As we have already learned in other articles on this page, menopause catches most women more or less unprepared. At some point, the surprise bag of accompanying symptoms slowly opens and you realize that the previously unknown complaints must probably come from the hormonal change.
“The unattractive side effect of this therapy, however, is that it ushered in menopause mercilessly and – in my case – literally overnight.”
The situation is quite different if you are one of the approximately 69,000 women in Germany who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
As if it wasn’t enough for me to hit the bull’s eye with my first mammogram beyond the age of 50, a very common variant of breast cancer involves keeping it in check with anti-hormone therapy; because many breast cancer tumors love estrogen and progestin. The good news, of course, is that in addition to surgery, chemo and radiation, anti-hormone therapy is another promising therapeutic approach for these types of tumors. The unpleasant side effect of this therapy, however, is that it introduced menopause mercilessly and – in my case – literally overnight.
Surgery and radiation were followed by my daily tablet of tamoxifen in the early summer of 2020. In my early 50s, I thought I had slowly entered menopause, even though I had not yet noticed any significant changes that I would have expected in this context. The hormone status determination before starting the anti-hormone therapy then also taught me otherwise: my menopause did not seem to be in sight for a long time yet. Much to the delight of the stowaway in my left breast, I had instead been flooding my body with estrogen. This had to stop if I wanted to avoid the possibly despite
I did not want to continue to feed the cancer cells that were still present with estrogen after the operation and radiation, but rather to starve them out.
True to the motto “The cancer is the enemy, not the tablet against it!” I therefore swallowed the first Tamoxifen after a hearty breakfast. The following night I still got up five times in a wet sweat to change, dress or undress, to open or close the window, to open or close the bedspread and to roll from one side to the other. Quite enervating! During the day, hot flashes continued at an hourly rate. At least if you’re awake anyway, they can’t wake you up too. Sitting at my desk, I put my forearms on a towel because otherwise I would have left nasty marks. I had the feeling that there are not only light switches but also hot flash switches that someone flips on a whim without warning or apparent purpose.
And then came the external heat wave of high summer. With over 30 degrees in our attic apartment, I thought it couldn’t get any hotter. In fact, at least it felt even hotter. At some point, though, I had the impression that the hot flashes were decreasing in both frequency and severity, or at least that I was getting used to them. Either way, I couldn’t keep it all straight because of the summer heat. Then, when midsummer was over sometime in September, my hot flashes were also over and, much to my delight, have not returned since. Other typical menopausal symptoms, which, according to the package insert, Tamoxifen also has in store, have fortunately spared me so far.
It seems that my menopause has been reduced to a short and severe four months of hot flashes in the Corona summer. But I won’t know for sure until a few years. At the moment, I assume that I will have to endure the anti-hormone therapy for seven to ten years. If everything stays as it is now, I will certainly have been very lucky!
This post reached us from one of our readers. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. You are our everyday heroine. If you would also like to share your experience with all of us, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All those who would like further information on the subject of breast cancer are recommended to visit the Deutsche Krebshilfe website.
Also worth reading: The German mammography screening program, designed on the basis of the recommendations of European guidelines. It has now been introduced in all German states. Unlike other screening examinations, it is carried out in an organized manner, with eligible women, i.e. all women between the ages of 50 and 69, being invited in writing to a so-called screening unit on a specific date every two years, which can be changed if necessary. There is even an Instagram account for this, “Die Mammo Mädels” are on the move there under the hashtag #gibachtaufdich.