We all face certain choices every day. Some are easy – paper or plastic, soup or salad – some are difficult – should we have another child or not? Being diagnosed with cancer gives one another entire set of choices; ones that have not been given any thought before the occurrence. These include chemo or not, radiation or not, and others. My choices were, lumpectomy, single mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy, and, reconstruction or not? I chose bilateral mastectomy, but I also chose to be tested for the BRCA gene since the history is so strong in our family. When the test came back positive, I knew I had made the right choice.
The choice for chemo was another that was not so difficult. One wants to do what they can to insure against recurrence. The choice for radiation was not so easy. By the time I was ready for that stage, I had developed a painful condition involving a nerve that had gone haywire in my armpit. Radiation has a reputation for doing the same type of damage that I was already experiencing. It was a more difficult choice. In the end, I chose not to have it, partly because of all the complications involved and partly because of the difficulties with my insurance company.
After treatment, there are still more choices. For those of us with hormone linked cancer, there are several different hormone therapies available. This was a choice that, initially, I thought was easy, but since has become difficult. The year prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had a stroke. I was extremely fortunate that the blood clot somehow was redirected into my eye, instead of my brain. I had a small blind spot for a short amount of time, but there were no long term disabilities. Since the hormone therapy drug, Tamoxifen, has been linked to increased risk of stroke, we went with one of the other choices. After taking Arimidex for about a month, I had a bad reaction to it. Very bad. I was hospitalized. In the psych ward.
It took a while to get at all figured out, but now I was faced with a new choice. Hormone therapy or not? Tamoxifen or not? Cancer or stroke? Which one was I willing to take a chance on? I din’t like this choice at all. I chose Tamoxifen, accompanied by Aspirin and said my prayers. So far so good.
Now I’m faced with another choice. Since my last surgery, I have been feeling increased amounts of pain in my shoulder area. They think it’s a compressed nerve, but they don’t know where it’s being pressed or what is doing the pressing. The pain goes all the way from my ear to the outer part of my shoulder, into my chest and partway on to my back. It’s a large area and it’s a severe pain. At first they started me on some medication that is commonly used for nerve pain, but my reaction was severe and similar to the one with Arimidex. It seems that I cannot tolerate drugs of that class at all. So my choice is live with the pain or live with the possibility of another bad reaction. I don’t like these choices at all. I don’t know what to do or who to turn to. I’d like a different choice.