Anastrozole

Here is some information on the hormone therapy drug that I will be taking for the next 10 years. I know that some of the possible side effects sound scary but I have found that most drugs that are used to fight cancer have side effects. It is important to remember that every cancer patient is different so not everyone will react in the same way or deal with the same side effects.

Anastrozole is used to treat breast cancer in women after menopause. Some breast cancers are made to grow faster by a natural hormone called estrogen. Anastrozole decreases the amount of estrogen the body makes and helps to slow or reverse the growth of these breast cancers.

Side Effects:

Hot flashes, headache, trouble sleeping, dizziness, stomach upset, nausea/vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight gain, tiredness/weakness, increased coughing, or sore throat may occur. If any of these effects last or get worse, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: bone pain, easily broken bones, joint stiffness/pain, muscle pain/stiffness, mental/mood changes (such as depression), numb/tingling skin, swelling hands/ankle/feet, shortness of breath, unusual vaginal discharge/bleeding/burning/itching/odor, pain/redness/swelling of arms or legs, vision changes, signs of liver disease (such as nausea/vomiting that doesn’t stop, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes/skin, dark urine).

Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: chest/jaw/left arm pain, confusion, trouble speaking, weakness on one side of the body.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

Precautions:

Before taking anastrozole, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: heart disease (such as history of heart attack), bone loss (osteoporosis), liver disease, high blood pressure, blood clots.

This drug may make you dizzy. Alcohol or marijuana (cannabis) can make you more dizzy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do anything that needs alertness until you can do it safely. Limit alcoholic beverages. Talk to your doctor if you are using marijuana (cannabis).

Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).

Since this drug can be absorbed through the skin and lungs and may harm an unborn baby, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not handle this medication or breathe the dust from the tablets.

Anastrozole is used mainly in women after menopause. If you have not gone through menopause, this medication must not be used during pregnancy. It may harm an unborn baby. Discuss the use of reliable forms of birth control (such as latex condoms) while taking this medication and for at least 3 weeks after stopping treatment with your doctor. Products containing estrogen (such as birth control pills) should not be used. If you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor right away.

It is unknown if this drug passes into breast milk. Because of the possible risk to the infant, breast-feeding while using this drug and for at least 2 weeks after stopping treatment is not recommended. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.

Oncologist Appointment: The Start of Hormone Therapy

Mood: Nervous 😕

Today I had an appointment with my oncologist to discuss hormone therapy. This is one of the final steps in my treatment for breast cancer. I will be on medication for 10 years and it will give me a 75% chance of my cancer not returning.

Just as I did all summer long while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, they started my visit with taking a few vials of blood. I haven’t had my blood tested since my last chemo treatment and that was way back in the beginning of October, so I am nervous for the results which I will have by the time my oncologist walks in to see me….yes, it is that fast!

After they took my blood I went into an exam room and waited for my oncologist. As with most cancer oncologists and surgeons as well, my oncologist is very friendly, caring, a good listener and compassionate but also very direct as we are dealing with a serious disease. I trust him, I respect him and his opinion as he is here to help save my life. My blood test results showed that my white and red blood cell counts are a little low but nothing to be alarmed about. My body has been through a lot over the past year and it will take a bit to recover and have everything go back to normal. We talked about the different options as far as medication goes and he decided to put me on Anastrozole. He asked me to give the medication a month or two for my body to get used to it as some side effects will go away with time. But, he is not expecting me to have any major issues as I have done well with everything so far and my body will start to recover and get stronger as I get further and further away from all that I have gone through. If I have any severe side effects I will let him know immediately and we can try a different drug, there are two other drugs that he can put me on if I have any problems. I have often read about other breast cancer patients having a lot of terrible side effects from the hormone therapy meds, so I would be lying if I said I am not both scared and concerned about how my exhausted body is going to react. I have also noticed that a lot of patients end up opting out of taking the hormone therapy meds, much to their oncologists disappointed I am sure, but I don’t feel that I have that option and here is why.

When I came out of my first surgery back in April, which was to remove all of the cancer, I was moved from stage 2b to stage 3. We were expecting 3 to 5 lymph nodes to be removed but my surgeon ended up having to take out 18 which is a high amount, making my cancer not only invasive which we already knew, but very aggressive as it had spread so much in a relatively short period of time. My surgeon and oncologist seemed to ramp up the urgency in my recovery from surgery and my starting chemotherapy treatment as soon as possible. The words “very aggressive” and “maximum treatments” were used, everything had changed, and my anxiety went through the roof. I remember my surgeon telling me during my follow up appointment after my first surgery that all 18 lymph nodes were positive for cancer and that he was aggressive during surgery so my margins were clear, meaning that he removed all of the cancer up to where the surrounding tissue had no signs of disease. But, with all of that being said, I would now have to go through the maximum, aggressive chemotherapy, a reconstruction surgery, the maximum radiation treatments and hormone therapy for most likely 10 years, for my type and grade of breast cancer.

So you can see why I feel that I don’t have a choice when it comes to going forward with hormone therapy. Of course, I do have a choice, but to me it is a simple choice between doing everything my doctors and I can do to keep my very aggressive breast cancer from coming back, or giving breast cancer a chance to come back, bump me into stage 4 and eventually kill me as there is no cure for stage 4.

9 months have passed since my first surgery and in the meantime I have had two more surgeries, 20 weeks of chemotherapy and 25 radiation treatments and I am now facing another scary part of my treatment, but I will get through this like I have with everything else, prayer, love from my family and friends, and most definitely, a few more tears.

Last Radiation Treatment: **WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS**

Mood: Excited! 😁

Today I had my final radiation treatment! I can’t tell you how relieved I am to finally have all of my treatments over with both chemotherapy and radiation!

