Confessions of a Metastatic Patient - Seven Years of Faslodex
Last updated: July 2023
It's hard to believe I've been on my current line of treatment since January 2016. Just over seven years of being best friends with Ibrance and Faslodex. I had previously taken a different aromatase inhibitor that kept me no evidence of disease (NED); however, the side effects were too much to bear.
First, I gained a lot of weight. I weighed more than when I was pregnant with my son. My joints and muscles hurt so bad that I couldn't move well. I just wanted to stay still in our recliner. The problem was; not moving hurt even worse.
Talking with my oncologist
In the summer of 2015, I begged my oncologist if I could take a break from treatment. Being NED for almost two years, she might agree. Perhaps losing some of the weight I had put on would help ease the joint/muscle pain. However, stopping could make the cancer progress, but I accepted the risks because my quality of life was suffering.
I had an honest conversation with my oncologist in January 2016. That's when my doctor told me about a new treatment that recently became available: Ibrance. She paired the Ibrance with two intramuscular injections of Faslodex. I would take Ibrance in a 21-day cycle. Then have a week off. How bad could it be?
If you're unfamiliar with Faslodex, let me paint a picture. A single dose consists of two pre-filled syringes with the longest needles I have ever seen. The serum in each syringe is thick. Both injections must be delivered slowly into the gluteal muscles. These needles are about twice the length of those used for blood draws. They are intimidating. When I first saw the Faslodex, I almost ran out of the room, but I stayed.
Injection tips and tricks
I remembered a technique I used years ago when I had intramuscular injections. So; I decided to try it for these injections. Standing next to the examination table, I braced myself by holding onto each side of the table. I spread my legs slightly apart and turned my feet inward. Turning the feet makes it more difficult to flex the hip muscles. There is less resistance when those large needles get plunged into my backside. It helped A LOT! The injections still hurt, but it would have been much worse had I not known about turning my feet in.
Another trick was shared with me that made a big difference. Ensure the serum's glass tubes are warm to at least room temperature. Faslodex must be refrigerated. The colder it is, the longer it takes the nurses to inject it into the muscle. So, I asked to hold the vials in my hands before letting them inject me. Unfortunately, a fun side effect is that my hips and backside are now lumpy from scar tissue caused by the injections. The injection sites are quite painful for 2-3 days afterward.
I honestly don't have the joint/muscle pain I used to before this treatment. That's not to say the injections aren't painful; they hurt as much as the first time I had them six years ago. But as much as they hurt, this combination works, and I feel very lucky.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.