I’ve had a rough year. I feel stupid saying that because it’s not nearly as bad as others so maybe I’ll leave it at: it hasn’t been easy. The thing is, I hadn’t realised it was tough at the time.
In November, I’d been on the Tamoxifen (hormone blocker) for a year. I was so disillusioned by my marker steadily increasing and felt I needed to do something. After a few synchronous phone conversations cascaded, I found a reliable source of cannabis oil and had a ton of research on hand.
If you’re considering taking it, be sure to know what you’re wanting out of it – is it pain relief or is it to impact a tumour. From my research, THC is the readily available (erm, illegally, in SA but it grows well here) strain/extraction that works well for pain. If your tumour is estrogen-receptor-positive, like mine is, then THC will feed it. Of course (rolling eyeballs). CBD (imported, if you can find it) also helps with pain but has a direct effect on the tumour. It’s not regulated so you really have to go with what your gut says when you come across a supplier. In either case, make sure it’s:
- From the marijuana plant, NOT hemp. As hemp grows, it absorbs toxins from the soil. You don’t want to be ingesting more toxins and taxing your body even more.
- Extracted with ethanol / medical alcohol, NOT butane or any by-product of petroleum.
The stuff made me sleep better than any night since my shoulder started hurting. (I firmly believe it’s a rotator cuff injury from my rollerblade fall and not, as the onco said at the time, some tumour feeding off my back muscle.) After 20 days, though, I’d increased the dosage to half of the recommended maintenance and it was taking longer to wear off in the morning. I’d get up, stumble to the kitchen holding onto walls and doors, to feed the cat. No way could I get ready for the day. I had to sleep it off. I was pain-free – and, I believe, in the perfect state of homeostasis to heal – but I couldn’t function. I stopped taking the stuff.
I then remembered a lecture I’d attended a few years ago about Salvestrols. A book came my way about these plant extracts and I started taking them in December. They’re easier to take (in capsule form), accessible (from an online store), and they’re legal. Basically, they work by “switching on” an enzyme found in cancer cells. Through a cascading process, this causes apoptosis (programmed cell death) in those cells. It’s harmless to healthy cells. What’s more, apparently ovarian cancer cells have a greater concentration of these enzymes than any other cancer. I can’t prove any of this but I don’t need to. I just follow what feels right for me. This did. 3 weeks on, I’m still taking them. That said, here are 5 case studies, and more here. If you’re still curious, here’s dosage information.
When I started the cannabis oil, I stopped taking the prescribed Tamoxifen pills. No weaning, just stopped. In early January, I agreed to meet a friend for breakfast. More about this later. I then called the onco to say I wasn’t coping (I didn’t know what with, exactly). I went to see her after an ultrasound, x-ray and bloods. She’d wondered when she’d be hearing from me. It’d taken a year for me to realise something wasn’t right. I was super-sensitive to everything. If I wasn’t shouting at a colleague about trying to force religion on me, then I was crying when I watched Harry Potter win a quidditch match. And my prized memory was failing me in short-term retention. She said the side effects had been drastic for some other patient, too, who’d stopped herself from bashing her grandchild against a wall. It was horrible. What’s worse, it’d crept up on me. I didn’t realise why I was withdrawing from people, why I was miserable, why I was having eczema flare-ups, why I was exhausted (fatigued, not tired) – all the time. Now I know the subconscious withdrawing was because I’d snap too easily so it was safer for me to stay away from people who triggered me – which was almost everyone.
The ultrasound showed that the biggest tumour had shrunk by 1cm. She reasoned that 1cm is big, like a billion cells type of big. It’s progress. I nodded behind my tears which distracted me as she explained what’s next.
There’s an alternative to the Tamoxifen. Where Tamoxifen is a known cause of uterine cancer (I scoffed at not having one and so being safe but was horrified that I’d been swallowing such poison), Faslodex is not. Tamoxifen cuts off production of hormones – everywhere – thyroid, kidneys, etc. and not just estrogen. Faslodex stops the estrogen receptors at the tumour site while still allowing production of other hormones in the body. Do you understand what hormones do? They govern every single function in the body. And I was receiving none of them. For a year. No wonder I was losing it!
“Why didn’t we go with this in the first place?!”
“Because it’s more costly and medical aid won’t cover it unless we can prove we’ve tried the Tamoxifen first and can’t cope with it.”
Ugh. Bureaucracy. Stunned silence. My poor body.
I’m always going on about taking responsibility for my own health but if I don’t have all the facts, I’m still helpless and under someone else’s control.
Faslodex’s side effects apparently aren’t as bad and it’s delivered through a monthly intra-muscular injection. I should only have bone and muscle pain for a week after the first dose and not much else thereafter. We’ll see. I’ve gone back onto one of the dietician’s supplements (that I’d stopped because of cost) that uplifts mood, appetite, and energy levels.
Back to that breakfast. I almost postponed because I was feeling stuff bubbling up particularly close to the surface that day. By the end, I left feeling a bit better and she’d convinced me how important it was to see the onco and keep her in the loop of what was going on. I was clambering out of a confused, dark space once more – all because I’d shown up. Sometimes – probably more often than I care to admit because I’m always wanting to do something about a situation – but sometimes, all you have to do is show up.