The last few days of treatment were hard on me. My chest is red and bumpy, but it doesn’t hurt at all so I am happy about that. The redness is from the collar bone to the middle of my chest so it’s not exactly unnoticeable. But, in the last few weeks I have had a few sutures come out that were under my breast. When the sutures came out they broke my skin so I am red and in a little bit of pain in those places from the radiation. The good news is that In about 6 weeks I should be healed up and back to normal.

All in all, radiation treatment was not bad. The treatment itself is not painful at all and as long as I applied the medicated lotion 3 times a day to the treatment area I was not in any discomfort from the radiation. A few weeks ago I developed some back pain from the treatment table but that was because I have scoliosis and laying on the table day after day eventually caused my back to hurt. My time on the treatment table was not long, on average it was about 15 minutes, and it seemed like that amount of time was pretty standard.

I am tired both mentally and physically, and I am really feeling all that my body has been through over the last year. I will recover with time and I hope to go back to being active and enjoying life again, eventually. It has been a long year….it was just about a year ago today when I found the first tumor in my breast….

Next up….I am seeing my oncologist tomorrow to talk about going on hormone therapy.

Red rash from 25 radiation treatments

Full view of the red area, collar bone to breast

I am finally done and I had the best nurse ever! I will miss you Tania!

Ringing the bell!

Hubby & I so happy to have this part of the journey over!

6 Radiation Treatments To Go!

Mood: Happy 😁

A week from Monday, January 27th, I will have my final radiation treatment and I will be ringing the bell! Unfortunately, I had one day this last week where I didn’t go in for treatment because the machine was down, so my final treatment day has been delayed by one day.

My husband will be there recording the big moment as he did when I finished my chemotherapy treatments. I will post the video with my final thoughts on this part of my journey at some point next week.

Waiting to go in to my treatment, continuing to show a brave face even when I am tired and feeling overwhelmed!

Cure Magazine

Early on in my breast cancer journey I heard about a free magazine for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers called “cure.” I received my first issue around the time I had my 2nd chemo treatment in early June and I found this magazine to be so helpful in understanding more about cancer. Today I received this issue and I wish I had this early on….there is some great information in this issue for newly diagnosed cancer patients.

Please don’t get me wrong, all three of my doctors are amazing and have always taken the time to listen to me and answer all of my questions, but sometimes extra information can be helpful as well. I try not to flood myself with too much information as it can be depressing, confusing and it can make everything even more overwhelming than it already is.

Free Subscription for cure magazine

Free bulk subscriptions are available for physicians, cancer centers and other organizations.

Dogs & Cancer

My sweet, sun loving Brittany Spaniel, Bo! He is very sensitive and seems to know that I am sick and going through a lot. If I am hurting and say “owww” or start to cry, he is by my side in seconds, comforting me. He is a “bird dog”, with a nose built for finding and flushing birds while hunting. He comes up to me multiple times a day and smells the left side of my chest, where my tumors were located. It is amazing to me how he just knows and can smell that I am not well. I am so grateful for him as he watches over me when Matt isn’t home. 💕

7 Ways Dogs Help People with Cancer

NOVEMBER 7, 2016 ROBYN STOLLER BLOG, CANCER-FIGHTING LIFESTYLE

Dogs are known as “man’s best friend.” They are loyal companions, always excited to see you, follow your every word and will never desert you. Simply put, they love you unconditionally and aren’t afraid to show it. Research now shows there are also health-related benefits to spending time with these adorable, furry, four-legged friends.

1. Dogs can smell cancer. Canines smell up to 1,000 times more accurately than humans. In multiple laboratory studies, dogs have been able to detect certain cancers by smelling breath or urine samples. In one study, a Labrador retriever trained in cancer scent detection correctly identified 91% of breath samples and 97% of stool samples from patients with colon cancer. In another study, a German shepherd identified ovarian cancer malignancies form tissue samples with 90% accuracy. Dogs might one day be used in conjunction with existing diagnostic tests to detect cancer at its earliest stages when it’s most treatable.

2. Dogs are good for your overall health and heart. One study found that people with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without pets. In another study, one year after suffering a heart attack people with dogs were more likely to be alive than those who did not have a dog.

3. Dogs can significantly improve your mood. Cancer can cause depression and feelings of isolation. Another study found that cancer patients who spent time with a therapy dog prior to treatment reported improved emotional and social well-being, even while their physical well-being was in decline during chemotherapy.

4. Dogs are good stress relievers. Going through cancer treatment can be stressful and dogs can provide a welcome distraction. Petting them releases endorphins that relieve stress and improve mood. This can help patients forget about their pain or frustrations for a period of time.

5. Dogs are great company. Going through cancer treatment can be a lonely experience. Even if you have a strong support system, you may not be able to share your inner most feelings with them. Dogs are always eager to listen… and they know how to keep a secret.

6. Service dogs can aid in recovery and independence. When most people think of service dogs, they think of guide dogs for the blind. But medical service dogs can also be trained to bark for help, retrieve a phone, assist in walking, and opening and closing doors. They can even be trained to pick up dropped items or turn on/off lights and appliances. This can be especially helpful for cancer patients who have lost a limb or have difficulty getting around as a result of treatment.

7. Walking a dog is great exercise. Adding some form of exercise to your daily routine – even during cancer treatment – will enhance your physical well-being and aid in your recovery. Cancer can literally be exhausting. Research has shown that cancer patients who exercise regularly have 40% to 50% less fatigue. Taking your dog for a walk several times a day provides the perfect amount of moderate exercise needed.

Whether you are a dog owner or have access to therapy dogs at your infusion clinics, dogs have the ability to help people with cancer better cope with their diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

National Foundation for Cancer Research: Research for a cure