life wasn’t filled with doctor appointments and life altering decisions. Cancer stole that from me, along with a lot of other things. However, life goes on, you adapt, you accept, you create a new normal.

I’m now living what I like to call an “AC (after cancer) normal” life that includes this little white pill which is my daily reminder of how quickly your life can change. Sure, the hate list is a lot longer than the love list, but the one and only item on that list is the most important; it’s reducing my chances of getting the cancer back. Makes the exhaustion, irritability, and sweat filled nights seem not so bad…

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  1. Great article on Tamoxifen. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As always such a great read! I think you need a everyday blog

  3. Thanks for sharing! I think we all get a bit rebellious when we are “told” to do something even if it’s for our “own good”. Totally relate to the irritability, sweating, and menopausal state. I have started to understand my body’s reaction to it now after a few months and that helps too….

  4. I love your blog! I am also a survivor but I am on Arimidex as I was post-menopausal. I, too, am very grateful that I can take a little white pill every day to help prevent a recurrence of cancer, and I did not need chemo or radiation. I also suffer from night sweats but also have lots of stiffness and joint pain in the morning. Once I am up and around, however, the pain disappears and I can go on with my day. I can relate to your sadness at not being able to have children now and pray that there will be a baby in your future. Our family was built through adoption many years prior to my cancer diagnosis and we feel blessed. The new normal of 3 month doctor appts. and blookwork is definitely not fun, but it helps to know that if anything shows up, it would only have been there a short time. Stay strong and you will get through this. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jeannine! Great information for those who may be in the process of weighing their options for treatment.

  6. Jeannine,
    I want to thank you. I do not know what it’s like to walk in your shoes but I’m humbled by your courageous outlook and uplook. You are a special gift of hope.

  7. I too went the tamoxifen route and after several years my oncologist switched me to Femara after he was satisfied with the clinical tests on Femara. The hot flashes and night sweats were reduced tremendously.

  8. I am not a candidate for Tamoxifen and was put on Arumidex at first and could not tolerate the joint pain. I also had at least 3-5 hotflashes a day. I just was switched to Aromasin (Exemestane) and I have a lot less joint pain and hot flashes. I hope to stay on this for the 5 years, but just started this past August! So nice to be able to share and learn from others. Stay strong everyone– we can do this!!!

  9. Thank you for the spot on article.

  10. Thank you so very much! I’ve been trying to sum up taking the one white pill for 9 months now. It is a daily reminder that it is keeping the cancer away.
    I absolutely hate that you had to experience cancer at such a young age. I hate cancer!
    Get done with Tamoxifen! I am on it and counting down! 4 years to go!.

About the Author

Jeannine Canino Bieda
Jeannine Canino Bieda

Jeannine Canino Bieda has worked in the Options industry for the last 14 years and cannot imagine doing anything else; she enjoys all the craziness, the good, the bad & the ugly! She is a breast cancer survivor. She is married to the love of her life and does not have any children but hopefully that will change one day. She is a proud Southsider but lives in Evanston now because it’s where her husband is from; she learned quickly, you can take the girl out of the Southside but you can’t take the Southside out of the girl! She is highly addicted to reality shows & gossip magazines and is not ashamed of it.