Monday, June 29, 2009

Hormone Mania!

I have been going through what I will call "hormone mania" for years but recently I have had a reprieve from the symptoms of these sometimes unpleasant hormonal fluctuations. That is primarily because I am in menopause because I take Tamoxifen and I couldn't be happier( for those of you who don't know, Tamoxifen is given to breast cancer patients who are estrogen receptor positive). I know that it sounds strange to say that, everyone tells you about the horrible side effects of lower estrogen levels in your body but for me, lower estrogen levels seem to be a saving grace. I feel so much better than I did before I got sick and my theory is that I am "hormonally challenged." This is not a term that is currently sanctioned by the medical community but one that I think best describes my condition over the years.

First of all, I always had painful periods. Ever since day one. I remember sitting on the steps in my robe at the tender age of twelve and crying in pain. My mother and my sister both stared at me in disbelief at my anguish and whispered to each other, "It can't be that bad. She is so dramatic!" Even though I can be a drama queen on occasion, this wasn't the case with my periods. They were very painful, just about every month. Then came the next major side effect of the hormonal fluctuations, wicked PMS.

For those of you who suffer from severe PMS, you know how bad it can be. I had the classic symptoms: that feeling like you are going to crawl out of your skin, losing your patience with just about everyone you know; particularly your husband and children, anxiety about everything and nothing at all, and finally rage and paranoia. My episodes became more frequent and more pronounced as I got older. Two weeks into the month my husband would get this look on his face that would indicate that I "had turned." Sybil was out for a couple of weeks and it was time to walk on egg shells. Run for cover, he would think, nothing he could say or do was going to be right until the estrogen levels dropped.

Next came the migraines. This happened a couple of years before I had cancer. All of a sudden, the month after we moved to Pennsylvania, I got this awful feeling of vertigo accompanied by a terrible headache and nausea. I got my period the same day. For the next four months this pattern continued. I would spend at least one day a month completely immobilized from these headaches. I kept thinking that it was due to the stress of moving to a new place. Finally, at my husbands insistence I went to see a neurologist who diagnosed the events as menstrual migraines. Some women experience them when their estrogen levels drop right before their periods. I was given migraine medicine and told to consult an Ob/Gyn to see if there was some way to regulate my hormones to lessen the impact of these headaches. She put me on birth control pills which in turn intensified the headaches. Needless to say, after two weeks of that, I was back at the neurologist asking for more migraine medicine.

I continued to suffer from these headaches until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then my periods stopped while I went through surgery and chemo. A couple of months later I began to take Tamoxifen. At first it didn't seem to be working. I was still getting my migraines and my period. Then I stared to have the symptoms of premenopause: insomnia, night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain and infrequent periods. It was a little bit uncomfortable but not that bad. I gained a little bit of weight, but not much. I did have trouble sleeping but it would last for about a week and then stop. All in all, I think the insomnia was the worst part for me. Now, I seem to be past that.

I no longer have my periods but I still have night sweats and the occasional hot flash. The upside is that I am much more "even." My PMS is a thing of the past and the moodiness that went with it went away too. The biggest benefit of all is that I don't suffer from migraines any more. They are gone. I have lost the weight I temporarily gained and am in better shape than I have been in a couple of years. My husband hasn't seen Sybil for over eight months and is just as happy not to know her any more. And about that libido thing, I don't have any idea what those doctors are talking about. So good riddance to"hormone mania!"

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