Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Journey Now, Part 11: Post Chemo and Back in the Saddle

A shot of me with my wig on, but no eyelashes.
Me, with my wig and no eyelashes.
It has now been over a month since my last chemo.  My hair is only 2 or 3 mm long with look that is sort of a cross between 80s stars Max Headroom and Annie Lennox. My new wig makes me look like Trixie from Call the Midwife. (only much older, I'm afraid.) I am taking Tamoxifen now, and I feel surprisingly well.

I waited quite a while to begin the Tamoxifen. I wanted a taste (quite literally) of normal before I started down the path of a new, potentially difficult drug. 

The first step after chemo was to check in with my endocrinologist, who had some sage advice:  If you take thyroid meds, take them separately from anything else, especially far from the Tamoxifen. She recommended that I take that one at dinner. This is wise for several reasons: it is a little hard on the GI system, and taking it with food helps ameliorate that. It gives the proper distance from my other lifesaving medication, and it seems to reduce the side effects.

So far, the side effects have been both surprising and interesting. First, my taste is a bit off. There is a mild metallic aftertaste in my mouth -- nothing like the Abraxane metallic taste, but it's there in the background. Sometimes, I even forget about it. I'm currently searching for cause and effect -- if I can figure out what's triggering it, maybe I can head it off altogether.  

The other negative side effect seems to be a bit of joint and muscle pain. I have arthritis; I've had it since last chemo. It's interesting because I noted that quite a lot of the usual aches and pains
disappeared when my immune system was suppressed (To be sure, replaced by others. This will be a discussion with my doctor soon.)  They are certainly back, and maybe a bit stepped up.  But I won't let that stop me.  I am currently experimenting with rubs, nsaids, acetaminophen, and maybe therapy to address those. But again, not stopping me. Eff the pain!

My neuropathy is better, and I maintain that I did not have much chemo brain this time around.  My fingers get sparkly every so often, and less so than before. I've been doing multiplication in my head; I'm up to 4 places by 3 places (involving my weaknesses, 7s and 8s) and I can complete the equation. Screw you, chemo, you can't have my brain!!!

There's been an unexpected upside to my meds.  I feel very strong and energetic. It's having a very positive effect on all sorts of systems that have been a bit quiet of late, including female and related systems. Yes, I didn't expect that! Most women experience worsening menopause systems...I feel like Tamoxifen is addressing those systems that needed a bit of a boost, and I really didn't have much to complain about before. Enough said. Other benefits from Tamoxifen: strengthening bones (that may actually explain quite a bit) and an improved cholesterol profile, although I've never really had a big problem with that.  

I'm trying to walk 10,000 steps a day four or five days a week. I'm working full time. I feel better, and I am incredibly grateful that I feel so well. I'm not crazy about the ongoing metal mouth, but this feels pretty good, despite it all. There will be bad days, I know, but the good ones seem especially so, now.