This week marks the end of my first month on tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a “magic pill” that blocks estrogen uptake; for those of us with cancers that feed on estrogen, that means that the cancer would have nothing (or very little) to feed on, so it can’t grow. Tamoxifen is used to treat light cases of cancer (as if there were such a thing) and to prevent recurrence in those that have had surgery and other treatments.
Tamoxifen, tamoxifen, tamoxifen.
My friend L and I were talking today about the shroud of secrecy that has traditionally been drawn over personal medical treatments. Many of us grew up knowing very little of our family medical histories. They just didn’t keep good records decades ago, or maybe they just didn’t share them with anyone else. I suspect the latter, but there has to be some element of the former as well.
My grandmother died of “a female cancer.” Ovarian? Uterine? Something else? No one knows. No one ever knew. It just. wasn’t. talked. about. And then I got cancer. “A female cancer.” But mine is documented. There are records. There are memories. I have told my family and friends about my treatment. I have blogged it. So there it is, out in the open. Embarrassing? Perhaps. Even probably. But it’s out there, and anyone can see what it’s like to have treatment for cancer, or at least inflammatory breast cancer.
My sons will know their medical history. In fact, I think I’m going to write it all down for them (their great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and uncles) later today. They should have it, easily accessible, anytime they need it.
And I will keep talking about the experience here, trying to demystify the experience and make sense of it myself. Saying the words and lessening the stigma. Breaking the shroud of silence.