Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer


by k1

At the end of my 2 year course of Zoladex and Tamoxifen it was hoped that I had completed my menopause in order for me to stop taking Tamoxifen and start a 3 year course of Arimidex. This seems to be the standard treatment for E+ breast cancer – 5 years of combined hormonal therapy. The first 2 years went by with only minor problems (see my article re Zoladex) and I was pleased when I had completed the two years of Zoladex and it was just a question of taking one little Tamoxifen pill each day. I always remember the Consultant Oncologist saying “things will improve for you now”. Little did he or I know.

It was agreed at that appointment that after 6 months my hormone levels would be tested to make sure that I had in fact gone through menopause. I was to continue with the Tamoxifen and then hopefully in 6 months time would change to Arimidex. After only 2 months of stopping the Zoladex injections I started to feel very unwell. The hot flushes and night sweats were awful and happening every day, my head continuously felt like it weighed a ton and I didn’t feel I was “here”, I couldn’t stop crying from morning till night and I couldn’t sleep. I felt ill and very depressed. I developed stomach pain which was crippling. My energy levels were non-existent, I felt and looked a haggard old woman, even though I was only 49. If it had not been for my son I would not even have bothered to get out of bed. This is totally the complete opposite to how I normally am, happy and laughing and full of beans. I saw the Oncologist again who said it definitely wasn’t the return of bc but didn’t know what the problem was as everyone he knew that took Tamoxifen alone tolerated it very well. He referred me to a gynaecologist urgently (it took 6 weeks) who I have to say was excellent. She did many tests and examinations and said all was well internally but in a few cases, especially if you are strongly E+, the ovaries will begin to work again once the Zoladex is out of the system as Zoladex is a very powerful drug and can mask any side effects of other hormonal treatments. Unfortunately for me the Tamoxifen’s side effects were taking hold in a big way as it could not prevent my ovaries from starting to make oestrogen again and was to blame for me being so ill. Apparently my whole system was fighting against itself and the drug. The choice was to either continue with the Zoladex indefinitely or to have my ovaries removed. I chose to have my ovaries removed because this would put me in an instant menopause and hence able to start Arimidex. I really didn’t want to risk going through this again and was also told that it is better to have Tamoxifen for 2 years and then 3 years of Arimidex.

I have never once regretted my decision to have my ovaries removed. If anything, I wished this could have happened right at the beginning.