My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

Zoladex Was Supposed To Be A Pain In The Ass (Plus Another Anniversary)

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needle

I have to admit, I’ve been planning the title of this post for several weeks, ever since I last saw my oncologist we decided to get me started on Zoladex.  The title was supposed to be, Zoladex Is A Pain In The Ass, but it can’t be anymore.  I’ll explain why.

Zoladex is a drug administered by monthly injection and in combination with Tamoxifen in premenopausal women, lowers the risk of recurrence when diagnosed with early stage, hormone positive breast cancer.  It is an ovarian suppressor so it stop the ovaries (or lowers) production of estrogen.  This will put me in complete menopause.

My oncologist has been bringing up this drug to me for over six months now and I have been very resistant.  “Why,” I asked on many occasions,”do I need to do something else?  Why do I need to put another drug in my body?  Haven’t I done enough?”  It was really that last question I was asking.  “Haven’t I done enough?”  Why isn’t a mastectomy, chemotherapy, herceptin, radiation and tamoxifen enough to keep my cancer at bay?

The answer she gave me is that Zoladex is one more thing that can help prevent recurrence.  While it doesn’t improve my chances a huge amount, my oncologist feels that the benefit it is statistically significant in women who were diagnosed under the age of 35 (I was 37 so, close enough) when in combination with all of the treatment I have had.  It took a long time for me to come to the conclusion to try it but I promised my son that I would do everything…EVERYTHING…to make sure this cancer never happens again.  So, I need to at least try it.

I had heard that there is a “technique” for administering the injection so I was very curious about that, so I asked my oncologist.  Her reply was, “How graphic do you want me to get?  Are you sure you want to know?”  I felt the blood leave my head but I said that I’m not good with surprises and that I’d rather know than be caught off guard.  So she informed me.

WARNING:  If you do not want to know how this is done, stop reading now.  I acknowledge that this information is not helpful for all.

“Well, it’s a big needle.  A really big needle.  Whatever you do, don’t look at it.  Because it’s a big needle, after sticking it in the skin it needs to be twisted.  Then we inject the liquid which is more vicious that others.  It is going to hurt but only going in.  And when it’s done, it’s done.  That’s it.  And we inject it into your backside.”

My ass!!!!  MY ASS!!!!  They wanted to stick a huge needle into my ass?

Hence, the title I’ve been planning for weeks.  Zoladex Is A Pain In The Ass.

But, yesterday, when I got the injection, I was informed I was going to get it in my belly and not my bum.  “Are you sure,” I asked my nurse?  She was positive.  I was simultaneously elated and disappointed; elated because I got to keep my pants up and avoid the humiliation of getting a shot in the ass but, disappointed because what was the title of this post going to be?

I informed my nurse, Nina my chemo nurse, of course, that I didn’t want to see the needle.  She agreed it was not a good idea.  But let me tell you what I did see.  The box!!!!  I saw the box the needle came in.

I am of the belief that anything that is going to enter your body in any way while you are still conscious should not come in a box that size.  I started to sweat.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.  But amazing Nina kept me talking (probably so I wouldn’t faint), sprayed some numbing solution on my skin and did it.

It didn’t hurt.  Maybe a slight pinch but that’s nothing.  And it was done in seconds.  In fact, it hurt more after (a little soreness) than actually getting the injection.  It was done.  Now I just have to see if I get any side effects…more hot flashes, night sweats, that sort of thing.

I had been psyching myself out for weeks over this injection.  In my mind, the needle looked something like this.

needle 2

Or worse, this one.

needle 3

My imagination really got the best of me.  I’m still happy that I was prepared for what was coming.  If I had seen that box and didn’t know what was in store, I think I would have flipped out.

It’s also ironic that I started this new treatment on the anniversary of my last chemo treatment.  I can’t believe that one year ago, I said goodbye to chemotherapy (hopefully) forever!  What’s amazing to me is how quickly this year has gone by.  From the time I was diagnosed and throughout treatment, it felt like the world stopped turning and I was stuck in time.  And since then the world has been spinning uncontrollably forward.  This is good in the sense that I have been getting back to normal life, to the best of my ability.  But it’s also had me scrambling to catch up.  More on that in another post.

But today, I want to celebrate how far I’ve come.  Even though I’m starting a new treatment and I don’t know what the side effects will be like, I have to remain hopeful.  I have to trust that it’s one more thing keeping me safe.  It’s one more thing ensuring that I see my son graduate college, get married and have his own children.  And for that, you can stick any size needle into me whenever you want (not really but yes really).

Enjoy some images taken one year ago.  And you can read about my last chemo day and how I celebrated here and here.

