Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little White Pill

Monday I started Tamoxifen.  This little white pill will be part of my breakfast for the next five years.  I already have a love/hate relationship with this pill.  On one hand, it is very effective.  Tamoxifen blocks the actions of estrogen, and since my breast cancer is estrogen receptor positive (it requires estrogen to grow), it reduces my chance of distant metastasis, local recurrence, and new breast cancer by about 50%.   On the other hand, it is a medication, and like any medication it has side effects.  I know many women who take tamoxifen with little to no side effects (I'm hoping to fall into this category), but then again I have heard horror stories as well.  I have had significant muscle and joint cramps/aches this week.  I did get out for a nice bike ride yesterday and a good hike today; exercise seems to help.  But not for long.  I'm hoping that as my body acclimates to the new medication, that the annoying discomfort subsides.

Another new consideration is that I need to consciously avoid soy and flax products.  Both soy and flax are very strong phytoestrogens and they may compete with Tamoxifen for estrogen receptors thus reducing effectiveness.  I realize that soy is in just about everything making it next to impossible to completely avoid, but I am going to make an effort to avoid foods with soy listed on the ingredient label.  I certainly don't want to be taking this medication only to reduce its effectiveness by eating the wrong food.  This may not sound like too big of a deal, but do you know how hard it is to find an energy bar that does not have soy OR flax?  I have been scouring labels, to no avail, please let me know if you have any suggestions.

***Blog Amendment: After consulting with the nutritionist at Huntsman, it appears as though flax is potentially okay to have in my diet even though it is a very strong phytoestrogen. Although there is no current research on humans, according to an article from the American Institute for Cancer Research, flax had an enhancing effect for Tamoxifen when tested on mice***

Besides this, I have been keeping myself surprisingly busy for being off work.  or maybe I'm just good at wasting time?  I have been exercising (almost) every day and worked my way up to a nice, easy 3-hour bike ride on part of the PC-50 course last week.  My current motto for exercising is to keep the efforts at conversational pace.  This is allowing me to maintain some fitness, reap the therapeutic benefits of being on my bike, and not overtax my body as it recovers from chemo.

One of the bigger creek crossings in the PC-50

I have also continued with my plant-based diet.  Last week's theme was cauliflower and quinoa.  I now have 3 really good recipes with cauliflower, one that includes salmon (ok, so not completely vegan, but pretty close).  As for the quinoa, I did not have as much success.  One of my recipes wasn't clear on how to prepare it and it ended up being undercooked.  The other, quinoa and veggie stuffed bell peppers, was pretty good....not great.  To top it off, I finally bit the bullet and purchased a Vitamix blender today.  One of my co-workers has generously 'loaned' me hers since February.  She called me today to say that she saw them at Costco for $100 off (hint, hint).  The sale is for 3 more days, so if you're thinking about getting a Vitamix..........

This really is a green smoothie.  It has loads of Kale and red cabbage.  It also has protein powder, MILA, banana, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  

Next week it is off to Steamboat I go.  I can't wait to explore some new trails.

Dizzy loves to hike.  He doesn't love to come....


  1. I'm not sure if it is any good or if it will meet your energy bar needs, but it looks like Larabars don't have flax or soy. By the way, Dizzy is so big!

  2. You are awesome. Exercising every day? And eating so healthy. You are totally an inspiration. :) Have fun in Steamboat!

  3. My dad and aunt spent about an hour trying to find me a premade protein drink at the grocery store that didn't have soy in it (need protein for healing after surgery and I am not the best at eating well the first few days that I am left on my own). They didn't have any luck! I can imagine it would be the same for energy bars.

    I start Tamoxifen in September, I am also hoping I fit into the "no side effects" group, because the benefits of that little pill are so important.

  4. Bummer about soy and flax. Soy will be hard to avoid, and flax is so yummy and good for you, it is a shame to not be able to eat it.

    You'll have fun in Steamboat. If you want our report of the trails we did when we went a couple of years ago, check out my post about them.

  5. Hi Jen, I have been following along for a while, but never commented. Your strength is so inspiring... Keep on healing!

    As for the energy bars: Have you looked into Larabars? They have a Cashew Cookie type that is dairy & soy free and labeled as vegan. I also love the Chocolate Brownie type, which is soy free too, but obviously not vegan.

    As for cauliflower recipes: I saw a recipe for mashed cauliflower the other day, basically just cauliflower instead of potatoes. Haven't tried it myself yet, but it's probably worth a shot.

    Have a great day.

  6. Just found your blog googling "athelete" and "tamoxifen," so glad to see your story. I did chemo this winter and am currently getting radiation. In the midst of it I'm competing in triathlons (well, competing might be too strong a word.) I'm due to start the drug next week and wondering about how it will effect me. I read a few comments about cramps from other women, something about taking potassium supplements seeming to help...

    I eat flax every day though I've heard that it has that phytoestrogenic effect, I've also heard that it's fiber content actually helps move excess estrogen out of the body somehow.

    Good luck to you!

  7. Thanks everyone for the recipes. Next week will be quinoa and brown rice recipes! Amy, Glad to hear you are doing well and staying active throughout treatment. That is awesome. I hope the Tamoxifen is going okay. My body seems to have adjusted to it.