I found more information about Tamoxifen that makes me feel better about taking it.
The Clinical Journal of Oncology, in 2005, published findings from a study on which patients benefit the most from Tamoxifen. And as it turns out, I fit that profile.
The conclusion states: "Not all ER + pts [patients with tumors sensitive to estrogen] benefited equally from tamoxifen. The largest benefits of tamoxifen were observed with high quantitative ER and low RS [recurrence score/Oncotype dx score], while smaller benefits were observed with low quantitative ER and high RS."
There's a table that shows the information -
Women with LOW Oncotype scores (less than 18) have a 7.2% absolute risk reduction from Tamoxifen (at 10 years out).
Women with INTERMEDIATE Oncotype scores (18-30) have a 17.3% absolute risk reduction.
Women with HIGH scores (over 30) only have a 1.6% absolute risk reduction.
Since my Oncotype score is a 15, at the higher end of the "low risk" category (and called "intermediate" by the National Cancer Institute) and the tumor was also highly ER+ (10 on a scale of 6 to 12), this means that I'm in the group that is likely to benefit the most from Tamoxifen. I was surprised to learn this, because I had thought that since my Oncotype score put me at such "low risk," the Tamoxifen might not even be very important. But it turns out it's the opposite - it's the women who are at high risk for recurrence that don't benefit nearly as much from the Tamox; for them, chemo is what's more important/effective.
What also helped me was a great visit with my naturopath, A, two days ago. She asked about my Tamoxifen decision, and I told her that I'm taking it, but not really feeling good about that. I told her I don't feel like taking it OR not taking it is a "good" decision; that I'm equally scared of the consequences of taking it or not taking it.
A then said that she feels really good about me taking the Tamoxifen, which was such a relief. And I surprised myself by reacting with surprise - I blurted out, "Really??" when she told me that. And I hadn't thought about it consciously, but that made me realize I had subconsciously been wondering/thinking that maybe A, being my NATUROPATH, would be disappointed that I'd chosen to take the Tamoxifen but would continue to help me on my path in spite of that. It was great to learn that she doesn't just "tolerate" my Tamoxifen decision - she supports it. She was excitedly telling me about studies that show that patients taking Tamoxifen PLUS the supplements I'm taking (some of them, anyway!) do even better than patients taking just Tamoxifen. I was happy to know that her position is "Tamoxifen and [your supplements] work really well together!", not "If you're determined to take the Tamoxifen, these supplements can at least help you counteract the evilness of it." I'm feeling much more at peace about my decision now.
I love it that A is truly integrative. She's one of the few people not trying to get me to choose either conventional medicine or alternative medicine and shun the other, and I so appreciate that. She also told me that I'm in that "narrow window" of patients who tend to be most successful in overcoming cancer, in the sense that I am not too rigid in either direction - I'm neither a person who is so dogmatic about natural health that they won't even consider the conventional therapies, nor am I a person who goes on smoking and drinking and continuing a mainstream lifestyle despite evidence of its harms....I'm open, but with a healthy skepticism, which is the most helpful way to be. All of that was so great to hear. She did add, however, that while it's great that I can look at things from all angles and see all the possibilities, it's not helpful if I get too caught up in this and can't find inner peace with my decisions because of it, etc.
Sort of related to that, A thinks I need to relax a bit. :) One suggestion was to get off the computer for a bit, stop the endless researching "and reading books like this" (she said while gesturing to a stack of cancer books in her office), "and read a novel! Do you like novels?"
Oh dear. I hadn't told her about my current stack of books, but maybe she's psychic. Because she's right - I just finished reading "Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America," by Barbara Ehrenreich, and now I'm currently reading:
"Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality," by Pauline Chen
"Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment," by Sandra Steingraber
"Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back," by Douglas Rushkoff
"The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability," by Lierre Keith
So, yeah. Anyone have suggestions for relaxing novels I should be reading? ;)