Benefits, Side Effects & Coping with Arimidex


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Arimidex is one of the weapons of choice for estrogen positive, postmenopausal women in the war against breast cancer recurrence. The 100-month ATAC trial, presented at the 2007 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, showed that by stopping or inhibiting the production of estrogen. Arimidex showed significant superiority over tamoxifen. Like most drugs, Arimidex comes with potential side effects although far fewer than tamoxifen. Side effects which receive the most complaints are hot flashes, joint pains and bone loss. Interestingly enough exercise is the one factor that goes a long way in alleviating all three complaints.

My friend Sarah and I take Arimidex: Sarah for three years; me, four and a-half years. Sarah does nothing proactive to prevent recurrence like eating a nutritious diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, avoiding sugar and alcohol, limiting red meat, finding ways to cope with stress or exercising. Sarah suffers from hot flashes, joint pains and bone loss.

I am obsessive-compulsive and do all of the above or fret as to why I am not. One thing I am faithful about is exercise–walking, weights, yoga–and if for some reason I cannot, my joints ache like I have severe arthritis.  I made that correlation soon after I started Arimidex.  Other than minor bone loss and vaginal dryness, which my oncologist says will improve after I stop Arimidex in six months, I have no debilitating side effects.

I have stopped suggesting Sarah go to the gym.  I understand her dislike for exercise. There are days I would rather do anything other than exercise, then I think about the “R” word. Recurrence. That’s when I turn procrastination on its head and say, “No, I would rather do anything other than die of breast cancer.” You would be surprised how fast that motivates my butt out the door and down the road for a brisk walk.

It is useless to spend our time speculating about who will and will not have a recurrence, because no one really knows. Sarah will probably live to be a 105, and I will die not of breast cancer, but from dog hair. They are everywhere in my house, and I leave them where ever I go. I can only imagine how many dog hairs flew off my coat as I sailed down the zip line in Alaska.