There is a popular gospel hymn entitled “How I Got Over.” The song was written and composed by Clara Ward. The lyrics of this song speaks to me, especially as I reflect upon both battles with breast cancer in 2011 and 2016.
Chemotherapy was very grueling on my mental and physical health. Mentally, I was prepared to bounce back and be able to resume my life as I knew it BEFORE breast cancer. I wanted to have the portacath (port) removed because it only served as a reminder of the chemotherapy treatments that I had endured over the last 4 months. My last chemotherapy treatment was on August 24, 2011 and I had the port removed on August 25th, the very next day.
In retrospect, I should not have removed the port so soon. I did not realize that after breast cancer treatment there are many more blood tests that I needed to have each time I had a follow-up appointment with the oncologist. My veins are small and they roll, making it very difficult for the phlebotomists to locate a vein. Therefore, I had to endure several painful needle pokes, whereas if I had kept the port, blood withdrawal would have been virtually painless.
After the last chemotherapy treatment, it took me about 9 days to rebound. After rebounding, I was ready to resume my life and PUT CANCER BEHIND ME. I had convinced myself that eating healthy and changing my lifestyle would help maintain my health and avoid cancer recurrence. So, I decided to detoxify my body by EATING CLEAN, exercising, and avoiding stress.
I had a follow-up appointment with the oncologist about 3 weeks after finishing chemotherapy. During the follow-up visit, the doctor discussed the FINAL PHASE of my breast cancer treatment plan with me. The final phase would consist of 5 years of hormone therapy utilizing a drug named Tamoxifen. After discussing the benefits and the side effects of the drug, I decided that Tamoxifen was not for me. I guess at that time, the potential side effects far outweighed the benefits.
I justified my decision not to take Tamoxifen due to the fact that my body had already been through the wringer. I decided that I had had enough. No way was I going to commit for the next 5 years, to taking a pill which is known to cause severe side effects. I was willing to TRUST GOD AND TAKE MY CHANCES. This SPIRITUALLY IMMATURE CHOICE would later prove to be detrimental to me.
Due to sin, none of us is perfect, neither is our bodies. Unfortunately, many of us are plagued with diseases and illnesses of various kinds. Some of these diseases are genetic, while others attach themselves to us due to our cellular make up. Lastly, some diseases come upon us due to our lifestyle and life choices.
For me, breast cancer is not genetic. The type of breast cancer I had was unique to my cellular make up. I have come to understand that just as many diseases are regulated through the use of medication, I too need medication to block cancer cells from attaching themselves to the hormone receptors in my body.
Medicine has been created by scientist to assist the human body in maintaining and/ or healing itself. As a Christian, I believe that God is the ultimate HEALER. I also believe that God has given us medicine to assist us in taking responsibility of maintaining our lives here on earth. In essence, I do not believe that God is against us utilizing medication as a means of assisting us to live the most productive, happy and fulfilling lives possible.
Unfortunately, in 2011, I allowed the fear of potential risk and side effects to be the driving force against taking Tamoxifen. All of the procedures, surgeries and chemotherapy that I had endured were RISKY as well, but God brought me through every procedure.
With regard to making a decision whether or not to take hormone therapy, I invite you to as yourself this question, “Is it worth POTENTIALLY going through exactly what I am going through today, a second time?”
Having gone through breast cancer twice, I can say with all certainty that I wish I had taken the Tamoxifen in 2011. Although I can not be certain that taking the medicine in 2011 would have prevented a recurrence in 2016, at least I would have been able to say to myself that I gave it my all by following the whole treatment plan.
Going through cancer treatment is extremely difficult. Therefore, I would be doing you and myself a huge disservice if I did not encourage you to do all that you can to avoid a recurrence of breast cancer, even if it means taking a hormone therapy pill for the next 5-10 years.
Until next time, Ciao!♥