My period piece goes as follows.
Perma Meno / Faux Meno / Full Flo / Faux Flo
My last solid period was a few days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When my period commenced that last time, it was also the cue to start with the drugs for IVF (fertility) treatment. With that period, I knew that it would probably be my last one in a long time, and also could very well be the last full flo I would ever have. I didn’t want that period to stop. I was so happy every day that I had my period that time, and then so sad when it stopped the next week. I cried every time I changed a tampon. [Sorry if you’re squeamish about details, but I assume anyone who reads on this blog and knows me, is used to it by now.]
Shortly after my eggs were extracted and frozen, I began having a monthly injection of Depot Lupron. The purpose of Depot Lupron was to put my ovaries “to sleep” during chemo so that the chemo wouldn’t attack them and put me into a permanent menopause. Basically, Depot Lupron was my new best friend. One shot into the ass muscle once a month at the fertility clinic. I’m a total pro at ass injections now. I’m a pro at a lot of things. The side effect of Depot Lupron (DL) was menopause, but a fake menopause. Faux Meno. It sounds a bit chic. My body was expected to and did go through all the many regular symptoms of menopause. My period stopped of course. I did have a mini period in June 2013, right after I started DL, but it only lasted 1 or 2 days and was basically only spotting. [Faux Flo].
The first 4 months of faux meno were the worst, but then the symptoms slowly got less intense. However, even with being on Depot Lupron, there is still about a 25% chance of this “menopause” I’ve been experiencing for more than the past year, to be real and permanent. Perma Meno. A one in 4 chance of never getting my period again. If the menopause ends up being permanent, it would be because of the chemo. But at the moment, we don’t know if it’s perma or faux meno. We kind of just assume (but not get our hopes up) that it’s faux until we know for sure.
At the end of February this year, when I finished radiation, I began taking Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker. [The cancer I had was estrogen-fed]. I’ll be taking the Tamoxifen pill every day for 5 years. Tamoxifen’s side effects are like those from the Depot Lupron….menopause symptoms. I continued taking Depot Lupron in conjunction with Tamoxifen until I came to the 1 year mark (~mid June) of having been on DL. Then I went off of DL . If on DL for more than a year, the higher the chance of the faux meno turning into a perma meno is. So the two drugs met each other and overlapped for a while. Supposedly having them overlap for a while is really good (in terms of cancer ass-kicking), that’s why my doc had me do it. By mid June this year, my body had pissed out (figuratively) the remaining Depot, and now I am only on Tamoxifen.
My periods were expected to stop once I started DL, which is what happened. Though if I had been only on Tamoxifen and not DL, then it would have been quite likely that they wouldn’t stop [not taking chemo into consideration]. But with starting out on DL and then adding Tamoxifen to the mix, it would be harder for my body to start my periods back up again during the 5 years that I’m going to be on Tamox. Though just because I don’t get my period over the next 5 years, that doesn’t mean that I’m in perma meno. It’s if my period doesn’t start back up after the 5 years’ Tamox, that means that the DL wasn’t successful in safeguarding my ovaries against the chemo and that the chemo has pushed me into permanent menopause (that’s the 25% risk).
We weren’t actually expecting to find out if I’m in perma mode until after I stop taking Tamox in 5 years’ time and wait for my period to start, although they told me that there could be a small possibility that I would start getting my period again over the course of the 5 years while on Tamox. To regain periods in this 5 year window is more common the younger the patient is, but the doctors downplayed it and said not to expect it. So I didn’t expect it. In fact, I gave away all my tampons to my friends. Because there is no point in lugging those babies around for the next five years. I just gave away the last of them this summer. Then I started getting period cramps.
The cramps started about 2 months ago. They started slowly. I was sitting there one evening, and I felt them. It’s like hearing an alien knocking at your front door. You’re amazed that it’s happening and aren’t quite sure what it means. I thought that maybe I’ll just experience weird things like that for the next 5 years. After all, cramps are kind of the least intrusive pain I’ve experienced in the last 16 months. So really, no big deal and the docs said not to expect a period. Then, 2 weeks later I got cramps again. Ooooh, a bit intriguing. Then again about a week after that. And then another week after. And another. Then a few times a week.
Then I had a follow up appointment with my lovely doc. He’s the bee’s knees. At these follow up appts, I just have to tell him if there’s anything new happening, side effects, concerns, physical progression, etc. I nearly forgot to mention the period cramps, because I was just telling myself that it didn’t matter. But he does need to know these things.
And he told me that it was great. It was great that I was having period cramps. He says that I should expect to get my period again at any time. And if I get my period, that means that I have only been in faux meno. It also means that physically, I could get knocked up. Whoa! That’s pretty mind blowing, considering all of my assumptions from this entire health roller coaster. But I cannot get knocked up while on Tamoxifen because the drug isn’t healthy for producing a baby. But physically, my body would be able to get pregnant. Amazeballs.
My doc is going to send me for a blood test sometime this fall that can verify if my ovaries are “asleep” still, or “awake”. It’s hard to not get my hopes up too much about this, and I try not to assume that I’ll soon be categorizing myself as Faux Meno / Full Flo lady. But it’s only me who is telling me not to get my hopes up, and I am now having cramps almost every day. My doc reassured me that even if I start getting my period again soon, it isn’t bad for my health in terms of hormones and estrogen. So I need not worry about that. I guess the Tamoxifen guards me against any (or most) estrogen that my body will produce. My doc was happy about my cramping news, so that makes me feel relaxed about it all, and also very excited. Every time I get cramps now, I almost squeal with delight. Actually, sometimes I do. And I cried when I went and bought a new box of tampons.
P.S. I am looking for a job. Anyone want to hire me?