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10 thoughts on “Zoladex Was Supposed To Be A Pain In The Ass (Plus Another Anniversary)

  1. OUCH!! I hate needles with a passion, but like you, I need to see how big they are before they go in (with the exception of the Epidural injection). I hope your side effects are minimal from this new drug. And I understand your frustration about never really ‘being done’.

    It was never recommended I do this additional treatment for my bc so I will ask my Onco when I see her next month to confirm if this would be beneficial to me. And of course, that would also depend on whether or not I will take a break on Tamox to build a family. Too many decisions to be made and I can’t stand it!

    I remember your “…take a pic with me” project after finishing with your chemo. I thought that was very cool and fun. I am glad this is behind you now and I hope you NEVER have to face another chemo again.

    I hope you’re enjoying the nice NYC weather! xo

    • One woman, on my Facebook page described the needle as a “harpoon.” GAH!!!!!!!! Well…one more month to go before my next shot.
      Definitely ask your oncologist about it. I wonder if your time on tamoxifen already is a factor in starting you on something like this. I hope your tamoxifen is enough. I wish I didn’t have to do this. Two more years of going to the cancer center, getting weighed, blood pressure, temp, etc…taken and then being harpooned. No fun. No fun at all. I hate my life sometimes.

      I loved my NYC “take a pic” project. It was one of the highlights of my experience.

      Thanks for reading!

    • thesmallc I was initially diagnosed with locally advanced breast cancer in 2011 and at the time it was not standard of care to use Zoladex inj to prevent recurrence. I learnt that this changed in 2014, and that the Zoladex inj is slightly better at preventing a recurrence then Tamoxifen alone in high risk women. Carrie, were they keeping you on Tamoxifen or switching you to an AI, such as Letrozole? I only ask as Tamoxifen is for us premenopausal women, but once you get Zoladex this suppresses your ovaries and you are now in medical menopause, so technically I would have thought after about a month of getting the injection they’d switch you to an AI, no? That’s what my onc does anyways. The first time I got it, it was painful!! I was told that the one I receive isn’t a liquid, but rather a pellet, so you can imagine how large the gauge on the needle needs to be!! My first time was awful as the nurse knew I worked in healthcare and she gave me the needle and asked if I wanted to give it to myself!!! Ummm….NOPE! She went at a 90degree angle and I think she got it in my muscle as it was BAD. Since then my regular nurse does it and she’s amazing…not bad at all and I don’t even numb it anymore if I know she’s doing it!! Technique by the nurse is really everything in terms of whether it’ll be a pleasant experience. There’s also the option of getting them every 3months, with a larger dose, so that’s the route I decided to take! Apparently, this schedule lacks good quality data as to it’s efficacy, but I’ve been on this schedule for just over two years and it has been working great at keeping my cancer at bay, so the lack of good quality data at this point doesn’t bother me. Wish you all the best moving forward. Apologies for my long, novel response!! Xo

      • Hi Judit,
        I am being kept on tamoxifen. You bring up a good point about me being in menopause now so, why haven’t they switched my medications. I don’t know the answer to that. But I’ve been told that I’m staying on the tamoxifen. I’ll try to remember to ask my oncologist when I see her in April.
        Yes, you’re right about the Zoladex, it is a pellet. I think the pellet is in a liquid so it can go in easier. I’m not one hundred percent sure though. I didn’t look. I could be wrong.

        I heard about the one you get every three months. My oncologist says she does that for her patients who travel a lot and can’t get the monthly shot consistently. She mentioned it to me but didn’t offer it to me. I can ask again about that as well.

        I’m glad that you have been on this routine for 2 years with good results. How much longer do they want to keep you on the Zoladex? I was told that I was going to be on it for two years total. Were you told something different?

        Thank you for reading!!!

      • Carrie my circumstance is a bit different as I am metastatic, so I will remain on Zoladex indefinitely. Hope you tolerate it well & I’m wishing you all the best moving forward!!

      • Judit, wishing you well, too.

  2. I’ve never heard of this drug but have been debating Lupron which sounds similar–meant to induce menopause and hence (ever so slightly, it seems)reduce the risk of recurrence for women with hormone positive bc (like me). I will definitely ask my onc about Zoladex! I’ll be curious to know about the side effects. I had such a terrible time the first several weeks after starting Tamoxifen that my onc has actually said she’s not sure the benefits of Lupron would outweigh the hell I’d likely go through. Still, it’s hard to think I’m not trying EVERYTHING. For now, I’m enjoying a few months of relative emotional and physical calm before jumping into yet more treatment!

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