Monday, January 24, 2011

Letter to my Doctor, 1/22/10

> Hi Dr. B,
>
> Happy Saturday! So ... I was reading (again) and I was wondering if you could help me make sense of what I'm finding. I know I see you in March but I was hoping you could answer these questions for me early.
>
> About the tamoxifen - and the menopausal side effects ... First my skin, I'm breaking out across my forehead and it's starting on my cheeks now. I know I mentioned I went through Accutane treatment and currently it feels all for naught. I read that acne is normal in menopause. Is the tamoxifen causing such a menopausal side effect that it's causing me to break out? If so, is there something I can supplement with to help my skin not just against the acne but against the dryness, dullness, loss of plumpness, etc. that also happens in menopause? Fish oil? Vitamin E? Topical estrogen, if that's the cause?
>
> Second, about my hair. Thinning hair is common for menopause (so I read) ... Since my hair is still less than an inch long, I can't assess whether or not it's much thinner than before but it made me wonder if the Tamoxifen will cause that to happen too? Or if it slows down the growth? If so, when I come off of it, "should" things go back to normal? I decided against the Rogaine and am just letting nature work here - but if I'm circumventing it's return, I'd rather wait for it to come back fully and then re-start the drug.
>
> Finally, sunning .... Articles say there is increased sun sensitivity but don't really specify what about sun exposure changes. Is this a side effect of the tamoxifen and if so, is it just burning more easily or is it a rash or just redness that occurs? I'd like to get by the pool this summer but not for the price of harsh burns.
>
> Overall, I'm curious if all the typical menopausal side effects that I can find out about online are applicable to being on tamoxifen, or if it's just a select few. If all the typical side effects apply, what can I do to balance out these changes? I know we talked about all this before I started taking it, it's just more applicable now that I know what's actually happening, side effect wise.
>
> At 3 weeks in, and aside from the skin changes, I seem to be tolerating the drug well. My menstrual cycle even started again this month where October was the last time I had had it. I'm just wanting to know what I can do tolerate the drug even better. I trust you're plan and intend to stay on it for a year before we try for kids, but I would be a liar if I said I didn't care about how it's affecting my appearance and in turn how that effects my self esteem. BC, a BMX and chemo is a big blow to one's sense of femininity and confidence. Now that recon is finished, my period returned and my hair is on it's way back, I really don't want to trade one self-esteem blow for another if I can help it somehow.
>
> Looking forward to hearing from you,
>
> Melissa
>
> --
> Melissa Bingham
>

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Happy New Year All! It's 2011 ... and 2010 is behind us, for the most part. I can tell you it certainly feels  good to be into the new year feeling like as much of my old self as possible. At my last appointment with my Oncologist, I told her I wanted my body back - I wanted to just get back to normal. She responded with "I'll never be back to 'normal' - it's going to be a new normal from this point on." And she's right.

As I walk around the house I see myself in our wedding pictures - I look at myself and wonder if I'm ever going to get back to "that" ... and in the same glance, I catch my reflection in the glass of the frame - and feel so different. Different, but the same ... but not. I lost so much of my femininity in 2010 - I lost my breasts, my long hair, most of my eyelashes and eyebrows - even my period stopped. My yoga body got soft and is now -- very cushy. Embarking on 2011 I realize that this year will be about regaining all that was lost, but it won't ever be the same as it was before - so yes, it will be a new normal for me. My reconstruction is complete so I have my "breasts" back, my eyebrows have come back and I can see tiny little eyelashes growing back in everyday. Even my period came back the other day, just two months of being absent. That must be a good sign, right? And it's going to take a lot of work to get back to where I was physically before the diagnosis. And my long hair -- well, I only have about a half an inch of hair, and catching my reflection in the picture frame only serves to remind me of how slow it's growing. But it's growing, so for that I must be thankful.

Since the turn of the year, I've had 2 or 3 breakdowns. It's only been 15 days into 2011. I attribute it to the slow down of activity - the lack of "things to do" for treatment. It's like when you are out and about all day, running errands and checking things off your list -- and then when you get home and you finally sit for a moment - your mind quiets and you reflect on all that you've done that day. It's like that. My mind is finally quieting, and the emotions are rising to the surface after being ignored for 7 months.

But things are good. I got involved with a non-profit called Be Bright Pink, an organization dedicated to young women who have, had or are at high risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer. I've applied to be an ambassador for the organization and lead a chapter in Colorado, something they don't have yet. We had our first meeting last weekend and I'm excited to be involved. It's going to be a good thing, and it's providing me with an outlet to turn my diagnosis into something positive and constructive. Most importantly, it's allowing me to help others who are going through what I went through.

It's hard to know where to go from here, because it's hard to define where "here" is. It feels like the same place we've always been, but it's obviously changed. I started the Tamoxifen treatment on January 2 -- just to try it and see how it affects me. So far - I don't notice anything, so that's good. I hope it continues like that. Making a resolution for myself for 2011 seemed trivial, so I didn't make one. Usually a resolution means you want to be better in some fashion in the new year. I don't want to be better than I was in 2010 ... I just want to be the same.


The Fuzz