I may have mentioned that my new definition of courage is every chemotherapy patient who shows up for their subsequent rounds of chemo. For the first round, you don’t know what will happen and how your body will react. You have the literature and the ‘what to expect’ lecture, but until you go through it, you don’t know what’s specific for you. After the first round, you know exactly what to expect. Showing up for future rounds when you know how shitty it’s going to be, that’s the definition of courage.
Now that I’m through the primary rounds of treatment – chemotherapy and radiation complete, I’m on to the endocrine adjuvant round of treatment. For me, it will be a daily pill for the next five years – something called an aromatase inhibitor (Letrozole). I just read the list of possible side effects, and they ain’t pretty.
The biggie is possible bone density loss, or osteoporosis. This could set in over time, so they’ll be doing regular bone density scans to make sure my bones stay healthy. I had my first scan a couple of months ago during chemo, and my bones are spectacularly health – yay! Here’s hoping they stay that way.
The other possible side effects – and the list is long – are the things that make me more nervous. You’d think the bone loss would be the big one, but that one we can deal with effectively through things like calcium supplements, weight-bearing exercise (which I already do – it’s why my bones are in such good shape now), and, if all else fails, something called a biphosphonate can be prescribed (although I really don’t want to take any more drugs).
No, it’s the dizziness, edema (fluid retention), constipation, fatigue, nausea, musculoskeletal pain, and headaches that can occur that have me saying, hmmmm – will I do this? These are all “common” side effects. The possible osteoporosis I knew about. The rest of these I just discovered when I researched the drug.
I will have a LOT of questions for my medical oncologist this week. And I may be revising my definition of courage to include all breast cancer patients on long term endocrine therapy drugs. When you know what’s gonna happen, and you show up anyway.