Last week I received my third monthly injection of Zoladex. Since I am on a two year regimen (for now, the new recommendation is five years), I only have 21 injections to go!!! Yay!
Zoladex, or Goselerin, is similar to a hormone made in the body, LHRH (luteinizing hormone, releasing hormone). It’s purpose in women is to decrease the production of estrogen so that it can stop the growth of ER+ cancer cells. The medication is an implant which is injected by a large needle into the abdomen just below the naval. The medication is released in the body over the period of a month.
This drug has done well in clinical trials with pre-menopausal women, particularly under the age of 35 (but, according to my oncologist, it is now recommended for all pre-menopausal women with ER+ breast cancer) in conjunction with Tamoxifen. This added protection against recurrence is a great thing, but great things in cancerland rarely come free. Side effects can include: hot flashes, dizziness, headache, sweating, trouble sleeping, nausea, mood changes, and vaginal dryness. Sound like fun? What cancer treatment isn’t?
So far, I have been experiencing intense hot flashes, sweating and fatigue. Maybe a little moodiness but that can be from being so freaking tired all the time. Who knows? The hot flashes are awful. It feels like I am a radiator, and when a hot flash starts, I’m being heating up from the inside out, until I am burning hot all over. My face turns really red when it happens. I’ve had several people apologize to me during a hot flash, asking how they’ve embarrassed me!!!! Now, that’s embarrassing. And the worst thing about a hot flash is that there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s like being on a rollercoaster and going down hill. You just have to get through it. There’s no stopping it once it starts. There’s no stopping it before it starts. It’s a constant ride but I never know where and when it’s going to begin. It’s awful.
The shot itself, well, is way more than a shot, really. One person on my Facebook page described it as a “harpoon.” I think if you tried to look it up, you could find what the needle looks like but I can’t bare to know. I think if I ever saw the needle, I’d never get it again. The injection doesn’t hurt me. I’m still pretty numb from my DIEP flap so, that’s good, I guess. It must hurt others because the nurses always cringe when they have to give it to me. You know it’s a huge fucking needle when even the nurses, whose job it is to stick you with needles all day, recoil at the thought of giving this injection. And while I haven’t seen the needle itself, I have seen the size of the box. It’s huge!!!!
I spoke to my oncologist about my side effects. She wants me to start acupuncture to help with the hot flashes. I like this alternative idea to medicine to help with my symptoms. I don’t like that I have to find yet more time and money to manage my side effects. With the lymphedema, depression, anxiety and now hot flashes, managing my symptoms is becoming another job. A very expensive job. Ugh!!!!!!
Cancer. The gift that keeps on giving. Were truer words ever spoken?