Sunday, February 24, 2013

I should be happy about this, right?

 A few months ago a "groundbreaking" new breast cancer treatment study was published and presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposioum, where the latest and greatest breast cancer information is shared.

What was the study?  It is called the Atlas Study which stands for Adjuvant Tamoxifen, Longer Against Shorter study.

What were the results?  10 years of Tamoxifen is more effective than the traditionally prescribed  five years.

Mainstream media quickly picked up this story as a promising new treatment for women with Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast cancer (that's me).  Headlines Read: "Longer Use of Tamoxifen Cuts Deaths" and "Extending Tamoxifen Saves Lives".

Here are links to some of the stories:

I should be psyched, right?  This is great news!  According to the study, five additional years of Tamoxifen-on top of the traditionally prescribed five years, which research shows reduces risk of breast cancer recurrence by 50%-will additionally reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence by another 25%.   For example, if a person has a 50% risk of recurrence, taking Tamoxifen for five years will reduce this to 25% risk of recurrence.  The new research shows taking Tamoxifen for an additional five years, ten years total, will reduce this to 18.75% risk of recurrence.

Despite this, upon hearing the news, my initial response was:  CRAP!  Don't get me wrong, I am happily taking Tamoxifen right now to reduce my risk of recurrence-I want that 50% reduction real bad!- but I have been counting down the days until I am done with Tamoxifen and an additional five years seems, well, unfathomable.  I was not alone in my thoughts as this seemed to be the consensus with my young breast cancer posse.  Why weren't we more excited?  Well, Tamoxifen comes with some unpleasant side-effects, especially for young, pre-menopausal women.  Some mild and some not so mild.  A simple google search of Tamoxifen shows some of the less severe but crazily annoying side effects as being:  hot flashes, irregular menstrual cycles, bone pain, joint pain, weight gain, fatigue, swelling in hands/feet, vaginal itching/dryness, headaches, dizziness, depression, and thinning hair.  Some of the more severe side effects being: endometrial cancer, blood clots, stroke, and cataracts.  And while the conclusion of the ATLAS study was that the benefits outweigh the risks, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.

While most of the media reports stated the facts of the study accurately, the implications of extended Tamoxifen use, especially for young women, was not discussed.  Despite there being dozens and dozens of stories reporting the new study, I only found one, from the Young Survivor Coalition, that helps explain my "Oh CRAP" response.

It is a fine line between preventing a recurrence and over-treating breast cancer  causing other often life threatening or debilitating conditions.  I am not sure the answer, but I do know that I have 3 1/2 years to make a decision on extending my use of Tamoxifen.  In the meantime, as I continue to countdown the days until I am done taking Tamoxifen, I can only hope for better, more effective, and less debilitating treatments in the future.

On another note, check out my sweet ponytail!  I chopped my hair off almost two years ago and then proceeded to lose it all during chemo.  That is a long time for me to go without a ponytail.  Hair!  Long (well relatively speaking), glorious, beautiful, hair....that fits in a ponytail.  Yippee!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Camp Lynda V6.B

Each year, Lynda Wallenfels of LW Coaching, organizes an off-road training camp in St. George, Utah.  Over the past six years this camp has grown in popularity and mountain bikers travel from all over the country to ride the pristine Southern Utah trails and test their early season fitness.  Lynda has alternated the dates between the last weekend in January and the first weekend in February.  Even though it is only one week difference, whenever the camp is held the last weekend in January it is cold and rainy.  When the camp is held one week later it is 60s and sunny.  This year, the official Camp Lynda V6 was scheduled the last week of January, and the weather, as tradition calls for, was cold and rainy.  Despite the crummy weather dozens of die hard mountain bikers flocked to southern Utah to get in some early season miles.  Some of us wimpier folks, me included, decided to postpone the trip for one week, hope for better weather, and Camp Lynda V6.B was coined.

Friday morning I got out of bed well before any intelligent person would consider to drive the four + hours to St. George and be ready to ride at 9:30AM start time.

The weather did not disappoint!
(Photo: Lynda Wallenfels)

Over the weekend there were lots of smiles to be had 
(Photo: Dave Harris)

and lots of desert miles put in
(Photo: Fixie Dave)

 Who says cyclists and equestrians can't share trail?  
These cowboys were extremely friendly and even passed around their iPhone 
 photo of a rare tortoise that they spotted on the trail.  
 As always, Southern Utah scenery is breathtaking

and the trails are rippin' fast
(Photo: Fixie Dave)

All-in-all I got in three solid days of singletrack, 14 hours on the bike, and 120 miles of good times.  A bit of a shock to the system being only ten days removed from Mexico, but 2013 training is now in high gear and I am psyched!