At the beginning of January, Mary and I relocated to the Boston area for six months. The change of scenery has been a true gift. That’s a topic for another time…first, I feel like an explanation is in order. Maybe not a big one, but a little one would be nice. I’d like to pin my absence on sheer distraction. And, it’s true. I’ve been caught up in moving, settling in, and exploring an amazing new city. But a chunk of my being AWOL is the breast cancer fatigue that settled over me once I finished “active” treatment. (I don’t know if “active” is an official term or not, but I’m using it to refer to the outrageous stuff, like surgery, chemo, and radiation.) But then I realized that, by not writing about my “passive” treatment, I might be contributing to a common misconception about breast cancer —that treatment ends after the “big” stuff. Unfortunately not even close. Those aggressive, we-need-to-almost-kill-you-before-we-cure-you interventions are just the beginning. For 5 to 10 years post-diagnosis, the majority of us must swallow daily pills and/or receive monthly injections of anti-estrogenics, drugs that deprive our bodies of estrogen. (That’s because most breast cancers cells feed on estrogen and the goal is to starve the little buggers.) But these powerful anti-estrogens have huge repercussions, especially in pre-menopausal women. The list of common side effects includes joint pain, insomnia, fatigue, hot flashes and loss of libido. I’m not sure why I want people to understand that treatment goes on for years and years. Maybe because it’s just too depressing to see the mixture of relief and worry in people’s eyes when they look at me and say, “well, at least it’s over.” The one shitty thing I know for sure about cancer is that it’s not over ’til it’s over.
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