So, it’s been about 4 days since my removal of my ovaries and Fallopian tubes.
I have been in quite a lot of pain. More than expected. I have noticed that pain causes me to have anxiety. Ive had two anxiety attacks this morning so far and its 9 am. I have been trying to cut back on my pain meds because I only have a few left. I think i could handle the pain more if it wasnt for this anxiety getting out of hand. I suppose my emotions are link to my pain somehow and its just had enough of this last year.
I’m on the search for a therapist to help me sort this all out but, damn. Life after cancer is still so frustrating.
The above was written on March 4, 2019. I had my ovaries removed to help prevent this damn cancer from coming back and I need all the help I can get. Estrogen and Progesterone fed my cancer, so I need to keep it out of my body. I didn’t publish at that time for multitudes of reasons at that moment; it was difficult for me to sit and type, the pain meds made me out of it, and the anxiety made it impossible.
I didn’t realize that it wasn’t only the pain that created my anxiety (panic) attacks. Having my ovaries removed at the age of 38 caused me to have such a decrease instantly of the necessary hormones that my body relies for normal functioning that my body kind of flipped out. In truth, I didn’t expect much of a change because I had been in ‘menopause’ since I had started chemo in May of 2018. I was previously going through hot flashes and I had of course, not had a period since then. I hadn’t been very educated on how those hormones actually affect the body, and I’m still learning.
Because I was unaware of the side effects: Here is a general list of the symptoms of menopause:
-Vasomotor symptoms (a fancy name related to blood vessel regulation): Hot flashes and night sweats. This was the only side effect I was aware of. The only one I ever heard complained about and I felt I could blame on menopause
-Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
-Insomnia- stupid hot flashes like to wake me up and very very often I cant go back to sleep either ever or for at lease an hour after.
-Depression, Anxiety and Irritability- just gonna raise my hand over here.
-Urinary Incontinence and increased urination- I’ve had increased urination since my two beautiful boys graced my womb and used my bladder as a trampoline.
-Memory Loss and Problems Concentrating- haha. This is the story of my life right now with ‘chemo brain’ and the nerve pain medication Gabapentin I take that also causes these lovely symptoms.
-Joint Pain- Like i need this, along with my autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis
-Weight Gain- so it seems women should decrease their daily caloric intake by 400-600 calories a day. Seriously? This explains a bit
-Sexual Disfunction (evidently you get less blood going to your vagina, so you know, your ‘not feeling it’, so your pretty ‘meh’ about sex)
-Osteoperosis- your bones become more brittle
-skin dryness and hair thinning/loss (I kinda lost all my hair, so remembering how thick or thin it was is not at all a concern of mine)
This is also interesting to me. If you have reached full menopause prior to 45 years old- whether naturally (which is considered a dysfunction) or surgically- you have some different factors as well to worry about. The body evidently uses these hormones to help with different parts of the body as well, and evidently, simply put, once you lose these hormones, your body then starts to age faster. Bones, brain, organ lining, endocrine system, truthfully, a lot of parts I didn’t know about-including the heart are all affected. Menopause is natural- but when you add another 10-20 years of faster aging caused by early menopause, then it does evidently increase the earlier risk of overall mortality. So, normally, adding hormone replacement therapy, is important and usually used, except in the case of hormone positive breast cancer patients who are trying to reduce their risk from a very fast aggressive asshole of a cancer. Grumble grumble.
When I first had my ovaries removed, I instantly began having about 5-6 panic attacks a day! It was terrible. At the time, I believed that it was due at first to the pain, then I thought ‘well, it was because of everything catching up with me emotionally’. I had gotten my ovaries removed 6 weeks after my last radiation treatment. My body was still recovering and I even needed an iron infusion before my surgery. Everything had been bam bam bam since my diagnosis. So, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for that to happen. At the next meeting with my oncologist, both he and his nurse practitioner took time to go through that with me. He said in about 3 months that it would regulate more and I should start having a decrease and feel better. I was both happy there was a physical reason and that there was an end in sight and sad that it would still be 3 more months, but mostly surprised that i had never heard of anxiety caused by menopause. It was explained to me that because the ovaries were instantly removed, and not gradual decreasing function in a natural way, then I would have all of the side effects to the extreme. Booo. But, hey, it beats cancer. I always remember this.
You might be wondering if there was another option other than ovary removal. Yes, there was. When you have had hormone positive breast cancer, you don’t want the hormones in your body to help fight any singular cell that might be somewhere from reproducing. So, in order to keep that cell a singular (and hopefully found and destroyed), you try to starve it so it doesn’t duplicate.
There are two types of estrogen suppressors, one for premenopausal and one for postmenopausal women. I happen to have a very knowledgeable and helpful sister in law who is a clinical oncology pharmacist who has all the scientific know-how necessary to help me along. She suggested that I get my ovaries removed so I could have the post-menopausal drug instead of the premenopausal. I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but, evidently, the combination is more reliable. My oncologist agreed.
After about 3 months, I returned to my oncologist who tested to see if I was in menopause and then they ordered my estrogen suppressor, called anastrozole. I was told to avoid taking it until my upcoming vacation because the side effects might ruin my vacation. Apart from the normal side effects of being in menopause, joint pain and nausea are also a risk. Luckily, I don’t notice any side effects from it after I did start taking it, but it did scare me a bit.
I still have panic attacks but they are much less frequent and I have learned a few tricks to cope along my way. I have had so many suggestions from others that I tried. Everyone is different and finding what works is frustrating. I personally need to just relax and have the panic attack happen. I mentally picture myself inviting the dumb panic attack and saying “come on in, if this is what i need, then lets do this. I’ll be just fine”. Then, magically, it disappears, usually without it even really happening. And I’ve also noticed that once you have one then your more prone to having another one for a day or two. So, I tend to self care at that time. Just reducing my stress, getting bonus hugs from my hubby, getting my mind off of things. For me personally, trying to work through my mental worries makes things worse, so I do things to relax me. It takes time to find what works but once you find that, its a priceless tool. Anxiety attacks are really awful. And its crazy to me that your body manifests your emotions to the physical in such a powerful way. It makes me step back and wonder what other parts of our physical self are affected by our emotions or outlook. Ive heard it said often when I got diagnosed that your outlook really affects how your body responds to the treatments. Ive heard about people talking nicely to plants causes healthy growth and talking negatively to plants causes them to wither. It also works the opposite way, too! My physical imbalance caused me to have such an emotional response from hormones. Yep, our bodies and minds are certainly connected. And I slowly improving in both ways. Connected as one.