Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
“It’s been almost seven years since I made the decision to stop taking aromatase inhibitors and I’m happy to report I’m feeling great,” writes a cancer survivor. “There are no more unwanted side effects. The decision to stop taking the medication was right for me.”
Four years ago, I wrote a post about my choice to walk away from aromatase inhibitors. The piece received a lot of attention from those in the cancer community. I was surprised at some of the emails and Facebook messages the post prompted. Some were outraged at my willingness to go against medical advice while others were intrigued at the decision and asked for more information.
By the outpouring of interest, I knew it had struck a nerve with those fighting breast cancer and that’s exactly what I intended to do.
I was post-menopausal when diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, I was stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph glands. The first course of action would be to remove my breasts and the involved lymph nodes. After surgery, I met with the oncologist to discuss the recommended treatment plan. He explained I would need chemotherapy, radiation and when those treatments were complete, I’d need medication for the next 10 years because my cancer was hormone positive.
That was a lot of information to take in and I needed time to think it over. It was important to weigh the pros and cons of each treatment option in the plan. After doing a lot of research and talking with family members, I made my choices. I would forego chemotherapy, due to the harmful chemicals and side effects, but would follow the recommended radiation therapy. I would also follow-up with medication as soon as I’d completed my last round of radiation.
When it came time to begin adjuvant therapy, I began taking the prescribed medication, an aromatase inhibitor called Arimidex (anastrozole). It was a tiny white pill I’d be required to take once a day for the next 10 years. I felt that was doable if it meant keeping cancer at bay.
After several weeks, I began experiencing unwanted side effects like severe bone and joint pain, mood swings and depression. I cried all the time and felt like an old woman. Next came insomnia and hot flashes. I tried home remedies for sleeping but they didn’t work so the doctor prescribed sleeping pills, but the warning label on the side of the bottle frightened me. When the side effects from the Arimidex did not subside, I called the doctor and told him I wanted to come off the medication. He explained there were other AIs (aromatase inhibitors) we could try.
Wanting to follow his advice, I tried another drug, Aromasin (exemestane). Once again, I began to experience unwanted side effects and was placed on tamoxifen. When that drug made me feel worse than the others, the doctor suggested we add a medication called Effexor (venlafaxine) to my regimen. Effexor, he explained was an antidepressant drug, but it would help offset the negative side effects. Not wanting to add another medication, I decided to reassess my situation.
I read everything I could find on fighting cancer naturally. There was so much information, some good and some bad. I found a lot of helpful information in books on Chinese herbal medicines. The more I learned, the more I was convinced I needed to walk away from prescription medications.
It’s been almost seven years since I made the decision to stop taking Arimidex, Aromasin and tamoxifen and I’m happy to report I’m feeling great! There are no more unwanted side effects. The decision to stop taking the medication was right for me.
The decision to walk away from taking aromatase inhibitors is a choice many women are now making. Women are doing research and realizing they have a right to make the best choice for their health.
Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), are a standard part of many cancer fighting plans. They are used to help fight cancer cell regrowth by blocking cell receptors like estrogen and progesterone in breast cancers that are hormone-receptor positive, but with a high risk of unwanted side effects, many women are opting out of taking the recommended anti-hormonal therapies recommended by their oncologists. Instead of taking oral medications, many choose to manage their health through preventative measures such as weight loss, diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements.
I’m so glad I walked away from the AIs. If I’d followed the recommended treatment plan, I’d still be taking medications today and I’m sure I would still be experiencing those nasty side effects.
It’s my hope that women currently experiencing side effects from medications like Aromasin, Arimidex, Femara (letrozole), tamoxifen and other AIs realize there are other options, but many doctors fail to share this information. Of course, each person’s body is different and what works for one may not work for another, but it would helpful if all options were presented.
In three months, I’ll celebrate seven years of being cancer free. To me, that’s proof what I’m doing is working so I’ll keep on following my self-imposed regimen. To date, I take no prescription medications to fight cancer. Instead, I use supplements such as turmeric/curcumin, Diindolylmethane (a dietary indole found in cruciferous vegetables that helps promotes healthy estrogen metabolism), a cortisol manager which helps reduce stress and promote good sleep. I take several high-quality vitamins, enjoy a diet high in cruciferous vegetables, and drink lots of Matcha green tea. I also enjoy daily physical activity, hobbies, and make sure to get a healthy dose of sunshine each day.
Perhaps I’m an oddity, but maybe not. If more were given the opportunity to try alternative treatments, such as those found in traditional Chinese medicine, we might see a better quality of life among those fighting cancer. But if other options aren’t presented, others will blindly follow their physician’s advice toward traditional treatment expecting good results when potentially problematic side effects could be avoided.
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