Monday, March 25, 2013

Zoladex blues

I have been annoyed lately.  I think it is the zoladex.  My first injection was over a week ago, but I am just now noticing how it is impacting my body.  This is not just any ordinary injection - they place a pellet under the skin in your belly which slowly releases medication that overstimulates the body's own production of certain hormones, which causes that production to shut down temporarily.  The side effects?  They began with the hot flashes.  I dealt with the hot flashes that came with chemotherapy.  They were difficult, but manageable.  These new hot flashes feel all together different.  I feel as if I am melting from the inside.  And they hit me with extreme frequency- especially when I am trying to fall asleep.  It is challenging enough to find a comfortable position in my recliner so that I might fall asleep - and to be awoken every hour unable to regulate my body temperature is disheartening to say the least. 

A secondary side effect is the body and muscle aches.  I awake every morning with my fingers in an almost claw like position.  It takes several moments to release the joints so that I can find a way to get myself out of the recliner.  And then I wobble my way across the room.  My partner knows how difficult it has become for me to walk when I first stand up and will quickly walk close by to catch me in case I fall.  I feel like I am a hundred years old.  

But it is the last side effect that has been the most worrisome.  The hormonal roller coaster has felt emotionally debilitating.  The sadness has been slowly building and hit an all time high last week on Friday.  I felt paralyzed.  I lacked the motivation to eat, move, or even make eye contact with those I love.  My head felt heavy and cloudy.  I tried to watch television- but even that felt as if it would take too much effort.  I tried to rally but couldn't.  My toolbox of coping strategies felt empty and I felt desperate.  Luckily, I recognized that this had to be a medicinal side effect- I made it through chemotherapy with my sense of humor intact for the most part... This was outside of my control.  I immediately wrote to my doctor and someone from the office called me this weekend to make an appointment to see me on Monday.   By Saturday morning, I also realized that I was probably suffering from some anemia and made some quick dietary changes.  Luckily, today I felt a great deal better.

As a therapist, I often work with people who have intense depressive episodes.  If I asked them to describe what it felt like, they would give me a very similar description to what I have described above - and although I tried hard to empathize, in reality I couldn't.  Sadness has always been something that I have understood how to shake.  I make art, I read, I joke, call a friend, I make music, I find ways to distract myself from whatever emotional pain I am experiencing and then I feel better. Cognitive Behavioral Therapists talk a lot about changing your behaviors to change your emotions- but what if you just can't.  What if you don't have the energy to take off your pajamas and leave the safety of your recliner.  What if you can't shake it.  What if you feel a prisoner in that dark space in your mind- not able to leave of your own free will?  I felt that for the first time last week.  It was frightening.  And my heart is heavy for all of those who can't simply wait for a strange pellet to work its way out of their system so that they can rejoin the living.  

I remember people telling me how they refused important life saving drugs because of how it made them feel.  It was "a quality of life" issue.  I couldn't fathom saying no to anything that might extend the time that I have with my family.  On Friday, for the first time I understood.  

So, although this last week has been beyond difficult.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have my assumptions and beliefs challenged so that I might be more empathic to those around me.  I am growing and it is uncomfortable.  I think growing always is.   

Oh... I promise I will try very hard to be a bit more upbeat for my next post.  I really am not always so dour.  I just want to be real about what I am experiencing.  Thanks for bearing witness to these more difficult emotions.  Writing and sharing helps a ton.  I can put words to my experience as well as find a community to share this burden with.  So for that, I thank you.   And who knows, maybe someone will do a google search for depression and zoladex and realize they aren't alone.  



  1. Do whatever gives you a little freedom from all you are going through and if expressing what you are feeling helps, then do it. I'm so sorry for all that is happening to you. It grabs my heart. This is such a difficult time for you, I'm sure God is standing watch over you. For some reason you give me strength and thank you for that. Sending you ::healing thoughts::calmness::prayers::

  2. First of never have to be "more upbeat" -- you are living what you are living and expressing that, talking about it, no matter where you are on the emotional playing field is real and true. And it is your story. If others can't deal with less than "upbeat" that is their issue and they can find something else to do or to read. I myself understand this so well...the psychological and emotional aspect of cancer and I know others do as well. Keep writing when you know there is something to say. Because what you say will help others. Even if you don't see it or don't know it.

    Now, zolodex. I didn't have that but a friend of mine did and it drove her mad. She told her doctors she no longer wanted it and insisted that she have an oophorectomy. The doctors were not inclined to remove her ovaries and wanted her to give the zolodex more time...she insisted and had the operation and I supported that. It is our body. We are allowed to make decisions, even if medical people would rather "not". In the end her doctors agreed that she had made a wise decision. I'm not saying that this is your course of action, I'm saying that the drug is powerful and the side effects can be debilitating. We have to decide what we can tolerate and if we can't we ask them to find something "better" suited.

    And finally, it has always been my theory that cancer (and other serious illness or crises in our lives)is a gift. It doesn't come wrapped nicely or with bows, but the gift is what we learn about ourselves, what we learn about life and what we come to know in a way we never would have otherwise. It's a steep learning curve, that's for sure! For you, being able to truly understand and appreciate what your patients have said, what they have described and to know not only sympathize with them, you can empathize...there is gratitude in that gift.

  3. Whether it's painful or joyful, I appreciate your 'realness". My heart breaks for you, but I can take care of my own pain. You continue taking care of yourself (and all of those who rely on your voice for their own healing) by staying real and raw. There's beauty in that, and I'm so grateful you're willing to share. Big and gentle hugs coming your way from Sayulilta.

  4. No need to be anywhere you aren't. Tell it.