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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ringing the bell

I'm done. Today I'm ringing the bell in the infusion room, marking the end of my chemo treatment. My husband, my boys, and my mom will all join me. And then we're celebrating with friends tonight.

I prayed and prayed throughout the long holiday weekend and finally had peace about what to do next. It was not an easy decision and I wanted to be sure that I was not making an emotional decision...or one of fear.

Monday, I got to see the video the photographer had put together from my photo shoot. It's beautiful...but it's like I'm watching a stranger. Who is that woman??  God is gracious though. Through many of you, he pointed out things I don't often see in myself. Beauty. Strength. Joy. Dignity. Courage. It's all His, not mine! He is generous to give me what I don't deserve. Thank you, Lord. Thank you! I can finally say I'm thankful for my cancer. For every blessing, for every challenge, for every lesson, I am truly thankful. Thank you, Lord, for ALL you have given me through this cancer.

When my face went numb for the fourth time, I knew he'd also given me my answer.

I went in for my appointment yesterday with my medical oncologist. I was fully prepared to tell her that I not going to complete chemo. She beat me to it. She was calling it off. She'd already consulted with my integrative oncologist and they both agreed that the I'd already received the most beneficial doses and with the side effects I was experiencing, I needed to be done. I'm glad we're all in agreement about that. The next steps? Not so much.

Tamoxifen is next. It's an estrogen blocker and I'm not interested in it, though I understand my doctor's recommendation.  I'm more concerned about the side effects that'll cause than the benefits it might have. From the National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Tamoxifen increases the chance of cancer of the uterus (womb) in some women taking it. Tamoxifen may cause blockages to form in a vein, lung, or brain. In women, tamoxifen may cause cancer or other problems of the uterus (womb). It also causes liver cancer in rats. In addition, tamoxifen has been reported to cause cataracts and other eye problems." As if that weren't enough, there's also this, "Serious and life-threatening uterine malignancies, stroke, and pulmonary embolism have been associated with tamoxifen use in the risk reduction setting and women at high risk for breast cancer. Some of these adverse events were fatal."
On the other hand: If I take it, my breast cancer might not return...or it might come back anyway. No guarantees. According to my medical oncologist, if my cancer returns it's incurable. She also made it clear that there's no way of knowing if it's gone now other than I show no symptoms of active cancer cells. She has offered both blood tests and scans to check but admits that unless it's growing the tests won't show much. The reality is that my cancer has been gone since June when I had surgery to remove it. Chemo was a preventative measure to reduce the risk of recurrence. I didn't have to do chemo. I chose to do it. I also never felt sick til I started chemo. How backward is that?

So I'm choosing to not take tamoxifen. I've discussed the pros and cons with my husband and sons and they support my decision, even if my doctors don't. I know not everyone will and a few have already expressed their thoughts on it. That's okay. It's not their life or their choice. It's mine. And it belongs to the Lord.

It's not that I plan to do nothing. Far from it. I am just choosing to take the less traveled route. I've got Jesus as my tour guide. How can it go wrong?

I will continue to ask for your prayers and support, whatever that may look like to you. My donation account will remain open since my treatment will be ongoing, though I do not plan to keep asking for donations. I know that God will continue to provide for us according to our needs.

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